When I was a journalist in England, I became unlikely friends with a one-time high-flying, then disgraced financial public relations guru called John Addey. He had a passion for vases of cut flowers that added splashes of color throughout his stately North London mansion, a passion I found contagious even though cut flowers were mostly beyond my budget.
When I do buy flowers now, inevitably they are artlessly arranged, their petals drifting to the table surface, leaving me disheartened.
Pam Ostermiller at Sugar House-based florist TriFecTa (1940 S. 1100 East) offers a solution. She teaches floral-design classes, which, of course, could be a gift in and of themselves. In those classes, she shows how to make stunning arrangements that make unique presents.
“Flower arranging is a simple, inexpensive way to bring a little beauty into your home,” she says. The 21-year flower-business veteran makes you rethink flower arranging. A fundamental trick is taping a grid on the mouth of a vase into which to slot flowers. Then it becomes, she says, a balance between “letting the flowers be what they are, and designing.”
Ostermiller ships in exotic flowers from Hawaii, New Zealand, South Africa and South America. The range of floral textures, shapes and colors allows you to create fascinating combinations and effects. She’ll pair exotics with garden-variety flowers and bushes, placing a gorgeously formed juliet garden rose with a few stems of smoke bush, the latter found growing all over the Salt Lake Valley, or an antique-looking geraldine rose with vine maple.
Ostermiller also uses grasses, tying them in knots around the base of the arrangement or as a backdrop. “Make it up as you go along,” she says.
Flower arranging isn’t just about daisy faces, she says. You can make fun things with winter pine, juniper and blueberries, princess pine and holly—decorations that burst with expressive energy and the richness of autumn colors.
Perhaps the best tip Ostermiller offers is the most obvious: Put your flowers in luke-warm water. Cold water will make them clench up and less able to drink. The biggest surprise, though, is some of the tricks she uses to make flowers last. She pounds woody stems like fall branches, willows and apricots with a hammer so they drink, while she cauterizes the sap-dripping stems of poinsettia with a lighter.
Who knew flower arranging was so violent?
One-off classes range from $45 to $150. You take home flowers in their containers along with the foundation skills to basic floral design.
TriFecTa’s flowers, however, can be expensive—some ranging from $20 to $40 a stem, although they can last for up to three weeks, Ostermiller points out. Those with a more constrained budget should note on Friday and Saturday afternoons, she has a 4 to 6 p.m. happy hour: Buy one, get one free.
On Dec. 11, Ostermiller will offer a class on making a special holiday vase for a nightstand or hostess gift, along with another on Dec. 18 on creating a holiday centerpiece.