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Don Kinzler, Published February 07 2014

Growing Together: Valentine's DIY floral arrangement sends message of love

I can guarantee a Valentine’s Day gift that will be more unique than diamonds or chocolates.

Preparing a meal for your sweetheart is high on the romance list, but a gentleman presenting his lady with a flower arrangement that he personally constructed will be a one-in-a-million expression.

Cash and carry flower bunches make it easy to shop for flowers. These bouquets become special when assembled into an arrangement that goes beyond sticking them in a water-filled vase.

Because we’re entering the realm of the daring and dashing, timidity and half-heartedness must be left behind. We’re going for bold and adventurous designs that will make anyone’s floral designs pop whatever the season, and they aren’t difficult.


Begin by making a trip to the floral department for loose flowers or pre-packaged bunches. Two or three different shapes of flowers are needed. One type should be long and spike-shaped like gladiolus or snapdragons. The second type should be large and rounded, such as lilies or roses. A few sprigs of green foliage usually are included with the flowers.

A block of Oasis wettable florist’s foam from the floral department or hobby store will provide support to keep flowers in the desired position. In a vase with no support, flowers flop around. A shallow bowl, such as a cereal bowl, will hold the foam and be a water reservoir. Pruning shears are needed.


1. Cut the block of florist’s foam into a shape that will fit inside the bowl. The foam should extend above the rim by 2 or 3 inches.

2. Place the foam in a bucket of water until it sinks, indicating that it is thoroughly soaked.

3. The weight of the soaked foam usually will keep it in place, but you also can crisscross a thin strip of tape across the foam and down onto the bowl.

4. Decide the shape of the arrangement. This is the most important step. Be bold. Instead of a rounded “bouquet,” go for a design that has a definite line. Easy shapes are triangles, crescents and lazy s-curves. The following steps build the flowers into the pattern you’ve chosen.

5. Establish the height and width “skeleton” using long, spike-shaped flowers. For example, form a triangle by placing three linear gladiolus flowers radiating out from the bowl. Cut stems to the desired length and insert into the foam an inch or two. Or, design a crescent by placing curving flowers into a moon-shape.

6. Next, fill in the background with greenery and small flowers, always following the line shape you established.

7. Now we’re ready for the eye-catcher called the focal point. It’s the jewel in the crown and is best located in the lower center of the design. All points should seem to radiate out from it. It should protrude out from the arrangement, rather than being nestled within the other flowers to give a 3-D effect. This is the spot for large round prime flowers such as lilies or roses. Specimens can be used singly or in a closely-space group of three.

8. Fill in gaps with foliage or small flowers. Then add water to the bowl.

9. Critique your design. Does it have a definite dramatic line-shape? Do materials appear to radiate out from a central focal point, and is this “eye catcher” located at the lower center of the design? If yes, we’ve done it!

Now I’ll present my wife, Mary, with the flowers I’ve assembled. The pressure is on, because Mary’s training and experience pre-marriage was in floral design. Even if it’s less than perfect, it’s my Valentine’s Day way of thanking her for being patient with a gardener who never can leave home until all the plants are watered, and the green beans are picked one last time because I’m concerned they’ll be past prime by the time we return from wherever we’re going.

Upcoming programs

1. The public is invited to the 2014 Gardening Saturday, March 8, at 8:30 in NDSU’s Loftsgard Hall, 1360 Albrecht Blvd., Fargo. Topics include Growing Roses in the North, Master Gardeners Innovative Experiences, Earth-Kind® Environmental Landscapes, Landscape Mistakes, Basic Lawn Care, Victory Gardens in WWII & 2014, Square Foot Gardening, Diagnosing Plant Problems, Sedges for Ornamental Use, Pests on the Horizon, and New Annuals. Preregister by Feb. 28.

2. The 2014 High Tunnel Workshop is March 10 at 8:30 a.m. at St. Leo’s Catholic Church, 211 Langer Ave. N., Casselton, N.D. High tunnels are greenhouse-type structures covering the soil to extend the season. Topics include Basics of Production, Soil Oxygen Research, Vegetable Grafting, Vegetable Varieties and small fruits.

3. NDSU has $30,000 available for Junior Master Gardener grants up to $1,000 each for youth gardening projects. Schools, churches and any youth groups are encouraged to apply. All projects related to youth and gardening are eligible. Examples include school gardens and orchards, park projects, growing vegetables for food pantries and planting trees. Applications are accepted until April 1 or until funds are exhausted.

For information about these programs, contact the Cass County Extension Office at (701) 241-5700 or download registration forms at www.ag.ndsu.edu/casscountyextension.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler’s Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether@hotmail.com