flowers a-zsarah from blossom and branch

t is for “teddy bear” sunflowers

by SarahB

Welcome to another installment of Flowers A–Z! I am back in New York, enjoying the remaining few weeks of summer with an eye toward a busy fall schedule. The mighty sunflower just can’t be denied when it comes to representing all things summer. This week, I thought I would highlight my favorite variety of sunflower. That is why “t” is for “teddy bear” sunflower. Isn’t it an adorable bloom, with its windblown hair and fuzzy center?

The texture of the teddy bear sunflower is amazing — you can literally pet the petals. The hearty sunflower is actually a rather ancient bloom, native to Central America. There is evidence of sunflower cultivation in modern-day Mexico as far back as 2600 BC! It appears Native Americans brought the flower to the southern regions of the US by at least 2300 BC. Native Americans used sunflowers for breads, medicinal salves, paints and dyes, while Aztecs and Incas used the sunflower image to represent their powerful solar god. Sunflowers were first introduced in Europe in the 1500s, sparking the broad use of sunflower seeds and sunflower cooking oil. Even the leaves and stems are useful; leaves can become feed for cattle, while the tough, thick stems can be used to produce paper goods.

Of course, the most famous representation of sunflowers has to be the Vincent van Gogh series of paintings, some of which include the teddy bear variety! As a child, those were always my favorite pieces of art, and they just might have been a clue to my future career choice :) The character of the sunflowers in those images is so apparent that they seem to emote from the canvas.

Stay with me after the jump as I show you how to create a fabulous statement piece with these beloved teddy bears. — Sarah

The full post continues after the jump…

All you need for this simple arrangement is some floral tape and a pair of scissors.

Fill up a tall, sturdy glass or ceramic vase so you can keep your sunflowers long. They are quite heavy in an arrangement and can tip a delicate vase. Their heft can also make designing awkward. If you use the floral tape to create a tape grid, the sunflowers can stand up beautifully and play nicely with the other blooms. Fill the container with water and dry the rim thoroughly before starting the tape grid.

When creating a tape grid, pull each strip taught before sealing to the edge of the vase. Floral tape is rubbery and has a lot of give. You want the tape to withstand the pressure of sunflowers and other blooms pressing into it.

Allow the tape to come about 1/2 inch down over the edge of the vase. This should hold the grid together while remaining discreet under the lip of the flowers in the vase. You never want to see the floral tape through the flowers and leaves, so select bushy and or leafy foliage for filler when working with a grid. Inspect the edges of the vase for tape, and make sure you are doing so when it is placed on the actual surface where the vase will remain. I will often design a piece on a lower table and then place it in its final destination, only to realize from a higher vantage point that I need to fill in with more foliage.

I chose some bright orange flowering eucalyptus, as I thought they would work well with the bold sunflowers. The primary foliage and blooms you select for this project should all have durable stems. This eucalyptus is very woody and will work well with the thick sunflower stems.

I added the sunflowers (they tucked in easily and stood right up in the tape grid) and some brainy-looking fuchsia celosia.

For height and drama, I added some seeded millet and spooky black callas. With my heart in the summer and my head in the fall, I pulled in elements that are a nod to both seasons.

I love the contrast of the rich tones with the goldenrod teddy bears.

Put that spectacular arrangement somewhere central — on the entryway table, at the edge of a buffet for a dinner party or on the butcher block in the kitchen. Although it made his workspace a bit cumbersome, I went ahead and placed my hulking sunflower arrangement on the corner of my husband’s desk. He smiled lovingly and told me he would work around it :)

Please join me back here in two weeks when “u” (seriously, “u?”) will be for . . .

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