Hartley Magazine

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Just Say No to Flower Foam—Debra Prinzing tells why

Speaker Debra Prinzing has a sustainable message

A few weeks ago, Debra Prinzing and I met up when we were both speaking at the Good Earth Home and Garden Show in Eugene, Oregon. Debra’s the founder of SlowFlowers.com and producer and host of the Slow Flowers weekly podcast, whose main message is to buy your flowers locally and sustainably.

But this time at the show, Debra gave an insider’s look at flower foam—you know, those bricks you often get in florist bouquets. It’s handy stuff for creating arrangements. However, the word is, floral foam contains toxic formaldehyde, and it ends up useless. (Read, in the landfill.) So, what’s the alternative?

Debra demonstrated a slew of other choices to hold arrangements in place. “Many of these are inexpensive, and reusable,” she said, “and best of all, they work, often better than foam.”

The Pillow rests at the top of containers and is hidden by cascading foliage

Pebbles, Sand, Gravel, Marbles – A collection of rounded colored stones can easily hold stems, and look handsome in a clear glass vase. “The benefit of all these is weight,” Debra said. “Especially outdoors in the wind. Even large arrangements won’t tip over.”

Excelsior, Wood Packing – These lightweight materials are available at craft stores, and you can recycle them. Debra notes, “They break down at the same pace as the flowers, so you can easily put them in the compost.”

Chicken Wire – This material is not hard to cut. (Use wire cutters, not your favorite clippers.) Bend into shapes that will conform with your containers. Rinse between uses.

Curly Willow, Grape Vine – Cut lengths of these before leaves appear and twist into circles or balls that will fit your containers. Secure the shape with twine that will eventually decompose.

Many choices are available for holding stems in containers

Metal Pin Frogs – Debra collects various sizes of frogs, with their sharp pins set upright in circles or squares. It’s fun to hunt for them in second-hand shops, but they’re also available new from craft stores. Also called kenzan, you can find them in Ikebana supply stores and websites. They can be secured to the bottom of your vase with a small chunk of florist’s sticky clay.

Pillows and Eggs – These new (recyclable) plastic supports, created by Holly Heider Chapple, fit at the top of a container, rather than in the bottom. Stems can be inserted through the openings, and cascading flowers and foliage hide the pillow structure and make the arrangement look fuller. On the show stage, Debra created huge dramatic floral displays using the pillows. The eggs work well to make bouquets that can be carried.