Arranging lilies can be a rewarding and creative experience. To help others avoid some of my initial mistakes, I will share some of the techniques I have learned to date. I say to date because I realize I have "just begun" in the art of lily arranging.
Still ahead is the fascinating field of Japanese flower arranging and experimentation with new designs and forms.
The best advice for any 'would-be' flower arranger is to buy or to borrow from the local library a good reference book. One I have consulted recently is How to Arrange Flowers for all Occasions by Katherine Culter. A couple of such volumes on your library shelf acts as a source of inspiration in creating new designs, as well as offering suggestions for combinations of flowers and foliage.
I have found the best procedure is to cut in the early morning or the evening prior to the show, plunging the stems into deep water. A diagonal cut with sharp shears exposes more stem to the water for the hardening purposes. At this time, remove any excess leaves that will not add to the final arrangement. Gather a variety of foliage specimens also. Remember that woody stems should have their bases split up and inch or more to increase water absorption. Ivy leaves, begonia leaves, new growth on peonies and roses last longer if completely submerged overnight. The hardening or soaking in water of these materials dramatically increases the ease of handling for arranging.
Naturally, only the healthy vigorous specimens are cut, with the bottom circle of blooms fully open..but not faded. For basket arrangements, the more vibrantly coloured varieties such as Red Torch, Bold Knight, Golden Regal, and Apricot Glow, seem to have a natural affinity for the attractive wicker or Italian type baskets. I usually select a couple of fully blooming heads and fill in with up-facing varieties. Stems, with only one or two blooms are most useful for completing the basket. A generous supply of foliage is also necessary.
The harmony of the container with the flowers is an integral part of any design. Just as baskets seem to suggest the use of bright and earthy colours, the more delicate, orchid-like varieties call for cut glass or elegant china containers. A single stem of Rosalind in a crystal vase can be sufficient in itself. Experiment and improvise with containers. Bun baskets, wicker waste paper baskets, antique jugs, pewter mugs or copper serving bowls are just a few of the possibilities.
Acquiring the correct mechanical aids can transform a floral arrangement from a frustrating to a creative experience. The basic equipment which I have found available includes: sharp shears; a pin holder (frog) which consists of a heavy metal base with sharp pins placed close together sticking up from it, allowing you to stick a flower stem firmly on the pins and then bend it to any desired angle; oasis, which is a block of feather-like material which should be soaked before use and is particularly handy for securing flowers in baskets or other wide mouth containers; florists' clay, which is used to secure the pin holder to the container; and stickum, a completely adhesive tape which can be used as a substitute for the clay. To this basic list you could add pill bottles, florist tape, wire and other items you deem useful
There are several design principles which should be considered when constructing an arrangement. A pattern or design should be evident. It may be triangular, oval, crescent, fan or a reverse curve. I tend to use the triangular shape, as it is the easiest to master, and lends itself best to my favourite container. For this design, first put in the line for height and then the two side pieces (for width). Then add the focal point, the large flower forms and those of the deepest colour towards the center. Gradually fill in with flowers and foliage. All mechanical. aids should be concealed by plant material. A simple guide to good proportion is that the plant material should be sufficiently taller than a tall vase, and wider than a low one so there is no doubt that the flowers are more important than the vase. The scale or size of the container should be in relation to the size of the blossoms, and suitable to the variety chosen. For example, the elegant William White, would look ridiculous in a rustic pottery bowl, there must be a relationship between the flowers and the container in quality and texture. Colour contributes to the design in the way it balances dark and light shades and as well as the way it communicates feelings. A brilliant arrangement of Red Torch lilies is dramatic and exciting, while the blending of soft colours can communicate feelings of peacefulness. To create balance in the finished product place the large dark flowers near the center. With a little practice, most of these principles will become intuitive and you will be able to judge whether the finished display is "right". Impressive size, a wide array of colours, and the almost exotic air of some varieties, ideally suit lilies for indoor arrangements. Why not take full advantage of this lily season by enjoying them indoors as well as in the garden!
by Elizabeth Delahey (from CPLS Newsletter #7) 1975
[Comment: Please read the show schedule carefully BEFORE creating your designs, it prevents unpleasant surprises for all at show time! Good luck with your designs.]