24 July 2019

Cloud Busting

Flower clouds are at once one of the most difficult, enjoyable, deceptively expensive, beautiful, laborious and instagrammable pieces of floristry you can do. Petalon’s relationship with them has become a little repetitive in some ways. We say yes to something we shouldn’t, for not enough money, because we really want to do it. We then come out of that frustration and get really excited about making them, then get a bit stressed again as we’re reminded that it’s more work than we remember, then have a lovely warm glow when it’s finished and we can be all proud about it.

There are a few ways of putting them together and the technique you use depends on two main things – longevity of the flowers involved and the shape we’re trying to create.

When you’ve got a hardy flower it gives you the freedom to put your installation together without worrying about a water source. You can create the shape you’re after using something flexible and angular like a tight mesh chicken wire, scrunching and stretching different portions to get a nice irregular shape (rather than a big slug) then insert your flowers one by one or in bunches. A nice tough foliage with broad leaves and thick stems can help a lot here. The initial shape of the wire cloud will broadly dictate the final shape of the piece, but you can step back from time to time and use larger pieces of foliage to create extra angles where necessary. You ideally want to be creating this on the day it will be seen, since even tougher stuff will droop and look sad pretty quickly without hydration.

For less durable flowers and foliage, some form of hydration is compulsory. The wet moss you might use on installations on the ground doesn’t work so well at these heights. It gets a bit drippy. We use two techniques – one is floral foam (horrible for the environment but very practical). The other, as seen in the image below, is to use biodegradable plastic bags with the degradable hydration gel that we use to package our delivery bouquets and make little bundles of flowers to insert in to the structure. For the cloud below we used a chicken wire mesh again with this technique and it makes for a lighter, thinner, airier structure than you get with a mass of floral foam. It’s literally a lot lighter too, which stops the whole structure feeling like it’s sagging in the middle. The gypsophila and smoke bush we used were hardy enough to keep looking fresh (with the aid of some hydration gel) but light enough to look light too!

If you want to go really flowery then you need a more heavy centre to your cloud. This works best if you have something smaller. If you go really big you create so much weight that it can make the whole structure look dense and heavy (because it is!) This technique works best for smaller things with more punch. The below comes from a single block of floral foam about 20cm across, but because of the length and shape of the flowers it becomes a far bigger and less regular shape.

There are doubtless a lot more ways of making flower clouds, but we wanted to demystify them a bit in the hope that people can have a go themselves. They’re a really rewarding type of floristry, and it’s worth remembering that even if it doesn’t all go to plan it’s pretty rare that a load of flowers in the air doesn’t look good, so have patience, go with the flow and don’t be afraid to work with what it starts to become even if it wasn’t exactly what you had in mind!

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