Norman A. Plate
It's a simple fact: Flowers are gorgeous any time of year.
And when winter quiets the color in many Western gardens, florists and grocery stores stock plenty of blooms for holiday decorating―frosty white chrysanthemums that look like snowflakes, mums the color of fresh limes. Ruby red gerberas and even fragrant lilies and roses are abundant.
To celebrate the beauty and diversity of cut flowers at this time of year, floral designer Jill Slater created the trees pictured above, each about 10 1/2 inches tall. Made of moistened florist's foam carved into cones and studded with flowers, they're great for decorating a dining or buffet table.
The best-looking trees use one or two kinds and colors of flowers. You can opt for the lacy, elegant look with white mums or go with vibrant, south-of-the-border hues like orange and purple. Either way, choose long-lasting varieties with strong stems. And keep in mind that large flowers such as gerberas are less time-consuming to work with than small ones like button mums, as you'll need fewer stems to cover the foam base. Any container will do to hold the tree; ceramic urns give them some height.
The trees last about a week. Check the foam every other day; if it feels dry, move the tree to the kitchen sink and pour a gentle stream of water on top (you may have to remove a bloom or two to do this), allowing it to soak in. Display the trees away from furnace vents and drafts.
COST: About $20 or more, depending on the flowers
TIME: About 1 hour each
TOOLS AND MATERIALS
• 1 block florist's foam (4 by 9 by 3 inches thick)
• Flowers: Chrysanthemum trees (white, green): 75 stems
Red gerbera tree: about 20 stems
• Knife for shaping florist's foam
• Small pot or urn, about 4 inches diameter
• Plastic spray bottle of water
• Flower clippers or scissors
1. Soak the florist's foam in water until moistened, about 20 minutes. Place flowers in water-filled bucket.
2. Using knife, slice off enough foam to round each corner on one end of the foam block. Slip this end into the container, pushing and twisting until it is snug.
3. With the knife, starting at the top corners, shave downward on all sides of the foam block to form a flat-topped cone. If edges begin to dry, spray with water.
4. With scissors or clippers, cut several flower stems about 3 inches long, cutting on an angle. Poke stems about an inch deep into the foam cone. Continue until the foam is totally covered with flowers.