A little effort and a small additional investment can transform an inexpensive floral bouquet, readily available at florist shops, into a lovely centerpiece.
Over 90 percent of the people who buy the prepackaged bouquets, $3.99 each, at Giant Food Inc. never do anything more exciting than pop them into a large vase, says flower department manager, Bill Hendricks. With a few simple directions and about $4 in materials, you can create a simple, attractive arrangement from one of these bouquets.
Inexpensive carnations and different varieties of chrysanthemums make up the bulk of most bouquets because they last a long time, says Mr. Hendricks. To make an attractive arrangement you will need additional greens and filler.
Baker's fern, which we used, sells for about 17 to 25 cents a stem. A small bunch of baby's breath -- more than you will need -- sells for about $1.50 at local florists. Statice, which comes in dark blue, purple and sometimes a deep pink, sells for about 50 cents a stem.
Our simple design is the first one Hazel Numsen teaches students in her beginning flower arranging classes. Ms. Numsen, who owns Flower Lady Interiors in Bel Air, has been teaching beginning classes through Harford Community College for about years.
Here are some additional tips from Ms. Numsen:
* Oasis, the green spongy material often used to anchor flowers, sells for about $2. Cut it to size and immerse in water for about five minutes before using. Soak only what you will need because it will fall apart as it dries.
* Don't pack flowers together. Leave space between flowers and create depth by leaving some flowers higher than others.
* If you insert a flower too far into the Oasis and pull it back out, even slightly, you will create an air pocket. Instead, remove flower completely and try again.
* Fluffy baby's breath can hide a multitude of sins. Leave the stems long enough to go down into the Oasis and hide any gaps.
The contents of prepackaged bouquets vary. However, the basic structure of the arrangement remains the same. Use your five largest flowers to create the basic outline and fill in with remaining flowers, spacing them evenly and spoke-like around the center.
Our prepackaged bouquet included three carnations, five pom-pom mums, four daisy mums and one stem of baker's fern. We bought two stems of statice, one stem of baby's breath and five additional stems of baker's fern.
The first time you make this, look for a prepackaged bundle similar to ours. It will be easier to follow.
The amount of materials is approximate. We made our arrangement using only the materials listed, and it cost about $8. Spend time inspecting flowers before you buy. Don't buy baker's fern with broken tips or wilted flowers.
What you will need:
* Half a block of Oasis
* A container about the size of a soup bowl.
* One floral bouquet with carnations, mums and a piece of baker's fern.
* Five additional stems of baker's fern.
* One or two stems of baby's breath.
* Two or three stems of statice.
Cut Oasis to fit the container. It should be about 1 inch taller than the container. Soak in water, as directed above.
Using a sharp knife and referring to photograph, cut baker's fern apart, keeping about 7 inches of it intact.
Put one large piece of baker's fern in middle of each of the four sides of Oasis. Place two pieces in center, facing each other in a v-shape.
Insert smaller pieces of fern, cut from main stem, to cover as much of the Oasis as possible.
Cut flowers apart, preserving as much of each stem as possible.
Form the basic outline, using the five largest flowers -- in this case three carnations and two pom-poms. Place one carnation in center and trim to fit. Place other two carnations at an angle on opposite sides, about half-way down. Insert pom-poms, referring photo, evenly on other sides.
The remaining pom-poms, cut slightly shorter, will go between and below this first ring of flowers. The pom-poms should be closer to the center of the arrangement than outline flowers.
Use daisies to fill in around arrangement; some daisies should be higher than others. Space them as evenly as possible.
Cut the statice apart and follow the directions for the daisies. Fill in gaps with sprigs of baby's breath.