WESTMINSTER — About 200 members and guests of the Carroll Garden Club recently learned how to add expert floral notes to their entertaining.
The audience spent a Wednesday afternoon in early March watching Michael Paul Hare, an internationally recognized floral designer, as he deftly changed bunches of flowers and greenery into to eye-pleasing colorful displays.
Hare, who owns the Waldorf Florist in Charles County, won the Telefloral International Designer of the Year Award in 1990.
Guests clapped, oohed and aahed, as Hare produced one arrangement after another from flowers that many people here have readily available.
"He makes it look so simple that I think I could do it. I have much of that material in my yard now," many observers said.
The event was scheduled to raise money for the club's many civic projects, including Main Street's hanging baskets. Members fill the baskets with geraniums and ivy and hang them from poles along Main Street in the spring. They also maintain the flowering plants all summer.
"Many of us areup early, watering those baskets at 7 a.m., three to four times times a week," said Margaret Fisher, who helped organize the event.
Many in the audience agreed that Hare gave them great ideas for basic designs.
"We really liked everything he did," said Fisher. "He gaveus good pointers for arrangements that almost any of us can do."
While Hare worked diligently at the front of the room, he chatted with the audience constantly, offering tips on how to accent a dining table or an entry way. He also chatted to himself, as "every good arranger does."
"Add a little something special to your entertaining --something all your guests will remember," he said. "Eye-pleasing floral arrangements can compliment any decor and pull eyes across the table.
He also recommended making floral gifts for guests.
"A gift (you make) is much better than any gift you purchase," he said, suggesting simple items like perfume bottles with pink wax flowers that guests can take home.
Hare made arrangements with popular flowers such as tulips, but offered a warning.
"Tulips will grow out of anarrangement," he said, as he placed deep pink tulips in a frosted container decorated with a pink bow. "I like to use them by themselves.Put them in a vase and let them twist and turn and grow."
His "loose network arrangement" produced a round of applause from the audience.
"Any flower en masse can be stunning and make a gorgeous statement," he said, adding more and more to the container. "The more you add the more stable they become."
Clustering flowers in abundance is dramatic, he said. He often clusters roses along the sides of a wedding cake. And, decorators can do more with a cake.
"Elevate a cake on Styrofoam rings and build a garden under it," he advised.
Healso showed how bulbs can add interest to arrangements and make themlast longer.
"Dare to be different and do pieces to make people think," he said as he arranged hyacinth bulbs. "The bulbs last and provide a nice symbolism, showing the fulllife pattern of the flower."
Along with the hyacinth bulb, he suggested coordinating the table with white china and green plates. He also showed several accessories and figurines to highlight place settings.
"I liked his use of accessories," said Fisher. "They can inspire."
Accessories don't haveto be expensive, he added.
"Never underestimate the power of yards of tulle -- it's inexpensive. Swirl and billow it to the floor. Then, add touches of greenery and flowers."
Hare recently entertaineda group of men and covered his table with moss, shamrocks and mushrooms. Then he added deer figurines as a centerpiece.
"My guests just loved it," he said. "They told me they felt like they were dining in a forest."
Containers often determine the type of arrangement a host or hostess will use.
"Containers dictate a style," he said. "You can find some fabulous reproductions."
Hare said classical or Gothic containers are very popular now. He often finds them at craft shows. He described the recent purchase of a pair of English trophy vases with handles on the sides. He fills them with tall flowers.
"The ambience of the vases filled with glorious flowers is loose, airy, very springy."
He also likes mixing metals and textures and terra-cotta colors. He advised sponge painting clay pots to make them look moss-covered.
When each arrangement was finished, members carried the pieces to display tables on each side of the room, where all could see them.
"When your guests walk up and study an arrangement, you know you have caught their attention," the designer said.
He advised arrangers to "use a minimum of greenery and use it mainly to hide construction." Greenery in oasis foam at base of arrangement is often all that is needed.
Casual arrangements are preferable for entertaining, he said. "Set looks often remind guests of arrangements delivered to hospitals."
And, he said, don't be afraid of heights.
"If you have the room, emphasize height. Especially at seated functions, get the flowers up and above where the guests can see them," he said while mixing forsythia and snap dragons -- "a wonderful summergarden flower."
Taking a cue from Ms. Manners, he said not to worry if flowers prevent people from talking across a table. Guests should talk to the person on the right or left -- not scream across the table.
After 23 years in the business, Hare said he is never afraidto accept the challenge of new design techniques.
He urged amateur arrangers to take the same tack.
"Don't get frustrated and give up. Keep trying," he said. "Just remember, nature has a mind of its own."