Red, White and Blue flowers…. are tricky. One of the things I’ve seen an awful (emphasis on the awful) lot of in my event planning career are red, white and blue flower arrangements. Inaugurals, fundraisers, campaign events – everyone wants to be patriotic with the flowers, which is great except that the arrangements always seem a bit off. It’s not impossible to get a beautiful r, w, and b bouquet, but it’s much better to work with two of the three colors, or just one color flower and find the contrast colors in the tablecloths or china. You can work with flowers that are a bit darker in tone and make a lovely patriotic bouquet: dark red dahlias with lamb’s ears and viburnum berries make a simple rustic arrangement that carry the theme without knocking you over the head with it.
Flowers, and the ways they are arranged, go in and out of fashion, just as clothes and hairstyles do. I love flowers too much to ever reject a certain type of flower out of hand, but there are some flowers that don’t work together. You can’t put a long-stemmed red rose with a sunflower. They are both strong flowers, lovely on their own, but they fight each other if stuck in a vase together. And I’m still waiting to see gladiolas used in an arrangement that doesn’t make you feel there must be a body in a casket nearby, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It just takes an open mind. The best example of this that I know is the lowly carnation: inexpensive, ubiquitous, nobody wants them. Then Carolyne Roehm, whose books about flowers were daily reference guides for me when I worked at the White House, made Christmas topiaries out of red carnations in one of her books, and they were recreated beautifully by florist Nancy Clarke. Florists realized that the color range and uniform size of carnations makes them perfect for any structured bouquet – you can make a puppy, an ice cream soda, or a birthday cake out of closely arranged carnations. The lowly carnation now commands respect.
One last comment on Fourth of July flowers: this is the perfect time of year to use flowers from your garden. The most ordinary annuals can give surprising results – white geraniums, dark red petunias with white alyssum, red salvia, blue lobelia, and white daisies. And these flowers have a casual look about them that is just right for a picnic. Here are a few examples, to show how easy this can be: