Garden clubs take seriously their charge to work with children and teach them the joy and art of gardening and floral design. In this article I will share some simple techniques that can be used to create a plethora of designs with children of all ages.
Certain elements are present in all designs pictured in this article. The viewer will notice that plant material for each design includes three types: line, flowers, and transition. In addition to plant material, a container filled with soaked floral foam for fresh flowers is provided for each student along with any accessories to help interpret the theme of the design.
Students are instructed to place the line material first. It should be centered but slightly to the back of the container. Two or three pieces of line material are sufficient. Anything can be used for line as long as it has a strong linear conformation. The first and longest piece stands straight up, and the remaining pieces are placed lower and to either side of the main line.
Flowers are placed next. Children are taught to place the flowers carefully, starting with a small flower having a long stem. This flower is placed slightly lower than the tallest piece of line material. Then other flowers are placed in zig-zag positions, gradually becoming larger and leaning more toward the front. The largest, prettiest flower is placed at the very bottom of the design slightly off-center and over the lip of the container. Teachers discuss the word "gradation" and how the concept is used in the design. Then any accessories are added, followed by transition material to soften the lines and hide any mechanics. Students then carefully consider their creations and add flowers wherever needed to satisfy the eye and to finish off the back of their design.
A springtime activity for youth gardeners includes a plastic watering can container and a whirligig accessory, both purchased at a dollar store for about $1.00 each. Line material is yucca (Yucca filamentosa) gathered from the woods. Transition (or filler, as it is sometimes called) is leatherleaf fern (Rumohra adiantiformis) gathered from a member's garden, and the flowers are purchased from a super market at a cost of $4.00 per bundle. A container filled with soaked floral foam into which all components can be easily inserted is provided for each child.
Notice that the flowers are not their natural color. While this is just fine for a kid’s activity, it is not appropriate as an entry into a Standard Flower Show sponsored by a National Garden Clubs, Inc. member club. NGC prohibits treating fresh plant material with color or other substances. Fresh plant material must be used in its natural state.
Anyone who has ever worked with young children has learned to let the youngsters examine and investigate the floral foam before beginning a design. The soft, mushy foam is intriguing and must be experienced. Otherwise, it will be squeezed, poked, and prodded before work can begin on the design.
(1 - First design shown above) In October, the garden club celebrated Viva Florida 500. A big festival was held, complete with a plant sale, vendors, lectures, a community garden groundbreaking, and, of course, activities for kids. One of the activities was a floral design. When an activity of this kind is offered to the public free of charge, club members look for inexpensive materials. Line material for this design is dried saw palmetto fronds (Serenoa repens) gathered from the woods, cut into arrow shapes, and painted; the flower is a pinecone cut into slices with a circular saw. A tiny hole drilled into the bottom of the “flower” makes a place to insert a wire "stem" secured with hot glue. Needless to say, these were prepared in advance for the children. Members saved vegetable and fruit cans, washed them carefully, and left the labels on to help interpret the harvest theme. Raffia was easy for the children to transform into a naturalistic bow. Assorted vegetables cut from cardboard, painted, and glued onto a skewer served as an accessory for each design. One club member found the yellow curly stems in her collection and donated them. The children were delighted with their finished product.
(2 - Second design shown above) The basic configuration is used to make a design for Mother’s Day. Trimmed umbrella plant (Cyperus alternifolius) is used as line; pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira) is transition, and black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia'Goldsturm') cut from members’ gardens are the flowers. Accessories include bit of ting-ting to add sparkle and a card saying “Happy Mother’s Day.” The bow is a dish towel folded and secured with a pipe cleaner, and the container is a cup, both of which are lasting Mother's Day gifts.
(3 - Third design shown above) In this design, stems of trimmed umbrella plant (Cyperus alternifolius) are used for line material, whiteChrysanthemums are the main flower, a bit ofAlstroemeriatrails over the sides. Japanese pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira) is used as transition. Red and blue stars cut from construction paper and glued onto wooden skewers are accessories, and a plastic tumbler is used as a container.
Once the students learn the basics, the sky is the limit. Anything of a linear nature can be used as line material. Flowers are added, beginning with small ones at the top and working down to the bottom. Accessories help interpret the season or idea being conveyed, and transition material finishes off the design.
While activities such as these require work and dedication, they are fulfilling. The look of delight on the faces of the children is reward enough. Floral design has given garden club members a lifetime of pleasure, and they are delighted to share it with the youth. It's their way of "paying it forward."