Saturday, November 14, 2009

On Pomegranates

Ways to Display Pomegranates

I'm lucky to have a small pomegranate that produces just enough fruit for me to bring in and have around the house for the holidays. This year I piled some of them into a basket and others I displayed on a platter.

It seems like a no-brainer to load a bowl with fruit, but sometimes it isn't. First of all, the size of the fruit should actually vary in order to get a nice full bowl without gaping holes. Store bought fruit is too uniform (I suspect if they could grow a square tomato to make shipping easier, they would...maybe they already have). Home grown fruit is actually better because sizes and shapes vary.

I start by putting the most marginal (scarred or scabby or poor color) on the bottom and build up saving the most beautiful fruit for the top. I try to keep a few tiny fruit for that top layer as well.  And since pomegranates have those cute little tops, I pointed them all in the same direction.  They remind me of some very well-fed baby chicks squawking to be fed (more).

Pomegranates will keep for a long, long time. I have some from two years ago. They eventually dry out, but it takes a long time given that the fruit is so juicy to begin with. The skin darkens and loses that lovely rosy color so I cheat. I rub the dry skins with a little red acrylic paint on a paper towel. This year's crop was a bit pale for some reason so I suspect I'll be "enhancing" these sooner than later.

This year's crop had a mealy bug and ant infestation. After picking the fruit, I laid them out on a table outside until the ants abandoned their "farm." That left the mealy bugs. I washed each skin with rubbing alcohol and left them another week to be sure I hadn't left any bugs before bringing them indoors.

Experiment in the Never Ending Arrangements Update

Yes, those tenacious arrangements are still hanging in there so I guess you could say that my experiment succeeded.  I'm sick of seeing them though, so this will be their last resurrection.

This time I took out pretty much all live matter and replaced it with an inexpensive fall bouquet I picked up at Trader Joe's and filled in the holes with things from my garden.  The bouquet consisted of chrysanthemums, a thistley looking thing, some goldenrod, gerbera daisies and a tiger lily.  I nixed the dry fiber optic plant.  It was looking too messy.  Some of that migrated to the second arrangement (which still lives but I couldn't get a good shot of it).  Its cigar box container suited it better.

I really wanted to include something unusual in this one and found an overgrown succulent which was just itching to come indoors.  I'm hoping that it will like it here and take root.  I'll plant it in my garden when this fades

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

October Resurrection - Part II

The other experiment I wrote about had similar results.  The grasses stayed well as did the potato vine and nandina. The sunflowers were dumped and in came some pomegeranate, a succulent from the garden as well as that funky geranium (I promise to pay more attention to the plant names I purchase).  After short order the geranium wilted but the rest has stayed healthy. 

This simple arrangement has given me more than three weeks of pleasure with little upkeep.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October Resurrection

On October 11 I posted shots of two arrangements I'd composed with the hope of changing out some of the elements and repurposing whole deal over a number of weeks without having to start over again from scratch. Here's the verdict: it worked pretty well.

The Second Life

Two weeks later, out came the tall grasses and the sunflowers started getting stinky even before they wilted. Also the Brussels spouts started to yellow and the gourds that were in contact with moisture began to rot so out they went. Interestingly, some of the ferns began to turn yellow, which added a nice color contrast but, alas, they started shedding. They were dumped along with the freesia. Left was the sweet potato vine, seteria, dried fiber optic grass (scirpus), and baby pomegranate.

Added were more sweet potato vine, some large philodendon leaves, mini-chrysanthymums, a clipping of a funky old fashioned geranium, fresh asparagus fern and some white baby's cap hydrangia that had dried on the shrub into a speckled rose color.

Also, you'll see a purple leafed thing in the lower left corner. I have no idea what it is. I clipped a cutting from a storefront planting and it thrives in shade. Someone told me they saw it all over Crete. It's working here.

The little mums add nice bright spots among the darkness of the overall design. Makes me happy.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I'm not so sure if this was a successful composition or not. 

