Steps to Making Evergreen Arrangements for Outside for Winter Viewing By Carol Hanby
Decide where the arrangement will be placed. Can you see the area from inside?
What style will you be making? Will it be formal, for something like a Colonial style house, or modern for a contemporary style house. (Or mix it up.)
What shape will the arrangement take? Triangle, asymmetrical or symmetrical, round, pillar, “S” shaped, creative, line, massed line, Japanese style, etc.
Will it be seen from only the front, or should it be finished all the way around?
Choose a container and what the container will rest on if it is not free-standing. The style and shape of the arrangement will help you decide on an appropriate container. Scale is very important outside since it is more spacious than inside and arrangements needs to be large enough not to get lost Outdoor arrangements go through snow, ice, wind, rain and sun. The container and the materials must be able to withstand all these conditions. Be careful not to create too large a “sail” so it will not be blown over. Small bungee chords can sometimes be helpful in anchoring arrangements.
Fill container with tightly packed oasis letting it stick up a couple of inches above the lip of the container so branches may be inserted sideways, but always pointing towards the center. It is important to have a large enough amount of oasis to support the plant materials and the strain that winds and snow put on it. Oasis needs to be wedged in tightly.
Select the plant materials for the arrangement. A mixture of tall arching branches, spiky forms, rounded forms and weeping forms is desirable as well as finely textured, coarsely textured and medium textured materials. A variety of colors that blend well together make a more interesting arrangement. Yellow foliage is particularly useful as are berries. You are trying to achieve a contrast in forms, textures and colors. It is good to have something a bit larger than other pieces for a center of interest. This can also be something more shiny or dense or brightly colored, something that stands out.
Begin by placing the branches that will define the outside of the design. If it is to be a triangular shape, for instance, the tallest, straightest piece will go in the middle rear of the oasis. This will help establish the balance line. The lower side pieces will be slightly shorter. It is good to step back at this point and see if the scale looks good. It is good to make the design in the place where it is to stand so that you can tell if you are getting it right. The arrangement should be made at the same height as it will be viewed from. The same materials should be used throughout the design, not just in one or two spots, but not necessarily evenly placed. Try to establish a rhythm of placement of the different components. Like components should “talk” with each other. Try to achieve depth in the arrangement by having foreground, middle ground and background. Fill in more of the space and then insert the center of interest and then the final filling in can be done. When you look at the finished arrangement you will notice the center of interest first and then your eye will travel throughout the arrangement. This is a unified arrangement. Foliage and particularly flowers have visual weight. Heavier materials go lower down in the arrangement with lighter materials toward the top. Some colors weigh visually more than others and draw our attention more readily.
Arrangements that are out in the open usually get enough moisture naturally and do not need water added except in warm spells. Arrangements are more likely to dry out in spring. If the arrangements are in a covered area such as a porch, they will need to be watered occasionally.
In spring deciduous flowering branches can be cut and forced inside and the flowers can be added to outdoor arrangements and they seem to last a long time in the cool weather. When Azaleas come into bloom, they are beautiful mixed in with the greens.