Sound Garden: Heaven or Las Vegas

Color Month here at Design*Sponge is such a pleasure for someone like me.  The first quality that attracts me to flowers is always the hue.  I typically hone in on one bunch of something that has spectacular color and then build the rest of an arrangement around it.

During this time of year, rich purple is in full bloom with lilac at the height of its’ season.  People always ask me about my favorite flower and my answer is complicated because every season it changes.  Lilac perpetually tops the list in spring.  So, the saturated purple and red tones on the cover of Heaven or Las Vegas by the Cocteau Twins (1990) provide the perfect jumping-off point for this week’s floral inspiration.

Heaven or Las Vegas is the sixth album from the Scottish band, Cocteau Twins.  The lead singer/songwriter, Elisabeth Fraser, is renowned for her voice that is lilting and lovely and her famously confounding lyrics.  She often sings words with such strange inflection that they are unintelligible to the rest of us and/or she writes lyrics that are simply a string of interesting words/sounds seemingly strung together at random.  But the music is ethereal and absolutely transports you to another place.

This album made many top lists in both British and American press when it hit the scene in 1990.  The Observer even placed it 97th on the list of the greatest British albums ever made.  Even if you are not typically a fan of ambient or atmospheric music, Heaven or Las Vegas has enough substance to keep you interested.  Finally, many of the lyrics are reportedly devoted to celebrating Elisabeth Fraser’s newborn daughter and husband – something for everyone on this record!

Follow along with me after the jump as I demonstrate a colorful, spring arrangement, bursting with lilac.  I will review techniques for creating a tape grid, hammering woody stems and designing in a modern style while maintaining natural movement. -Sarah

From Left: lilac, pincushion protea, red double tulip



From left: Red Charm peony, allium, ranunculus



In a previous post, I showed you the secret genius of creating a Tape Grid to provide structure for any arrangement.  This is perhaps my favorite technique for building the confidence of a novice designer and, frankly, shoring up the skills of a seasoned one :)  Because you now know how I feel about lilac and can see that it takes center stage in this arrangement, review this tip from a few posts back for Hammering Stems of woody flowers and foliage.  With lilac, this is absolutely essential.  With tape grid, hammered stems and a sleek and chic white glass vase, you can create a robust base for your arrangement as above.

The rich color of the Red Charm peonies is such a fabulous pairing with the purple.  I also found these red double tulips with a similar shape and hue.  I began placing them in little groupings, aiming for a modified cascade effect.



With the addition of the puffy allium, I began to play with dimension a bit.  I placed some higher and some nestled into the lilac.  I also brought the “zing” of hot red pincushion protea.  I love the spiky texture juxtaposed with the softer blooms.


There go those crazy coral ranunculus, all bloomed at at the very end of their season.  I continued to build more variance with some whimsical allium and ranunculus up high.  I also used the natural shape of the lilac (which in my arrangement seemed to be draping more down to the right side) to build movement.  I placed higher blooms toward the back on both the left and right sides as a balance for the low, right cascade of the lilac.


Next up, a very simple ribbon flourish how-to.  Simply gather some high quality ribbon in complementary colors and in a few different widths.  Then, take a simple wired, floral stake (this is a wooden stake with a thin wire attached) that you can find at any floral supply or craft store.  Pinch the ribbon in one hand wherever you want your flourish center and then tightly wrap the wire around and around, then around down the stake, itself.  You can twist a bit and spread the ribbon as you go, so it streams nicely.


Now you can use this ribbon flourish as an accent for your own arrangement at home or as an upscale alternative to a traditional “poofy,” acetate ribbon.


You can just stick the flourish right down in the vase among the blooms!  I wanted these ribbons to recall the streaky, almost fluorescent design on the cover of Heaven or Las Vegas.  I think they do the trick!




Allium fireworks!





Spend some time with Elisabeth Fraser and her fantastic band – you will write and thank me.  I really believe you will.   And if you do it with just one of their albums, make it Heaven or Las Vegas - it is definitely the most accessible.  And please join me back here in two weeks for another edition of Sound Garden!



Just bought this album! Lilacs are my favourite part of spring! Thanks for making my day!



One of my favorite albums of all time, by one of my favorite bands of all time! Thanks for doing this beautiful project!


Gorgeous. And really lessens the Sideshow Bob effect that I see in all lilac arrangements. Also, such a great album. Probably my favorite Cocteau Twins since there are actual recognizable words being sung.

Katie Jane

This has been one of my most beloved albums since I was a teenager. So happy it still inspires people in creative ways!

Liza Miller

So gorgeous! We just moved into our new house about a month ago and we have tons of Allium popping up. I had no idea what they were called, but they’re my newest favorites. These are some great ideas for arrangements!


Beautiful colours! You use such wonder colour combinations. It’s interesting to confirm my love of the simple, though, in that I always prefer the arrangements best about 3 steps from the end. But you’ve inspired me – I’m definitely going to grab some lilacs and peonies from the garden and mix them! :)


Fantastic! Notice a building in my neighborhood with this color scheme as well.