Whether a few plucked flowers fresh from a meadow, a rose or two from the garden, or a bunch of blooms purchased from a florist, there is no gift more enchanting than a floral bouquet. But beyond an impromptu gift or bridal adornment, a new breed of hand-tied spiral bouquets -- originating in Europe -- has unfurled as a unique form of floral arrangement for the home.
Not simply a loose, informal handful of flowers, these European hand-tied spiral bouquets are characterized by their symmetrical, circular structure, created by layering flower stems diagonally around a central point.
1. Start with an uneven number of flower varieties, separating them by type on your work surface. To keep your first attempt more manageable, start with five of each flower. Use primarily "filler" and "mass" flowers -- "fluffy" types (seeded eucalyptus, roses) -- rather than "form" flowers (gladiolus, bird-of-paradise). Clean the stem of each flower halfway down by stripping it of all branches or leaves. Trim the stems diagonally with a knife or pruner, keeping all the blooms roughly the same length.
2. Create your first cluster of blooms by selecting one of each flower type; grasp the grouping with your thumb and index finger halfway down the stems. It is important to hold the bouquet in the middle to create the spiral effect. The finished hourglass shape can only be achieved by holding it with these two fingers. If you try to hold the bouquet with your entire hand, the spiral effect does not occur, but rather the stems remain flat and parallel against each other.
3. Using the same sequence each time, layer each new flower stem one at a time, rotating the cluster between your thumb and index finger and laying each stem at a diagonal on top of the previous stem. This diagonal layering begins to create the spiral shape. Continue to repeat the pattern of flowers, but trust your eye if you need to modify the sequence occasionally to space the flowers evenly. The repetition of a pattern is what makes these bouquets unique.
4. The final spiral should fill your hand. Cut the ends of all stems diagonally so they are even, using a sharp knife or pruning shears (do not use scissors).
5. To secure the bouquet, wrap a string (use ribbon or raffia for a more decorative look) clockwise around the stems. Start with the beginning of the string under your thumb. After five or six complete revolutions, pull the string up through the middle of the stem cluster to lock the flowers in place.
An armature -- or twig frame -- either handmade or purchased at a crafts store in the form of a small grapevine wreath, can also provide a sturdy structure for a hand-tied spiral bouquet. Simply insert the flowers and foliage through the grid.
As with the handheld bouquet, you can lay individual stems around this armature structure, inserting the stems diagonally through the frame and repeating the same pattern of flower types throughout the arrangement.