In The Garden
Friday, December 10, 1999

By Suzanne Tswei

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Steel Adler takes a creative approach to holiday decorating,
arranging tiny sweet williams and pine sprigs in a cranberry-
filled vase. The berries hide the stems.

Arranging unexpected twists

STEEL Adler isn't a man to fret over the proper names of flowers.He doesn't have to. It's enough that he knows how to use them to create spectacular flower arrangements.

"Oh, don't ask me the names for those. They are roses, that much I know," says Adler, Neiman Marcus' visual manager, who designs all the in-store fashion shows, as well as floral and store displays. "What matters is that the red roses and the lavender roses look good together in that crystal vase."

Indeed, the contrasting roses look fabulous against a deep red velvet tablecloth accented with gold embroidery. This is how Adler likes to work with flowers, in surprising color combinations complimented by even more unexpected colors.

"I don't think everything has to match. You can mix red with pink or lavender, and everything will still look fine, even for the holidays. Just because it's Christmas, you don't have to use all red." For the traditionalists, Adler suggests using white flowers to contrast with red ones.

"The holiday season is really a wonderful time to use flowers. You can put together big, full arrangements for center pieces, or small ones for intimate dinners. Or just something by the door to greet the guests."

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Steel Adler's approach to holiday decorating,:
anchoring Shasta daisies in apples.

Adler's personal favorites are roses of various colors. They are versatile (for big or small arrangements), readily available at florists, and can last several weeks in cool weather with a teaspoon of bleach added to the water.

"You don't have to use roses. You can use any flower you like. Red tulips, amaryllis, or if you want to use local flowers, protea are all beautiful. You don't even have to use flowers. You can use fruits, or just a pot of white orchid with green moss around it. You can do anything you want."

With more than 34 years of experience, Adler says the two most important elements of display are keeping it simple and paying attention to details. By the way, he is the creative mind who thought of stringing up 33,000 feather butterflies and suspending them above the escalators to create an untraditional and colorful Christmas display at the upscale store. (The delicate butterflies are impossible to store and must be thrown out afterward. Each Christmas Adler orders another 33,000.)

To help you get ideas for your own holiday flower arrangements, here are Adler's creations for Neiman Marcus. We also included the details -- the things that compliment the arrangements.

Bullet Three pots of white Phalaenopsis (butterfly) orchids in an aged, greenish urn, covered with green moss and surrounded by various sizes of white cylinder candles.

Adler used the arrangement in the center of a large round buffet table. He stapled a row of white cellophane-type hula skirts along the table's edge and covered the top with a white tablecloth. The orchids sits in the center, surrounded by candles and then the food. The top of the orchid pots are covered by moss, but Adler loosened some of the whitish orchid roots and pulled them on top of the moss to add accents.

Bullet A crystal cylinder vase filled with fresh cranberries and topped off with a heap of sweet williams and sprigs of pine.

Filling clear vases with red cranberries is a festive touch that also hides the flower stems. The trick is to remember to fill the vase first with berries and then add water. The red and deep pink of the flowers match the color of the berries well, but pick the leaves off the flowers first for a cleaner look.

It's also easier if you arrange the flowers in a bundle first, secure with a rubber band, then put it in the arrangement.

Bullet White calla lilies and red apples in a crystal cylinder

It's the same idea as the cranberries, just on a bigger scale and great for an eye-catching display by the front door. Because the flowers and the fruits are large, use a good sized vase. And keep the shape of the vase simple. The flowers and the fruits are the main attractions.

Bullet Single African daisies, or gerberas, each displayed in a red or green apple.

Adler took fresh apples, removed enough flesh from the center to hold the flowers. He dug into the apple's center with a pair of large scissors, about 2 inches deep, then twisted the scissors to make a hole. He cut the daisy' stems to 8 to 10 inches and stuck them in the apples. The flowers are sold with the stems in plastic sleeves. Keep the sleeves on. They help keep the flowers upright and make inserting into the apples easier.

These single-flower arrangements can be of all different colors and are perfect for a large dinner table. Place one arrangement with each dinner setting.

Bullet Bowls of fruits frosted with sugar and displayed with small vases of roses.

Brush a light coat of beaten egg onto lemons, oranges, pears and grapes. Roll the fruits in fine white sugar. Adler paired bowls of frosted fruits with vases of lavender and red roses in a dinner-for-two setting. He used enough roses to fill each vase tightly and cut the stems about the same length as the vases. This way, the roses form a mound of contrasting colors just above the rim of the vases.

You can check out these displays throughout the store. Adler also designed a large arrangement for Washington Place, which is filled with gingerbread houses and other holiday decorations this time of the year. The governor's home is open to the public. Look for the arrangement to the left of the front entrance. It is made with two kinds of red roses, pink mink protea, lilies, orchids, red berries and greenery.

One last tip from Adler. Water can leave a stubborn ring inside your vase. After the flowers are gone, soak the inside in vinegar, rub the ring lightly or brush with an old tooth brush to remove it.

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In The Garden by Suzanne Tswei is a regular Friday feature of the
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