Wired Posy Bouquet
Inspired by researching the floral designs used for my mum’s early 70s wedding I decided to create my own versions. The original flowers were orange in colour. I wanted to create my designs in a different colour scheme, but with authentic techniques.
Christine, the adult bridesmaid is carrying a Wired Posy Bouquet. This is a design which, although wired, was meant to look like a loose, mixed posy. The design was also known as an Edwardian or Colonial Posy and was a development from the tightly packed Victorian Posy to a more natural, informal style. Having said that the style is not quite the country garden just gathered look of the current trend.
Choice of flowers and foliage
A mixture of flowers and foliage is usually used for a Posy Bouquet. There were no rules as to the mix of materials. However exotic flowers such as orchids were not used and large flowers were avoided.
Lily of the valley
Ivy leaves, trails and berries
Ferns such as asparagus and nephrolepis
Small Eucalyptus gunnii sprays
I selected lilac Ocean Mikado and white Snowflake spray roses, purple, lilac and white freesias and white carnations as these seemed to me to be typical 70s flowers. Rather than going all out bright and bold like my mum’ s orange flowers I wanted to use a softer analogous colour scheme. For my foliage I used ivy and asparagus setaceus fern.
The Loose Posy is constructed using floristry wire. I must admit before I had embarked on learning about the techniques used to make Vintage bouquets I was sceptical about `mucking about with flowers’ with wire. I believe flowers are beautiful enough without having to manipulate or change them. However the process of learning about and making vintage styles has won me over to the appropriate use of floristry wire! Wires are used in floral design for control, support, anchorage, to lengthen stems and to bind materials together,
All the flowers and foliage were mount wired using suitable wire gauge. The aim was to use a wire which would support the material, but still allow for a certain amount of natural movement. In Mount Wiring the natural stem of the flower or foliage is replaced and the flower is mounted with a wire `stem’ to manipulate the material in a design and to create light, delicate work. There is no single correct way of wiring.The lightest gauge or thickness of wire for the purpose should always be used and wired material should not make the finished design stiff and heavy. I am by no means an expert. However I am amazed at how many techniques I have learnt over the last few months and how many different ways of mount and support wiring I employed in my 1970’s posy.
If I had been using larger roses for a buttonhole I would have pinned the sepals using small wire hairpins. However I felt it wasn’t necessary with small spray roses for a posy. The rose stem was cut at a steep angle to give a smooth finish. I pushed a 0.91 mm wire up through the base of the stem. (Internal Support Mount). The mount wire needs to be strong enough to support, but not overly heavy. The gauge of the wire will vary depending on how thick the stem is. The wire is pushed up about half way through the head of the rose. I then cross wired the rose. A thin rose-wire is used to pierce the side of the calyx. Traditionally rose cross wire is 0.46 mm, however this is very fine and can bend easily. I found that it helped if I kept my fingers close to the stem to push the wire through. It is best to use the thinnest wire you can manage without bending excessively. I also find it makes life easier if you cut the wire to a nice sharp angle before inserting. Once the wire is through pull the wire from the other side, don’t push. You then repeat with another rose-wire to form a cross through the calyx. Each side of the rose-wire is then bent through 90 degrees so the four lengths are parallel to the stem. One of the wires is then twisted round the rose stem, the support wire and the remaining length of rose-wire in a double leg mount.
The rose was then taped with gutta tape making sure the holes where the rose-wire was inserted were covered. Stem tape is used to seal in moisture and cover any rough ends. I found that my wires were too short for the posy So I just lengthened them by adding in another wire with more gutta tape.
I got my trusty Constance Spry Handbook of Floristry out and lost the will to live with the instructions to wire freesia flowers! `Freesia flowers need to be supported as well as the stems. This is done by taking a piece of 0.20 mm silver reel wire and attaching it by twisting with the main stem at the base of the bottom flower, twisting the wire up the flower to where it begins to bulge and then taking it down to the main stem. Twist the wire up the stem to the next flower and wire as for the first flower. Do this to all the open flowers.Twist the wire up the main stem at the base of the buds until the top bud, then twist the wire around the base of it and cut the wire away. Take 0.32 mm silver wire and push it into the stem where the binding wire began and twist down the base of the stem’. Trussed up like a turkey comes to mind! The purpose of wiring in this posy was to support the flowers and to be able to manipulate the stems into the desired shape in the finished bouquet. I have wired lily of the valley according to this method and didn’t like the result as I could see the wire and the flowers easily snapped off in the process anyway. I decided that as long as the freesia stems were mounted on suitable wire the flowers could be supported by the other flowers and foliage in my bouquet. I opted for a Branch Hook with a Double Leg Mount which seemed to do the job and no flowers fell off or got damaged in the process.
Hooking can be used to support and mount any flower where you can hide the hook amongst the petals. I pushed a 0.71 mm support wire up through the calyx and out the top of the flower. I then made a hook at the top and pulled the wire down until the hook reached the base of the calyx, The stem and wire were then taped.
For the Asparagus foliage I used a Single Leg Mount.
The ivy leaves were individually wired and then taped together to form a wired unit. The size should be graded from small at the top to larger at the bottom to give the impression that the unit is natural and is growing.
Individual ivy leaves were support wired by a method called stitching. A length of fine wire is stitched through the front of the leaf about two thirds of the way up then brought down to form a loop. The ends are then twisted together around the stem of the leaf to create a false stem. The process of stitching ivy leaves showed me how useful and versatile wiring techniques are. This method of support wiring really does what it says. The wire support allows you to manipulate the leaf aesthetically.
