Ever Green

By Lois Taylor

Friday, October 22, 1999

Courtesy of Anna Lise Vogel
An arrangement of white anthuriums and spider lilies with
tropical foliage is typical of Henk Mulder's work.

Give your arrangements style

HIS name is Henk Mulder and he's a bloemist -- it says so on his letterhead, a Dutch artist with flowers. Mulder is one of the western world's great arrangers of flowers, founder of his own schools and a traveling teacher of the art. He will be in Honolulu on Nov. 3 to give a lecture and workshop that is open to the public at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

The event is sponsored by the Garden Club of Honolulu, and several of their members have been more or less in contact with Mulder, who appears to divide his time between his schools in Kampen, Holland, and Seoul, Korea, with stops in between.

At the moment he is working in Chicago, where to the puzzlement of the organizers of his workshop, he has asked for the following materials: "5 strelitzia (bird of paradise), 10 oranges, 10 bunches weeping willow, 5 anthuriums, 3 protea and 10 sunflower heads" plus anything else they can come up with, and in late Chicago in October, choices are limited. No one has any clue as to what he plans to do with this eclectic assortment.


Henk Mulder, internationally recognized flower arranger, demonstrates his methods
Bullet When: 10:15 a.m. Nov. 3.
Bullet Where: Honolulu Academy of Arts theater, 900 So. Beretania St.
Bullet Cost: $6 for members of the Honolulu Academy of Arts, $8 for others, payable at the door.
Bullet Call: 988-7533

His order to the organizers here is equally cryptic: " 'Drill, hammer, nails, glue gun, floral adhesive,' that's what he asked for," said Anna Lise Vogel who spoke to him by telephone in Kampen, "I suppose that he'll need some wood for those things, and the neighbors just cut down a tree, so I salvaged a few pieces for him. As far as flowers go, he asked for lots of tropicals," and added that he is very flexible, and works with whatever is given to him. 'I don't want you to worry, I don't worry,' he told me."

A team of eight women will spend two days prior to the workshop collecting flowers and foliage from their own gardens and from friends, and then preparing the harvest for Mulder's arrangements. The cut flowers are conditioned in order to extend their freshness, by filling their stems with water.

This is done by removing all of the foliage that will be below the water line in a container, and then by cutting off under running water the bottom inch or so of the stem. This is because after cutting, the fluid within the stem that had brought nutrients to the flower from its roots congeals at the cut and prevents more water from being absorbed. The flowers should then stand in deep water at least for a few hours or overnight in a cool, dark place.

If you give this same treatment not only to flowers from your garden, but also those from a florist, they should remain fresh longer.

An additive to the water in the vase will also help, and there are dozens of suggestions.

The flower preservatives provided by florists usually work well, as does a home remedy developed by the University of California Extension Service. They recommend using one part lemon-lime soda (not the diet kind, you want the nourishment of the sugar) to three parts water. To each quart of the mixture add 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach. The mix should be changed daily, the stems re-cut and the arrangement kept out of the direct sun.

Mulder has demonstrated some of these techniques on his popular television show in Seoul called "Fragrant Flower," and he also teaches at Seoul Women's University. He has won several international flower arranging competitions.

At the Academy of Arts next month, his focus will be on our easily available but difficult to arrange tropical flowers. Because of their stiffness and weight and their brilliant colors, ginger, heliconia, bird of paradise and anthuriums are gorgeous in the garden, but often awkward in indoor arrangements.

Although it is not guaranteed because nobody here knows exactly what Mulder plans to demonstrate, it is thought that he will prepare arrangements in several of the most currently popular forms: stacking, paving, Biedermeier and the waterfall styles.

Stacking pretty much has to be seen to be believed. Dried or fresh flowers or a combination of the two in clusters are piled horizontally one upon the other as an accent to a tall arrangement in a vase.

Paving is a method of organizing plant materials as close together as possible, with a cobblestone effect. Each area within the limits of the container is covered in identically-sized flowers with each section of the arrangement of a different color and texture. The whole composition is of the same height.

The Biedermeier design is inspired by the German interior design style. It is compact, usually round with concentric circles or spirals. It can incorporate fruit, seeds, mosses and other natural materials as well as flowers.

The waterfall design goes back to bridal bouquets designed in Europe at the turn of the century, and uses plant material in a cascade falling from a tall container.

All of these designs must incorporate two major principles of sculpture, to which flower arranging is somewhat related as a three-dimensional work of art: good design and sound construction. Mulder's work shows a strong understanding of both.

But what do you think he did with the 10 oranges?

Do It Electric!

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