A splash of color brings cheer Carnations: They look great and are not expensive, says floral designer Carolyne Roehm, who is always looking for ways nature can brighten the home all year round.

December 14, 1997|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,SUN STAFF

Red carnations.

That's former fashion designer and current floral designer Carolyne Roehm's prescription for a holiday flower that looks beautiful, doesn't cost very much, and lasts a long time.

"Christmas is such a frenetic time for me, for everybody, that I always try to do things that are not highly labor-intensive," said Roehm, author of the new book, "A Passion for Flowers" (HarperCollins, 1997, $45), a season-by-season look at the ways flowers can enliven and brighten our homes. "But at the same time you want to have a big splash.

"I like working with natural things -- greens and magnolia leaves. I don't like things that are artificial, like pine cones sprayed gold," Roehm said.

Roehm also likes to mix flowers with other things. "I use a lot of fruit, pomegranates, lady apples, Seckel pears."

Roehm's interest in flowers is lifelong. She grew up visiting her grandmother's gardens in rural Missouri, and loved arranging the roses, hollyhocks, marigolds and sunflowers she found there. Her interest became more professional only after several painful events in her life, including a divorce and the end of her fashion-design business.

"I thought, if my life is going to change so much, I really want to change it," she said. "I'm going to do all the things I never had time to do." One of those things was living in another culture and speaking a different language. Another was working in a flower shop.

She combined the two in an apprenticeship in flower arranging in Paris. "I wanted to learn the technical part of flower arranging," she said. The design part she expected to develop on her own. "I think floral design is just like fashion design -- the visual part. It's about texture, composition, line."

For months, she worked for noted French florist Henri Moulie. "I did everything. I cleaned stems, I cleaned floors." And she developed the simple and straightforward style that she

demonstrates in the book.

And the red carnations? "They're beautiful -- people think just because someone figured out how to spray them green for St. Patrick's Day they're ugly, but they're not."

She discovered the beauty of carnations while skiing in Colorado, where the only flowers she could find were red carnations in the grocery store.

"They have a beautiful shape and they will last a good two weeks," she said.

Here are some of Roehm's tips on using flowers in decor.

* In the book, there are instructions for making a carnation wreath -- a circle of two shades of deep red, decorated simply with a deep-green iridescent bow. She says that using two shades of the same color of the same flower is "more interesting" to the eye than simply using one color.

* She varies texture by using different sizes of the same flower in the same arrangement -- miniature roses with larger roses, for instance.

* For winter holidays, baskets filled simply with greenery or pine cones contribute lovely color and lovely aroma to a room.

* Also for holiday decorating, Roehm suggests "escaping" the usual reds and greens in favor of white arrangements. Some of the flowers she likes are amaryllis, medium-sized roses, narcissus, carnations and stock. She combines white flowers with blue-gray foliage, blue and white china and blue glass for a "cool, formal and rather wintry-looking" holiday table.

* Use seasonal fruits and berries, such as bittersweet and rose hips and viburnum berries, to provide interesting texture in arrangements.

* Instead of one large centerpiece, use several smaller ones. Or surround a larger arrangement with similar but much smaller arrangements.

* Leaves and seed pods also add interest and a rustic flavor to flower designs.

Pub Date: 12/14/97

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