Building the basic nosegay

Here are three basic ways to start a nosegay:

1. Start with a flower head that is already shaped in the basic nosegay form, such ashydrangea or Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.

2. Start with the type of flower you have the most of and form the blossoms into adome.

3. Start with one perfectly splendid flower, which you will keep at the apex of thedome while building the rest of the nosegay around it (as best you can).

Even before attempting any of these methods, because you are building this bouquetin your hand, you will want to have all of the stems—flowers, fillers, fruit, andfoliage—ready. The circle you make by touching thumb with forefinger is your imaginaryvase opening. As you build your nosegay, the stems will be below this circle andthe nosegay will rise above it. All the stems hanging below your thumb and forefingershould be clean—because any foliage left on the stems would be beneath the watersurface when the nosegay is placed in its vase.The nosegay is best built in one hand while being added to by the other. Whicheveris your less nimble or “off” hand becomes the “vase hand.” Its job is to createthe circle and hold the flowers, while your other hand adds elements. With one handholding your burgeoning bouquet, you should never stop in the middle of productionto do a task requiring both hands. Laying down a nosegay midway through is a bigrisk—you may not get the flowers back the way you had them. I always try to be sureeverything is in readiness, so that once I launch into making a nosegay, I can proceeduninterrupted to its completion.If you cook, think of this as making a stir-fry in a wok. There is a lot of cutting andchopping to do beforehand, and you do not put the heat on until all of the ingredientsare arranged around you. This is the most time-consuming part of the process. Onceyou start cooking, a stir-fry is prepared quickly. Nosegays are the same.The cooking analogy ends here. Although most floral instruction books speak ofrecipes for floral design, I take a more improvisational approach. You never knowexactly what your garden will present. If you go to gather flowers believing you musthave three of this and five of that, you may be disappointed. Instead, you may findit more helpful to think of color and/or shape elements rather than specific typesof flowers. For instance, rather than insisting on three stems of pink sweet william(Dianthus barbatus), you must be willing to assess your options in case you find onlyone of good quality. One pink rose, one sweet william, and one pink annual pincushionflower (Scabiosa atropurpurea) will give you three forms in pink, and perhaps amore interesting final result. Be open to making midharvest adjustments.No matter which of the three basic nosegay construction methods you chose, it allgoes together in roughly the same way:
first, big flowers
second, filler flowers and delicate, easily broken flowers
third, foliage collar

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