I'd hoped to have more "oomph" in it or at least something to create weight in the center of this arrangement to better anchor it, but I ran out of ideas.  Maybe a chunky tuft of that funky fiber optic plant would have been nice stuffed in the mouth of the vase like a brushy Elizabethan collar.  It might have added to its sinister element (which suits the season).


  • Art glass vase
  • Potato Vine
  • Lycamachia
  • Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina)
  • Decorative gourds
I love fresh flowers and plants.  The simple beauty and awesome symetry of vegetables and fruit astound me (more on that in subsequent posts), but there are times when fudging it just plain makes sense -- like in the fall and winter when excellent fakes abound.  This takes arrangement (although feebly) takes advantage of tricks:

  1. The potato vine, when pulled from its happy spot in the garden tends to get all floppy so it's hard to imagine how it will eventually settle.  We know it will rally, so to help it along I gently wire it to a stake.  This forms the only vertical element.
  2. The "gourds" ain't real.  Nope.  You probably could tell by the photo, but maybe you didn't.  Did you?  Funny story: Recently my sisters and I were pondering how to prune a potted palm to "harvest" some fronds for an arrangement, pawing through the thing to select the fronds we wanted when, after a good 5 minutes of deliberation, we realized the plant wasn't real.  It was plastic. Really.  We did that. 
You can also fudge it a good deal for the holidays...but you probably figured that out already.  I routinely mix fresh and fake.  Again, more to come on that subject.

Sprouts:  Brussels sprouts were a minor player in my two last arrangements.  I wondered how they would hold up.  Report is in, they look fresh as the first day.  I briefly mused about cutting the tops off the sprouts to mimic ranunculus but thought they might discolor.  Something to explore.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


It all started with my son who suggested that I might like to do the flowers for his wedding this past September.  (When the photos come in, I'll try to post some.)  I suppose he remembered that I loved to put flowers in vases when he was a child.  He also likely remembers having to help weed my garden, something all three of my children were adept in avoiding! He knew I come from a family with a serious creative streak so, with the help of two of my intrepid sisters, we did put together quite a spectacular floral display for his wedding: three large arrangements for the ceremony, along with three bouquets for bride and bridesmaids and boutonni√®res for the groomsmen; and table arrangements and cake topper for the reception.

When I returned home, I decided to carry on.  This Saturday a trip to the local farmer's market yielded some smashing sunflowers which were inspiration to this arrangement. 

Elements that comprise the arrangement are:
  • Large decorative salad bowl
  • Sunflowers
  • Red-orange freesia
  • "Blackie" sweet potato vine
  • Asparagus fern
  • Dried wheat and seteria
  • Decorative gourds
  • Mini-pumpkins
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Dried fiber optic grass (scirpus)
  • Lycamachia
  • Baby pomegranate
It's an asymmetrical composition, which, although it is quite high, allows for being pushed to a corner of the table as I most often have only one or two folks for dinner. 

I also made a smaller version for the coffee table which contains many of the same elements: 
  • A wooden cigar box lined with a plastic container
  • Sunflowers
  • Dried wheat stalks and seteria
  • Dried fiber optic grass (Scirpus)
  • Heavenly bamboo (nandina)
  • "Blackie" sweet potato vine
  • Brussels sprouts 
Both arrangements contain materials from my yard.  Only the sunflowers and fresia were bought.  I am a big fan of looking at plant materials with new eyes...thinking about using the dry or spent plants and flowers as much as those in full bloom.  So when I needed something to hide the floral oasis, I found the dried fiber optic grass. 

It helps to have a few handy tools to put all of this together.  Wire and stakes allowed me to take tufts of the grasses and bundle them together to stake into the foam.  It also keeps the dried grasses up and out of the moisture so that, hopefully, they'll last a little longer.  The sprouts were impaled on small stakes to secure them to the foam as well.  I'm hoping to pull out the fresh plant material as they get wilty and nasty looking and plug in fresh.  I'll let you know how it all works out. 

I would be remiss in not acknowledging two important inspirations for this work.  The first is my sister Cathy, who sent me the second inspiration -- books on flower arrangements by the fabulous Paula Pryke.  She is both genius and artist.  Thank you to both these talented women.