Designing with Silk Flowers

magnolia garland

Some imitate nature to perfection while others are a joyous burst of creativity. Silk flowers are so easy to work with, are readily available at craft and fabric stores, come in a wide range of styles and prices and are considered to be a permanent addition to a decorating scheme like pictures, pillows and rugs.

There are many obvious advantages to using artificial plant material. The flexible stems can be bent to droop and curve; they can be lengthened by adding floral wire and floral tape. Silks are maintenance free. They do not need freshening techniques nor water, and they can be placed anywhere… in a draft, on a TV or in front of a radiator.

For all of us who suffer from hay fever or allergies,silks save the day. They can be stored and reused over and over again. Squashing them is not a problem. They can be brought back to life easily by smoothing out the petals and leaves or by holding them over a pot of boiling water for a few seconds. Watch them return to their original, plumped shapes.

Artificial flowers can be mixed with fresh or dried flowers expanding our choices throughout the different growing seasons. Many businesses, offices and institutions are realizing the savings of time and money involved in keeping a stock of artificial flowers on hand.

Buying Flowers

There are countless varieties of kinds, sprays and bunches of flowers available in here at Flowers and foliage come in single stems, sprays of more than one flower or stem, bushes which have several flowers or stems and picks which usually bear flowers and buds in various stages of development. Incredibly beautiful six-foot long garlands can be purchased as well.

The latex flowers are waterproof and look great in clear glass vases.

When buying single flowers for a floral design, purchase odd numbers such as three, five or seven of one kind of flower. You will be restricted when you arrange your design if you purchase one of a kind of several different flowers. Keep in mind the shapes and colors of flowers. Long thin flowers can give you the overall shape or rhythm of the arrangement, large, round flowers provide the accent or give the eye a focus and multiple blossom flowers add to the fullness of the design.

Varieties of Artificial Flowers

Pure silk flowers are exceptionally beautiful, but because of their cost are less readily available. Polyester blends, often referred to as silk flowers, are easy to find and easy to care for. Most of the available flowers in craft and fabric stores are made from polyester.

Dried look /antiqued flowers have a crinkly look and feel crisp to the touch. The colors are muted, and they look great when used with dried flowers. Parchment, paper and cotton flowers have a unique look and are perfect for wreaths, garlands and swags. Clean them with a hair dryer or a good shaking.

Latex and rubber flowers have a more substantial appearance. They come in very rich colors and combine well with artificial fruits and vegetables. Artificial plant material made of latex and rubber has a waxy look that is unique and attractive.

Mechanics for making silk arrangements

The softer, more absorbent floral foams are perfect for most arrangements. Both thick and delicate stems penetrate easily. Also, the more absorbent foam is necessary if you are combining fresh with silks.

• When the instructions for a project call for floral foam, examine the size and shape of your container to decide how many pieces of foam you will need. If your container is glass and you want to camouflage the foam by surrounding it with mossvase gems, stonesraffia, factor that into your decision.

• When combining fresh and silks, anchor the foam to the bottom of the vase with floral clay. Secure the clay to the bottom of the vase, and push the foam onto it, or hot glue the foam to the container.

• If you are making a tall arrangement in a shallow container, hot glue the foam to the base . In smaller containers, the foam block can be wedged inside or the container can be stuffed with pieces of absorbent foam. If the foam isn’t secure, the arrangement won’t be secure.

• As in fresh arrangements, allow the foam to extend an inch or so above the top of the container, so you can insert stems out the sides in graceful angles.

• Cover the secured foam with moss…either sphagnum or Spanish and secure the moss with floral pins, a “U” shaped metal pin. This is standard procedure. But sometimes, in a large arrangement, with many stems and leaves, it is easier to insert the stems directly into the foam and add the moss in-between the stems, where the foam shows, after the arrangement is complete.

• Line the bottom of baskets with newspaper before wedging a piece of foam inside and covering it with moss. This will prevent pieces of moss and foam from falling through the basket onto your furniture.

