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Decorating: The Art of Arranging 

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Instead of asking your local florist for an eye-catching arrangement for your holiday table, get creative and make one at home. Eddie Bowman, head designer at Flowerama, has created two kinds of designs -- one traditional, one modern — that can be duplicated with ease. Designing your own centerpieces is not only kinder to your budget, it lets you add a creative touch to your holiday entertaining. You can expect the arrangements to last for a week or two; just water them every two to three days.





Traditional Centerpiece

Flowers used: five roses, six carnations, four alstroemeria, five cushion spray mums, five pieces of leatherleaf.

Additional supplies: two bunches of artificial grapes, three artificial apples, a glass dish or crystal bowl, one block of floral foam.

1. Start with the roses to create the basic shape of the arrangement. Place one rose in the center, and the other four, cut to equal lengths, roughly equidistant around the circumference of the dish.

2. The rest of the flowers can be added in any order to fill in the spaces and create a mound effect. Fill in around the base with pieces of leatherleaf.

3. Any kind of fall-hued flowers can be used, as can any type of fake fruit. Real fruit adds to the aroma of the arrangement, but the fruit may not stay fresh after it has been on your table for several days.





Modern Centerpiece

Flowers used: three Red Rover mums (or gerbera daisies), two large sunflowers, two stems of hypericum berries, one stem of spray roses, four stems of variegated pittosporum.

Additional supplies: curly willow sticks, five small decorative pumpkins, one block floral foam, one plastic terracotta dish.

1. Start this piece with the mums, placing each stem at a different height to make an irregular triangle. Next, in the middle, add the curly willow sticks, which should be slightly taller than the mums. Add the rest of the flowers low around the base. This piece is minimalist, so don't put the flowers too close together. Fill in the gaps with variegated pittosporum.

2. A decorative wooden bowl may be used as a base, as long as it can hold water. Using real miniature pumpkins gives the piece a more natural look.



Flower-Arranging Pointers

1. When deciding on a height for the flowers, remember that your dinner guests should not have to crane their necks to see over the centerpiece.

2. Make sure to leave enough stem, 3/4 inch to 2 inches, to stick into the foam. This ensures your flowers receive water and stay in place.

3. Thoroughly soak the floral foam in water before using it (you can add a flower food packet to the water), then cut it to fit snugly inside and come slightly above the opening of the container.

4. Buying prebunched mixed flowers or stems by the dozen usually saves money.

5. Flowers such as carnations, alstroemeria and mums have a long arrangement life. If properly watered, they should last at least a week, if not two.

6. If you're unsure about the freshness of your roses, squeeze them at the base of their heads. If they're squishy, they're old. If firm, they are fresh.

7. Don't be afraid to demand a little more from your florist: Ask if there are fresher flowers in the back, what kind of flowers are available in the colors you want, and whether there are specials or bunch prices. Just be nice about it.
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