Botanical Brouhaha Expert Discussion Panel: No. 75

Question:

What do you like to use for the base for your garlands? How do you add flowers? (water picks, foam?) Do you do anything special to increase the longevity of your garlands? Are there different methods of attachment that you use for different venues (because of venue regulations)? How long does it normally take you to install and uninstall a garland?

Answers:

Beth Zemetis | Blush

I have found that the most requested garland by my clients this past wedding season was Eucalyptus. I usually use a mixture of varieties (Silver Dollar, Seeded Euc, Gunni, etc.) to give the garland some depth. I love the look of Bay Leaf garlands but find the scent can be overwhelming if they are used directly on the guests’ tables. Southern Smilax is a wild vine that has a garland look that I like using to decorate archways, chandeliers, stair railings, etc. It has a more natural look than a handmade garland. I choose the foliage based on the color green the client likes, how bulky it needs to be as well as the climate it will be in (to prevent wilting). I usually place/attach the garland and then add water-picked flowers, usually just securing them by tucking them under the wire that is holding the garland together. I attach the garland to arches, chuppahs, staircases, etc. with pipe cleaners or zip ties depending on how secure it needs to be–both are easy to install/uninstall and don’t cause any damage.  The installation time of the garland depends on where it is being placed and how heavily it will be decorated–tent poles, chandeliers, chuppahs, arbors, stair railings often take longer and require more than one person to install. I always overestimate how long it will take in my timeline so there is wiggle room if it ends up being trickier than expected.

Beth Zemetis | Blush

Table runner and chandelier garland shown above: Smilax Vine | Table runners shown below: Eucalyptus & Olive Branch

Beth Zemetis | Blush

Elisabeth Zemetis (Blush)

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Holly Chapple Flowers | Katie Stoops Photography

Holly Chapple Flowers | Katie Stoops Photography

Each job and task is different depending on the budget, the weather, and the place the design is going. Typically in our studio we make our garlands in house. I would prefer to make the garlands with fresh product and know on what day they lost their water source. When I purchase pre-made garlands I am never happy with the quality of the fullness. We often start with a base of Italian ruscus and then add in greens like plumosa, seeded eucalyptus, feather willow eucalyptus, bay leaf, pittosporum or lemon leaf. For lower price point designs we will simply garnish with blooms like roses and such (pretty much any bloom that is safe to be a bout or corsage). For blooms that need a water source like hydrangea, stock, poppies or peonies we use water tubes or small Oasis cages or Iglus. For full throttle designs we use Oasis racquettes. If the design is to cascade off the table, boards or pipe and drape poles are used as support for the racquettes.  (images above courtesy of Katie Stoops Photography)

Holly Chapple (Holly Chapple Flowers)

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We often use a pre-made garland of seasonal foliage that we can store in our cooler in plastic bags until the day of the wedding. Then at the wedding we will add flowers and additional bits of interesting foliage using water tubes and wire as needed. We never use foam because of sustainability concerns. In terms of how we attach it at the venue, we most often use garland directly laid on the table (a trend here is long farm tables with garlands down the center) so there’s no extra mechanics. Occasionally we do hang them though and most often use zip-ties. If it’s a venue we’ve never worked at before, we will touch base with them in advance to confirm what works in their space. Regarding timing for garlands, it really varies as to how they are being used (hung up vs. laid on the table) and how many flowers we are adding to them. Sometimes they are super fast and other times they are very time consuming.

Jennie Love (Love ‘n Fresh Flowers)

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The little foam blocks with plastic backing can be useful. But usually I try to stick to water tubes, as it’s more environmentally friendly. It’s tough though with large, thirsty flowers like peonies and roses.

The time it takes to attach really varies depending on what it’s on – a welcome sign, a head table, an arch all have different requirements. But usually we’ll do the base of greenery in advance (eucalyptus, myrtle, camellia and plums are some of my favourite materials to work with) and then add the flowers onsite using bind wire and sometimes glue.

One story I’ll share that might be useful – a friend had to do a large garland for the outside of a church but there was a very strict policy that nothing could be nailed to the door or frame. She created her own structure using bamboo, with two pieces stuck into large buckets of sand, and then a cross base at the top. Everything was then covered in foliage and flowers and it looked exactly like it was coming off the building.

Clare Day (Clare Day Flowers)

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Floresie

The base really depends on what and where the garland is going to be used.

For straight garlands to be installed on long tables for example, I use straight hazelnut branches of about 1 meter length. Then I tie foliage around the branch with thin metallic wire. Once ready I can easily store them and even stack them. On the day of the event, I just put the 1 meter pieces on the table centers one after the other. If I have to add flowers, I put them in place once the foliage garland is on the table. Most of the time, sliding them between branches is enough and if necessary, I tie them with metallic wire. If necessary, depending on flowers type and temperature of the day I use water picks, but it also happens that I use the flowers without picks.

