Updated: Dec 30, 2022
I've served on the Board of Directors for The Anderson Arts Center for six years. Each year The Arts Center's signature fundraiser is a large art auction featuring great food, dinner, dancing and thematic decorations. This year, my final year of tenure on the board, our theme was The Seersucker Soiree, a Southern Garden Party Theme. Our fantastic executive director, April Cameron, asked if I could replicate a floral chandelier she had found on Pinterest as the focal point of the event.
Now, I'm not a florist nor an acrobat but because I have great love for the Arts Center I agreed. One of the quotes I live by is one from President Theodore Roosevelt, my favorite President. “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it.” So, how do you build a 100+ pound floral arrangement upside down, mount it to the ceiling, make it look presentable and not fall and kill someone?
Good questions! I wrestled with these questions for several nights.
First let me say, it takes a village. Wherever you are in the country, find your resources. I consulted with two local florist friends including, Dianne Peeler at Chez Julies and our local floral wholesaler, Kris Simpson at Carolina Florist Supply who were invaluable as well as my Master Gardener Friend Susan Temple. Thankfully at The Arts Center we also have a wonderful facilities manager with construction experience, Eddie Herndon. I asked a dear contractor friend of mine to assist me the day I built the arrangement, Eric Cheek of Cheek Building and Trim. Suffice to say, with something this big three fellas were needed. It is heavy!
Here's how we did it...
First, we constructed a square frame with a wire grid secure to the frame. Then, the frame was fitted with chains from which to suspend the arrangement. Our local arts center is a 100+ year old train depot warehouse so we attached hooks into the large wooden support beams of the building. We also cut more wire grid to be stapled onto the frame once it was filled with soaked Oasis.
Then, frame completed, off we went to the local floral supply to order flowers. Not only did we choose greenery and flowers that worked with our Summer Southern Garden Theme, we also chose flowers that would hold up well out of water. Before you undertake any large floral project always talk to your supplier about seasonal availability, longevity of the material and prices. Make sure to order what you need in advance. I selected large amounts of Sprengeri Asparagus Fern as the main filler of the arrangement along with eucalyptus, wax flowers, daisies, delphinium, etc. In blues, whites, and touches of yellows.
The night before we constructed the arrangement we soaked many blocks of Oasis in a large trash can. The next morning we filled the frame with the soaked Oasis, laying a large tarp down on the floor to catch drips and debris and making cleanup easier.
After the frame was loaded we stapled another sheet of wire on the top to prevent the Oasis from picking up when I inserted the stems.
As we opened each bunch of flowers we sprayed and saturated the stems and flower heads with Crowning Glory, a Floralife Product that helps floral material retain moisture. Then, bit by bit, with a tall ladder and a stairway to heaven I inserted floral material for about 3 hours into the Oasis.
First, I started with some broadleaf evergreen stems from a local garden. Then, working with the longest stems first, I created a triangular arrangement, working from longest to shortest from center to edges. As I inserted the floral material I also used an adhesive spray called Flora Lock to make sure the heavier stems stayed put and saturated them again with Crowning Glory. It was necessary to step down a good bit and have my amazing friend/volunteer to hand up material to me as well as act as a spotter to make sure the colors and textures were property distributed.
After a hard 4-5 hour morning we were done. I said a prayer it would last and went home to rest. That night, what a party! I was so happy not one bloom fell or wilted.
Title Watercolor: Seersucker Soiree, by David Locke
First Image of Floral Chandelier by Tom Gibson