Working with Greenery

Smooth the leaves and separate the branches. Usually, any crushed leaves can be straightened out by hand. If not, a standard steam iron can restore leaves. Set the temperature at the lowest setting for steam. Test the corner of a leaf before you begin to steam out the wrinkles.

The best way to separate the long stems on large bushes is to start from the ends. (Be sure to snip the wires that wrap the stems together first.) Separate the tips of the stems and gently pull them apart. If a few leaves pop off in the process, attach them as you go or save them. You can always use extra leaves for a hat or a mini arrangement. Pull the stems from the main branch in the direction they are constructed. That way, the shape of the spray is preserved, and you don’t end up with stems crossing over in all directions. If the bush has some adjustable leaves slide the sets of leaves up, so they are evenly spaced.

Look at the overall shape of the bush before you begin your arrangement. Mix it with some other leaves to see which ones look good together. If the longer stems don’t work for you, cut them off, and plan to insert them as single stems. If the stems are too short, wrap a stem wire around the end of the stem, and insert the wire into the foam.

If you are using sprays of leaves like eucalyptus, or bushes of leaves like coleus, insert the whole stem or cluster of stems into the foam before snipping off a branch or leaf. Sometimes it is easier to see what needs to go once it is in the arrangement.

Different shades of color (especially greens) are a lot easier to see in natural light. When mixing greens it is essential to choose colors, leaf sizes and shapes that go well with each other. If you aren’t sure, take them outside where you can see the subtle differences in the colors.

Some greenery can look a little “leggy” when there is a lot of stem between the leaves. To avoid a ‘too perfect’ looking stem with all the leaves evenly spaced, cut stems from other greenery with smaller leaves, and wind it around the stems in-between the larger leaves. It fills out the long stems that add grace to an arrangement. Small ivy sprays with the soft wiry stems can be cut from the spray, leaving the stems as long as possible and used for this purpose.

When making an arrangement that is predominantly leaves, using flowers as accents, insert the foliage first. Establish the shape of the arrangement with the leaves, and then add the flower accents.


Use wire cutters to shorten stems and floral picks to lengthen them. Floral picks are wooden sticks that come in different lengths, and have wire loops at the top. By wrapping the wire loop around the short stem you have the additional length of the wooden stick to use as the flower stem.

Light stems will stay wherever they are placed in the foam, but taller, heavier stems may tend to swivel. This can be avoided by slitting the tape, which binds the multi-wired stem, and separating the wires into a “fork”. The double stem is then pushed into the foam.

For a large, single wire stem, that tends to shift in the foam, another wire can be twisted around the base of the stem to form an extra “leg”. Cover it with floral tape for added support. Or, if the stem is not too tall, you can add some hot glue in the hole where the stem pokes into the foam.

Silk bushes, pre-formed silk bouquets and greenery can be cut into single stems for individual arrangements, or smaller projects like corsages, headpieces and boutonnieres.

Guidelines for Making Silk Arrangements

• Gently bend the flowers and leaves with your thumbs and forefingers into soft, natural curves before inserting the flowers and leaves into the foam. Separate the branches and smooth the petals.

• For a more natural, relaxed look, that is beautiful from any side, turn the arrangement as you add flowers and leaves, and insert stems at angles so flowers face different directions.

• Allow breathing space between flowers to prevent a crushed or crowded look.

• Use flowers in different stages of development, from bud to full bloom. Place the buds at the top of the arrangement and further out from the full flowers to create a natural look and feeling.

• When using tall, opaque containers, floral foam can be cut into small pieces and stuffed inside the container to hold the flowers in place.

• Fillers such as sand, kitty litter or even bird gravel can be used to raise the floor of the container and add ballast.

• When using clear containers, add marbles, layers of interesting rocks, raffia, potpourri or moss to hide the foam, hold the stems in place and add weight to the arrangement.

• Position a container with three legs to show one leg directly in front.

• Dip stems in pan glue, white glue or hot glue before inserting them in the foam for more permanent designs.