Like many of you out there, we are drooping in the summer heat right now, so it made sense to us here at the Flower of the Month Club to send you a bouquet that hails from the tropical landscapes where flowers and plants can tolerate these higher temperatures. And while your featured floral arrangement this month can thrive in these hotter days, our choice to bring this bouquet to you is really rooted in an effort to deliver a different perspective. Many of our arrangements feature broad, soft pedaled flowers and wide backing greens. The result is often a bouquet that fills out the vase and remains quite wide, visually, above the host vessel. This month, the allure of the flowers taking center stage is in their vibrant colors and simplistic yet exotic form. Our featured arrangement this month represents an example of contrast in floral shapes. The bouquet consists of eight stems of various colored Anthuriums from Hawaii. The most striking component of the arrangement is the contrast between the exceptionally thin stems supporting the large, glossy, brilliantly-colored Anthuriums. This arrangement repeatedly draws the eye from the thin supporting structures of the stems out to the large floral constellation created by vibrant Anthurium bracts and gives one the impression that they're viewing a snapshot of holiday fireworks ablaze in the nighttime sky.
With combinations of this sort, the arranger (that's you!) is given many options with regard to designing their favorite layout of floral forms. We're especially fond of using the tri-colored hala leaves as punctuation in the arrangements, using small twists (like knots) toward the top of the arrangement to draw the eye out and above the bright bracts of the Anthuriums (you can view a picture on our website for an idea of what we're talking about:
www.flowermonthclub.com. Just navigate to the arrangement listed under August). The stems of the Anthuriums can be cut at various lengths to evoke the firework finale like positioning we mentioned above, or you may opt to have all these lovely tropical beauties dance at the same level. The choices are limitless, and entirely up to you! Enjoy this bit of the tropics and arrange as you like. The fact that these hearty flowers will last for 3 weeks or more gives you the opportunity to sculpt different designs over time. Just remember—you have the freedom to be as creative as you like—have fun with it!
Anthurium is a genus of more than 800 species found in the New World tropics from Mexico to northern Argentina and Uruguay; species are also native to the West Indies. Many species are not even described yet, as new one ones are being discovered each year. The flowers are small, and develop a crowded spike with a fleshy axis called a Spadix, and because this genus is so diverse, the flowers or leaves come in many different shapes--from spatulate, to rounded, to obtuse. The upper surface of the leaves are semi-glossy and have an almost leathery texture.
Even though the genus is not native to the Hawaiian Islands, in the minds of many people, Anthurium andreanum is the Hawaiian flower. Often referred to as "the heart of Hawaii", this species is actually native to the wet forests on the western slopes of the Andes in southern Colombia and northern Ecuador where it grows as an epiphyte. (An epiphyte is a non-parasitic plant that grows in the wild not rooted in soil, but on the body of another plant or on rocks. These plants cling to their support with aerial roots and gain nourishment from the atmosphere or from the moisture-capturing crevices in which it lodges).
A tropical flower to be sure, Anthuria have eccentric petal-like bracts that are red, pink, white or green, and often take the form of heart (another very tangible reason they've earned the nickname "the heart of Hawaii"). The blooms are glossy like patent leather, and provide another dimension to this bouquet's barrage of visual textures by showcasing their waxy, seemingly wet appearance. As a cut flower, Anthuria live two to three weeks, making them one of the longest lasting tropical flowers in arrangements, and a florist's favorite!
We have a few folks to thank for the Anthuria introduction to North America, as it took a roundabout course in getting here! Anthurium andreanum was actually discovered in South America, in Colombia back in 1876 by Edouard André, a French botanist, landscape-architect and publicist. André later sent it to the famed nurseries of Jean Linden, an important botanist, explorer, traveler and collector for the Belgian government between 1835 and 1845. From there, it made its way to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England.
So, we see how it made its way to various parts of Western Europe, but what about its journey to Hawaii? According to Marie Neal, Anthurium andreanum was introduced into the Hawaiian Islands in 1889 by Samuel Mills Damon, the minister of finance for the Republic of Hawaii. These plants were imported from London and had shell pink spathes. Since plants in the wild have spathes that are scarlet orange, this would suggest that some hybridization and selection had already taken place. The plants were grown on Damon's estate on Oahu where they were vegetatively propagated and ultimately distributed to other growers.
