- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Sometimes fake flowers are even better than the real thing, says Shery Massey, designer at Annandale Designs N’ Flowers.

Clients sometimes request arrangements made from silks, flowers made from silk, plastic or acrylic materials. Silks can add a bit of spring to homes during the cold winter months, she says.

“Fresh flowers are fragile and last just for a few days,” Miss Massey says. “Some people would like to have color in their homes all year round, like a centerpiece for their dining room table. They are too busy and don’t want to run out each time they have a dinner. Or they don’t want to spend money over and over.”

Although fresh flowers are sure to stay in style, silks also can bring life to a setting. With proper care, the synthetic arrangement can last for months.

The best silks are made from silk material and usually appear the most lifelike, Miss Massey says. The cost of the arrangement depends on its size and shape. However, most pieces are at least $55 or more.

Almost any flower can be made from fabric, including orchids, green plants and blooming plants, Miss Massey says.

One of her favorite arrangements is for an entry-hall table, where the design can be viewed from every angle. She likes to include different textures and colors, such as lilies, cala lilies, roses, irises and filler flowers.

Shorter bouquets are for sit-down dinners, while taller arrangements are for elegant occasions, she says. Designs can be one-sided, to be used against a wall. More traditional bouquets use garden style, a loose and airy arrangement similar to flowers growing in an outdoor garden.

Trendy designs feature one type of flower, such as roses, with grasses. Contemporary arrangements might feature a small number of tropical flowers.

“We don’t like to have a clump of flowers sitting there, or one flower, unless someone specially asks for that,” Miss Massey says. “You can’t have an arrangement that has one side taller and one side shorter. There should be a nice balance all around.”

The largest flower should be placed in the center of the arrangement to anchor it, says Carol Beales, owner of Galleria Florist in Falls Church.

When making an arrangement, Mrs. Beales starts with the tallest flower and works down from the center. Using at least five shapes of flowers gives contrast to the piece, such as a combination of more slender, line flowers or round, focal flowers.

If customers want to save money on the arrangements, they might purchase cheaper silks separately at a local arts and crafts store and give them to a professional florist for arranging.

“I work my two larger flowers and bring in smaller flowers,” Mrs. Beales says. “I repeat the smaller pattern of the large focal, so it has continuity. You wouldn’t want one orange lily with small pink or yellow flowers.”

Bringing fabric to the store can help coordinate the colors of the silk arrangement, Mrs. Beales says. Customers can provide material from the drapes, throw pillows or sofa from the room in which the piece will be displayed.

After the imitation flowers are arranged, Mrs. Beales works natural products into the design. She uses lotus pods, birch branches, curly willow branches, kiwi vines or mosses. She says this technique helps alleviate any artificial impression of the silks.

“Most florists tend to be a fresh floral designer,” Mrs. Beales says. “Silks have a reputation of being not as expensive-looking for a low-end budget, but they do serve a purpose, if you can’t reach to water it, or if you don’t have natural light, or if you have allergies.”

Using a unique container to display the arrangement can give originality to a configuration, says Rick Thompson, store manager at Flower Gallery of Chantilly. Baskets, pieces made from china, porcelain, ceramic, crystal, glass, metal or bronze are options.

The most meaningful containers are items in the home with special significance, such as silver baby cups, he says.

“Try to have the arrangements have casual elegance,” Mr. Thompson says. “Grandma’s heirlooms and knickknacks always look pretty with a few well-chosen flowers.”

Cleaning the silks is just as important as watering real flowers, says Carol Bull, floral designer at Alexandria Floral. A hair dryer can blow away dust, or professional products can be used to dissolve dirt.

“Once the dust builds up on them, you can try to lightly vacuum them,” Ms. Bull says. “The better quality silks, the better chance you have of keeping them clean.”

Although the silks may last longer, Ms. Bull suggests changing them seasonally.

“If you want to keep them, they need regular maintenance,” Ms. Bull says. “You don’t just keep them in the corner and expect them to be clean six months later. You have to keep cleaning them.”

In addition to flowers made from fabric, customers might want to try dried flowers, says Jean Vasconcellos, owner of Hillside Florist in Arlington. Essence is added for a fresh scent.

“Flowers in the home make you feel better,” Miss Vasconcellos says. “They change your mood, psychologically. They help lift your spirit. People feel happier when they are among flowers. That’s why people give flowers to cheer people up.”

Adding an artificial bird or butterfly to a flower arrangement also can bring spring into the home, she says.

“Winter is mostly gray and dark,” Miss Vasconcellos says. “Flowers brighten up the atmosphere and lighten you up. They add color and beauty.”

Along with silks and dried flowers, fresh flowers will always be a great way to dress up a home, says Eriko Ono, merchandising specialist at ProFlowers.com in San Diego. The company creates bouquets of fresh flowers.

She suggests breaking apart the bouquets and spreading the flowers across a table in brandy snifters, martini glasses or mint julep cups. Flowers on the bathroom vanity are a nice touch.

Filling a bowl with lemons and water and then floating yellow roses across the top has a luscious appeal. A bowl of green apples with an ivy plant looks abundant. A few blooms of dried hydrangea in uxi pods are another creative option.

“Fresh flowers always make it look like your home is something out of a magazine,” Mrs. Ono says. “It makes it look like the person who is keeping house has thought about bringing the outdoors inside.”

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