Sound Garden: Chutes Too Narrow


For today’s album cover inspiration, I have selected “Chutes Too Narrow,” by the New Mexico foursome, The Shins. The Shins make “charming guitar pop,” according to one Rolling Stone review, which is sonically right up my alley. They are a quirky and fun band (with a dash of melancholy) and the album cover for Chutes Too Narrow certainly reflects that.  Jesse LeDoux, the artist who created this cover, has worked with many Indie musicians, including Elliot Smith and Death Cab for Cutie.  The cover’s muted pastels with bright pops provide a visually rich palette for the florals.  One of our themes for May is COLOR and the cheery blossoms in this arrangement include a nice range of hues.


For today’s “how-to” I will demonstrate designing a wild, asymmetrical arrangement.  Because the Chutes Too Narrow art is a little off-kilter, it seemed fitting to do flowers without too much structure.  Like with so many creative endeavors, a design that looks carefree and whimsical actually requires a thoughtful, intentional approach. Follow along with me after the jump as I guide you through putting together an arrangement with great texture and movement. -Sarah

All images by Karen Wise.  Karen’s food and art work can be found here.

A nice way to experiment with the structure of an asymmetrical arrangement is to use floral foam in a sturdy container.  Because floral foam allows you to place a stem anywhere, at any angle, you can get the “bones” of the design in place and build layers of greens and florals around that “skeleton.”  For this arrangement, I selected a hammered copper bowl ($7.99 at a local floral supply store) and used only one block of floral foam, cut in three pieces.  As always, soak the floral foam well (never submerge with your hands, just plop in a bucket of water and let it sink on its own).  After the block is soaked, cut it to fit the container and use at least one piece of floral tape to secure the foam.  Remember to use as few pieces of foam as you are able and to create a tight fit with the foam in the vessel.  An alternative to floral foam is a chicken wire cage or a frog, although these techniques are more tricky and can be a challenge for the novice designer.

Above, I am using grevillia to create the skeleton of the arrangement.  You could use any woody foliage that will stand out.  I like the grevillia because it’s red points serve as markers around which I will layer the subsequent greens and blooms.  I have arranged the grevillia at varying heights, “bursting” off to the right.  I will base the remainder of the design on this shape.

Adding greens and other filler flowers (all with a “wildflower” look) in and around the grevillia points allows the arrangement to begin taking shape.  The idea is ultimately to cover the floral foam completely, so try and achieve a robust look with greens and filler first.  One you have done this, you can be more selective about the blooms you want to highlight later – you won’t worry as much about covering up patches of foam.

Note how the bupleurum is nestled right up to the grevillia and helps to establish a cluster of foliage around the point.  To keep the look wild, add each stem at a slightly different height.

The peach hypericum berry brings a round, cluster shape to our – thus far – rather pointy and diffuse arrangement.

At this juncture, if a person walked in the room and saw this arrangement, it might look somewhat random to her.  However, you and I know that the blooms have been filling in around a very specific frame.  It is also important to note, that as long as you have abundant foliage and filler, this kind of design works well with only a few substantial flowers.  Particularly because we have covered the oasis well, we could stop at even this point and a have a delightful, garden-y design (look at those gorgeous callas!).  But…

I tend to prefer a flower-on-flower look.  I added ranunculus, spray roses, tweedia, and scabiosa pods in abundance…because that is what I do.  As I filled in with florals, I kept some of the branchy and filler elements askew, seeming to climb away from the other blooms.  The softer, round flowers like ranunculus and spray roses have the most impact when they are kept lower in this arrangement.

Ooooooo, the colors!

One of the things that makes an asymmetrical design interesting is the way the flowers appear to move and flow in several directions.  I like how this arrangement almost feels like it could walk (or fly?) off the table.

This style of arrangement gives you the freedom to design in any shape you heart desires and to really use your vessel and the environment around you as a guide.  The copper bowl felt a bit vintage and garden-y to me, as did the “farmscape”of our cover art.  Have fun playing with different containers and flower choices as you practice asymmetrical arrangements.

Join me back here in two weeks for another round of floral design inspired by the music that moves me.

-Sarah

Tia S.

Ohh. Love this! Seems like asymmetrical arrangements are becoming popular, and with good reason; it’s so intriguing. Thank you for sharing!

Sarah C.

Too funny. Was just listening to the album (randomly) yesterday. Would never have thought to use it for flower inspiration, but I think you hit the quirkiness/colorful nature of the album right on the head! Kudos!

Megan Watkins

What great inspiration for a post! I love the mix of colors and textures. Of course, now I’m going to have New Slang stuck in my head all night.

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