Once stitched and mounted the leaves were brought together to form a natural looking Branching Unit.
As soon as I had experienced using a wired unit made in this manner and compared with using unwired natural foliage I was hooked on the technique. Wiring individual flowers and foliage involves skill, time and patience. However the usefulness becomes apparent when you put the design together. It is so easy with a completely natural design to try to manipulate a flower or leaf into a more aesthetically pleasing position and snap it off. This can leave a gap in a finished design and look worse than if you’d left alone. Branching units are great as you can move the stem, leaves and flowers exactly where you want them.
Finally the preparation was done and I could construct the posy!
I laid out all my wired flowers and foliage in groups – 5 white freesia, 5 lilac freesia, 3 purple freesia, 13 lilac Ocean Mikado Spray Blooms, 7 white Snowflake spray roses, 7 white carnations, 8 branched units of ivy (about 24 leaves) and 8 asparagus fern.
The posy is put together with silver binding wire. I attached the binding wire to one of the Ocean Mikado spray roses. This flower was chosen to form the centre of the design. For an average size posy this is attached approximately 6-8 cm below the flower head. I then added five pieces of ivy leaf units and bound tightly into the same length as the first flower.
The ivy was bent down so the false stems formed a rough circle round the central lilac rose. This had established the overall dimensions of the posy. If you want a larger posy then the binding point can be a bit lower. You would then use more stems to start the posy.
I added a further five pieces of asparagus fern and bound in slightly shorter than the ivy. I wanted the ivy to trail a bit to create the impression of a loose posy. The fern was also bent down to strengthen the circular outline.
Then came the fun bit of adding the flowers. I used a wonderfully useful book `Professional Floristry techniques‘ by Malcolm Ashwell & Sally Pearson for my method. I also referred to the Constance Spry Handbook of Floristry by Harold Piercy. Both were useful resource material and achieve the same result. However Constance’s method is much more prescriptive and also over-complicated. I did learn the importance of the centre flower. `It should be fairly small, but an `important ‘ flower such as a small spray rose. It is placed in the centre and leans towards the top flower. It is the longest flower to build upto; nothing must be higher than the centre and nothing must be longer than the outline of flowers. It is easier to work with the outline shape first. The heaviest flowers should be near the centre. The leaves are placed attractively through the bouquet with larger leaves near the middle.’
The wire false legs form the handle of the bouquet. It is important not to cross the false legs and you always bind neatly in the same place. The wires are cut to the length of a clenched fist allowing an extra 2.5 cm. It looks neater to cut at an angle to form a tapered handle. The wire stems are then covered with white stem tape. The handle is finished with ivory ribbon with two bows tied neatly at the top.
Malcolm Ashwell says that `the finished posy should be circular in outline and slightly domed in profile. It should also be light and feel secure to handle.’
I enjoyed making my 70s inspired Loose Posy. It did feel very light to hold and I think the finished result is both pretty and dainty. I found all the wiring very time consuming, but rewarding. After it was made I was able to tweak the angle of the flowers and foliage for best effect.
Traditional 70’s Ladies Corsage
The mothers of the bride and groom traditionally wore a ladies corsage spray and my grandparents both wore corsages with a selection of different flowers. My Gran wore a vibrant corsage including orange spray roses, yellow freesia and asparagus fern which stood out against her navy suit. Nana’s corsage was daintier incorporating hyacinth pips.
As I had made a 70s inspired bridal posy I felt it only right to make a corsage too. These days it is popular for ladies to wear a loose natural tied posy button-hole. These look very pretty and are not as bulky as a traditional corsage. However they don’t always have the longevity of the traditional.
I wired all the materials in the same manner as I did for the bouquet. I made a few branching units of ivy leaves and asparagus fern. This reduces the number of individual stems to be bound into the binding point and also gives the corsage strength.
I first formed the outline of the top 2/3 of the corsage by taping foliage to form an outline as far as the binding point would be.
I then attached silver binding wire to the stem of the corsage.This determines the binding area and centre of the design.
It is from this point that all materials appear to radiate and is the point where the central focal flower sits. I chose the same Ocean Mikado spray rose as my focal flower to match the bouquet. Materials placed behind the focal flower are bent backwards to cover the stem of the corsage. This is known as the return end. The focal rose was bound in at a 90 degree angle low down directly over the return end. The finished corsage should be a kite shape. The flower material should be graduated in size towards the focal flower and then receding down in size into the return end.
The stem wires are trimmed just shorter than the return end flowers. I thinned the stem by cutting off some of the wires and cut at an angle to achieve a tapered end. The stem and binding point was then taped.
Making a formal 70s style corsage was an interesting exercise. I can see the benefits. With a bit of thought and imagination they are a beautiful accessory and are quite versatile as they can be attached to hats or handbags, coat lapels, wrists or shoulders. As all the elements are wired and taped to seal in moisture a corsage will be longer lasting than a natural unwired Boutonniere. However mine took ages to make. It was also heavy in comparison and quite bulky. I can’t imagine pinning it to a flimsy wedding frock as I think it might ruin the dress. Looking back over the 70s photos the corsages are worn on jackets which would accomodate the weight. I also think that my corsage would have benefited from a few small hyacinth pips or berries to balance the proportions. My flowers are all very similar in size.
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing how much skill went into making 70s wired wedding designs. I definately now appreciate the amount of time and skill that went into creating them.