Saturday, December 27, 2008

Floral Design 101: Tools

The first installment in a series of posts on floral design.

First up - TOOLS. From left to right in the photo are a serrated knife, anvil pruners, and Japanese style scissors. These are my personal top tools of choice. The ones that work for you may be different, but a basic tool set would have a knife, pruner, and scissors. The most critical qualities? Your tools should be sharp and fit your hand. Dull tools make for poor cuts and a smaller hand needs smaller tools.

Knife - My preference is for this serrated knife. I'm a lefty and I've tried using those florist's pocket knives, but they just don't cut for me. I always felt like I was using something dull until I discovered these. It's a serrated paring knife by Victorinox, the Swiss army knife makers. LOVE this knife! It's the perfect tool for cutting those mushy stems like callas, or chunky stems like gladiolas, or for putting a taper on a wide stems like a sunflower.

Pruners - I use a half inch anvil pruner. Reasonably priced ones can be hard to find, so I tend to scoop up as many as I can when I do find them. You need pruners for tough, woody stems like foliage branches, or shrubby stuff like lilacs.

Most folks are perfectly happy with by-pass pruners (which are more widely available). Again, as a lefty, I just can't get a by-pass pruner to cut for me - the stems tend to twist and get smashed. A lot of experts will tell you not to use an anvil pruner as it makes a crushing cut, which injures the vascular tissue of your flower stems, and I'd buy that if my arrangements didn't last just as long as those made with by-pass pruners. Use what works for you. Keep them sharp.

Scissors - I'm very partial to these Japanese style scissors with the wide handles and short blades. These are by Joyce Chen and are marketed as cooking scissors. I've tried using the more classic iron Japanese gardening scissors, and while they might suit my aesthetics for a pretty tool, I find them heavy and uncomfortable. The Joyce Chens have a soft plastic handle and are much lighter weight which feels better in my hand. The short blades are just right for cutting most flower stems.

I'm sure you want to know if I use lefty scissors! Nope - my mom made me learn to use righty scissors when I first picked up a pair. She figured they wouldn't have lefty ones in school, so I needed to learn to use what was available. Mom turned out to be wrong on that front, but thanks to her I can design with two hands - left hand armed with pruners while the right one holds scissors!

Repeat the tool mantra - My tools are sharp and fit my hand.

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