Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Easy Steps Using Pineapple Lilies (Eucomis) in a Floral Arrangement

Pineapple Lilies make long-lasting cut flowers.  The stems and flowers are waxy with good substance.

Materials Needed:
Volcano-shaped, flat bottom bulbs.
  • An uneven number of flowers are best to create balance in your floral arrangement. The entire flowering stem of a Pineapple Lily (Eucomis) can be used as a cut flower because the leaves emerge in a rosette from the top of the volcano-shaped bulb, rather than along the stem like true lilies (Lilium).  Consequently, removing the entire stem will not harm your bulbs in any way - in fact you might be encouraging them to make more offsets as well.  These are long-lived plants and you'll be able to pick stems each year.  Gather your flowers the evening before and place in a cool spot using only fresh tap water.
    See the spotting patterns?
  • Pull out the stems - rather than cutting - and you will have a neat white end at the bottom that is naturally “sealed” like the middle stem shown in the photograph. 
  • Gather interesting branches from your garden - Branches and twigs will help keep the flowers upright in the vase and add intrigue to your arrangement.  If possible, try to choose shapes that curve aside and are not strictly vertical.
  • Jar of glass beads – used to safely anchor the base of the stem in the bottom of the container.  Wire “frogs” are not recommended because the bottom of the stems are soft and will become mushy if overworked or repeatedly "pinned".  Glass beads are gentle on the stem edges and are quite attractive when used in a clear vase.  Choose either clear or a complementary color to show off the finely decorated stems to advantage.
  • Choose a heavy glass or pottery vase to increase stability and to visually balance the large size of the flowers in the arrangement, but not so large that it will be hard to change the water without using a siphon hose - a trick used for massive floral arrangements.
  1. Add glass beads to a depth of about three inches or more, depending on how transparent your container is – use more beads if you want them to be a highly visible part of the arrangement.  However, many Eucomis have interesting speckled stems which are pretty on their own, so take a critical look at the stems and then decide how you want the beads to fit into the overall "look". Add foliage, such as Fennel, Salal, Hosta leaves, Cryptomeria japonica (Dianna's favorite filler because it will last a month or more in water) or other conifers that will soften the overall effect and last a long time.
  2. Add supporting structure, a few interesting bare branches will make a difference – in the arrangements pictured the branches are from an alpine conifer that experienced winter kill.  Balance the branches carefully; positioning one branch swooping to the side and slightly forward is always a good move.  Each single element or layer (foliage, branches etc.) you put into the vase should look balanced on its own.  Step back to look at your work, or leave it for a short while and upon return you'll likely discover a new perspective.
  3. Add stems of Eucomis cut to varying heights with the tallest in back if you are making a “one side only” composition.  If you need to cut the stems to make them shorter for your vase, they will tend to get a bit soggy on the cut edge over time. *See note below.
  4. Adjust the individual elements to make the design pleasing.  Try rotating the stems in place to align the angle of the flowers rather than switching their positions.  Be certain to add flowers or more foliage in the back of the vase to round it out.  Even though the back side might not be as visible, a fluffy amount of foliage all around the rim will help make the transition from vase to flowers more pleasing, plus people tend to “peek” behind arrangements to see how they are composed, so don’t give away your secrets!
  5.  Fill container to within one or two inches of the rim with plain tap water.
  6.  Photograph your work.
  7. Change vase water regularly. Eucomis stems last a very long time – up to a month, longer as the seed pods develop - so the water needs to be changed at least once a week.  Place a folded heavy bath towels at the edge of your kitchen sink, using it as a soft base to steady the vase and tip most of the water into the sink.  Replace with fresh water and reposition the flowers if necessary.  This is especially important if you needed to cut the stems because those edges will tend to dissolve over time.  
*NOTE: Do not use flower conditioners; Pineapple Lilies do not need the prepared solution, plus it could reduce the longevity of the stems which are thick and fleshy.  The waxy/rubber-like stems and florets are probably 90% water, with a network of fibrous cells holding them together – as observed from Dianna's unsuccessful experience in trying to dry the flowers for use year-round.   Enjoy Pineapple Lilies in their season, the stems and florets shrivel away to paper thin when dried.  However, that infuriating trait will make it easy to collect seed if you hang them upside down for several months with a collection box underneath to catch the falling seeds.

These other arrangements used pottery urns and wooden “accent” spirals, found at a local market to tie in the solid black color of the vases.  Dip the ends of any wooden or dried material into melted wax to keep them from decomposing while you enjoy the Pineapple Lily arrangement for several weeks; this will also preserve them for reuse in the future.  Eucomis are only available in spring; check our website for information on varieties.  When the "add to cart" button is visible, they are available to order.

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