Floresie | Studio Mennesson

Image above: Studio Menneson

If the garland needs to be suspended against a wall or along a ceremony arch for example, I use rope as a base. And then the same method as for the straight branch method to add foliage and then flowers.

Finally, if I want a very thin, light garland, I sometimes just bind foliage pieces together and hang them. This works very well with ruscus for example.

Attaching depends on the base and on the end-place. It can be fishing line, metallic wire, cable tie… I always have plenty of those in my tool box to be ready for any situation.

Floresie | Sabrina Dupuy Photography

Images above: Sabrina Dupuy Photography

Laetitia Mayor (Floresie)

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How I make garlands really does depend on the venue &  time I have to install etc. My preferred method is wiring a long garland and adding florals after if need be, this way most of the work can be done before.  I keep flowers in water using water tubes so that no wilting occurs. (Shown below: Garland making station for a wedding last year.)

Jo Flowers

Jo Rodwell (Jo Flowers)

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Fleuropean

I suppose that the ideal base would vary from wedding to wedding due to the couple’s preferred style and aesthetic. Water friendly options that appeal to me during my brainstorming sessions and garland building exercises are thyme, privet, various ferns (asparagus fern lasts wonderfully out of water) and evergreens (cyprus, pine, etc). I try to stick with long-lasting foliage and flowers so that I don’t have to do much to make the garland last longer. For one particular October wedding, I was asked to create a natural, loose, romantic garland to soften the tent structure where the ceremony was to take place. I stuck with a base of thyme and fruit foliage (arching raspberry branches) draped in clematis vines with clusters of blush snowberries and dahlias. I had prepared the thyme base at home, pre-wired and ready to assemble. Since there was already an archway in place to use as a base, I wired the garland directly to the structure and wove in the vines and foliage, adding clusters of flowers here and there (no fancy water picks or foam). With a ladder and a helping hand, this took me about an hour and a half to assemble, but only 20 minutes to take down.

Emily Avenson (Fleuropean)

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Passionflower | Chelsea Brown Photography

Image above: Chelsea Brown Photography

Images below: Heather Saunders Photography

Passionflower | Heather Saunders Photography

I must admit, I love to buy pre-made garlands. When I need to cover a large area- once I had to garland a whole house- the ease of opening a box and simply hanging is a real time and resource saver. The pre-made garlands are strong and uniform, and you can add to them to make them look fuller and more special.  In the past, for garland centerpieces, I’ve ordered 50’ pre-made pieces, then cut them to the length I need for the guest tables. I’ve then added interesting bits to the them- additional foliages, handfuls of dried lavender, stems of pieris, bunches of lacy dusty miller, amaranthus, succulents, flowers in water tubes, little floral landscape pieces designed in Oasis foam cages, or floral bunches tucked in using the Eco-Fresh bouquet wrap. I’ve also made them by hand, but find that it’s quite time consuming. When I make them by hand, I start with a length of strong twine. I then place a bundle of foliage onto the twine, and secure it to the twine with paddle wire. The next bundle goes on top of the stems of the last, and gets bound with the paddle wire. Keep the paddle wire in your hand, and don’t cut it until you are done with the whole garland! If the garland is to be hung instead of used on a flat surface such as a table or mantle top, I make sure to add evenly to the front and back of the twine backbone to be sure the garland looks good all around. I’ve used a garland making machine a few times, and do think it’s a great investment.

Passionflower | Heather Saunders Photography

My favorite garland piece to date (above) was a bit of a design challenge. I wanted to create a full, thick garland piece to hug the entrance archway of the venue, and create a dramatic ceremony backdrop. The venue would not allow me to nail into the arch, so I devised a plan to create panels of chicken wire that we used as a base for the garland and flowers. We made three panels of chicken wire that measured the length and width of the 2 vertical and 1 overhead horizontal sections of the archway. This was as simple as rolling out the length we needed from a roll of Oasis brand floral mesh as the width of the wire was the same as the width of the arch sections! We then attached lengths of pre-made garland to the chicken wire panels using zip ties creating three fully covered green panels. Each panel was hung using Oasis bark wire from the upstairs porch slats above the archway. The horizontal panel was backed with a slim piece of wood to make sure it would keep its shape and not sag. Flowers were added to the design using Oasis cages and water tubes. The result was impressive looking, but a very reasonable design in terms of cost and labor.

Susan McLeary (Passionflower)

One thought on “Botanical Brouhaha Expert Discussion Panel: No. 75

  1. Nancy Johnson

    Thank you for this very precise guide to making garland. I have a wedding coming up in August and have never made garland before so this put’s my mind at ease although I think I will check out ordering as well.

    Reply

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