Floral Supplies Basics
I had a flower mentor and teacher once tell me, "You can’t break the rules until you know the rules." I would add to that sentiment that you can break the rules and make new rules better when you have a solid foundation. I was fortunate to attend a two year accredited floral design school when I started my training in 2001 and have had dozens of incredible mentors and teachers over the years which gave me solid foundation of the basics. I also enjoy attending floral conferences, design shows, reading trade magazines and pursuing as much information and education on the floral industry as I can which has helped reinforce good basics!
I love to share what I have learned all these years so in this article, I will cover some simple best practices that have been around for awhile but may help you save some time and money in your business.
First, if you choose to use flower foam, it's very important to properly soak it! Flower foam is made up of a unique composite and resembles the connectivity between a flower and it's plant, which is why it drinks from a foam-like substance so well! It is uniquely created to allow flowers to drink water while simultaneously absorbing water into itself. This unique characteristic requires that the manufacturer's instructions be followed to ensure proper hydration. Flower foam properly soaks when it is floated on the surface of water and is allowed to soak from bottom to top without any interference. It must be soaked in a deep enough reservoir or bucket so that the brick can be hydrated correctly the first time rather than needing to add more water halfway through. The brick should be placed free floating, with the holes facing down and left alone until it is fully soaked.
Why does this matter?
If a brick of Oasis is forced or submerged under water, dry air pockets form in the center of the foam. Once those pockets form, that brick will not fully soak no matter how long it sits in water. You can cut the brick open and see dry pockets and attempt to wet them but underneath that now moist spot is more dry foam. If a brick is forced under water, it is no longer useful and is best thrown away. When you design in foam that has dry pockets, you run the risk of your flowers hitting a dry pocket and being unable to drink. Have you ever been frustrated with a design that you just made and you come back an hour or so later to wilting stems? This is often due to improperly soaked Oasis. Do yourself a favor, do it right the first time and save yourself wasted money, product and time!
A good chef takes his tools with him everywhere. He sharpens and cleans them and they become an extension of his hand in creating and completing his work. Florists are similar in this way and our tools play a huge role in how fast and how well we can work. If you are using really heavy tools, you can develop wrist, hand or shoulder problems over time. Be mindful to choose high quality, lightweight, and strong tools.
Bacteria is one of a florist's biggest foes. We take care to scrub our buckets, our coolers, and our floors, but often times, we can become lazy in cleaning our tools. We use our tools for processing, cutting, re-cutting, etc. so there's no doubt they are covered in bacteria. Be sure to wash your tools often in hot soapy water. If they are metal, clean with bleach or a commercial floral cleaner at least once a week to keep your flowers alive longer and prevent contamination.
Cold flower glue has the potential to be a florist's new best friend when it comes to efficiency and flexibility. I come from the old days of wiring and taping everything and although this is useful in many scenarios, flower glue has enabled us to produce similar results in a fraction of the time. However floral glue, unlike regular glue, is a unique substance that requires some getting used to.
First and foremost, only use floral glue in a well ventilated area. The initial 10 seconds of inhaling the acetone and chemicals that are in floral glue acetone can give you quite a headache so be sure to use with caution in your workspace. Second, floral glue can burn some flowers and greenery so it is best to do a test and see if anything browns before starting a full project. If your flowers and greenery keep browning, try using less glue or allowing the glue to air out on another surface before adhering it. A common mistake many make when using flower glue is that they often use too much and the glue can have trouble setting. The best way to use floral glue is to apply a small thin amount to each side of what you are adhering and wait 10-15 seconds until the glue becomes tacky. It is also very important to let floral glue dry completely before placing items in the cooler. Lastly, floral glue always adheres best to a textured surface such as a chenille stem (pipe cleaner) so keep this in mind when deciding on your mechanics!