The sexual propagation of Anthuria was not understood until the early 1940s, but once this form of propagation was added to the grower's knowledge, the number of plants and degree of variation increased tremendously. The beautiful inflorescences were introduced to the floral shops of Hawaii in the 1940s, while the cut flower industry started in backyards where the plants were grown under tangerine trees, orange trees and tree ferns. Some of the early cultivars include 'Ozaki' (1936), 'Kozohara' (1946), and 'Nitta' (1946). These and many other early cultivars were primarily composed of reds and oranges.
The importance of the tri-colored Hala leaves (pandanus tectorius) from the sun-drenched state of Hawaii cannot be underestimated in their supporting role in your bouquet. Provided for additional texture and the contrasting form in their broad leaves, the Hala leaves also bring in yet another tropical element to this bouquet. The Hala leaves give the arranger an opportunity to add unique twists and turns in the composition of the ensemble—they may be woven together or turned and knotted upon themselves to create an additional focal point to the observer. This technique momentarily draws the observer's eye out of the body of the bouquet and off of the Anthuria, to which attention soon returns. In this way, you can help to animate your arrangement—after all, there's much more to a beautiful bouquet than the vibrancy of its colors. Form and focus are tremendously important to consider.
Originating in ancient times, this plant is not only known for the stripes of color and pattern it lends to bouquet flowers. It has been employed for centuries in Hawaii as fiber and dye used in traditional crafts and customs. Blankets, or "kapas," were woven out of the Hala leaves and were decorated with the dye from the fruit of the tree. Leis were also fashioned from the leaves, although one of the meanings of hala is "death," so the leis were only used to adorn self and not given to others.
The Hala tree is small to medium-sized with a distinctive growth form due to its dichotomous branching pattern. Dichotomous branching involves forking at the tip so that two branches always result. Most of this tree's trunk is bare. The large leaves cluster at the stem tips. The stems produce many "Prop Roots" which support the stems as they grow upwards. Without them, these brittle stems would break. The fruit of the Hala tree very closely resembles the pineapple and was commonly enjoyed by the ancient Hawaiians.
Your flowers were harvested in the cool of morning, put into water, and moved to shade ASAP. The lower leaves were then removed from the sturdy stems, and they were placed in a clean bucket with floral preservative. In order to replenish them from the ordeal of being harvested, these thirsty flowers are then whisked to the cooler (40-42°F with a humidity of 90 to 95 percent), where they are allowed to drink the acid based water and soak up the humidity before being shipped.
Now that you have custody of these island beauties, give them some TLC to be sure your Hawaiian tropicals have a long vase life. Re-cut the stems one inch. It is a lot easier to use a sharp knife rather than scissors. You'll get a cleaner cut that will not crush the water pathways. Also, it is recommended that you cut the stems under water so there won't be any air blockages that could considerably shorten the life of your flowers.
Place your flowers loosely in a clean bucket in about four inches of water containing the appropriate amount of flower food that is packaged with them. Be sure to measure it out—too much food isn't good for many flowers. Later, you may add this nutritious water to your vase. Remember to keep all the leaves above the water line—you don't want to drown them.
Keep your flowers in a well-lit area for 1 to 2 hours, allowing them recover from the shock of being harvested and the ordeal of traveling. Once they've had time to relax and acclimate, you can make an awe inspiring arrangement or two. Use the fresh flower food as directed. Although these flowers like light 24 hours a day, remember to keep them out of the direct sunlight, and they will maintain their fresh look much longer.
If the water gets slightly cloudy at any time, this means bacteria are destroying your flowers! Immediately discard and replace the water. Wash off the bacteria from the stems under running water and repeat the stem cutting process. Again, these tropical should last quite a while, so make sure you add water as needed, bearing in mind that a complete changing of water will be in order every 4 to 5 days.
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