Decorate with flowers your fireplace with the expert help of Joseph Massie, one of the world’s top florists and a five-time Gold medallist at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
There is very little more inviting to a floral designer than a fantastic mantle – one deep enough to hold a curated collection of favoured vessels and grand enough to provide a real focal point to the space. They possess an allure – they cry out to be adorned. As with fireplaces, fireplace flowers can be demure or decadent depending wholly upon the space and the intention of the creative. As with every design you create, please do bear in mind health and safety. Ensure all the vases fit safely upon the mantle, that no flames will cause any havoc, and that all flowers are balanced appropriately within the vases.
MATERIALS: Selection of clear glass vases, bottles or containers Snips.
FLOWERS: A selection of Dahlia stems, Cotinus (Smoke Bush), Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), Miscanthus, Sanguisorba, Achillea (Yarrow).
1: Gather a selection of your favourite vases. The only rule is that they are of a suitable girth to fit sensibly upon your mantlepiece. Aim for a mixture of various heights: some taller, some shorter, to allow you to create interest at various levels. Fill each vessel two thirds full with fresh water.
2: Begin to arrange the tallest and largest vases on the mantle. Group them to create three key areas of dominance along the surface, and ensure that taller vases are placed towards the back. Shorter vases are placed towards the front where they can be seen.
3: Start with the largest, showiest blooms – the dinner plate Dahlia. Remove all foliage from the stems, trim to an appropriate length, and distribute the blooms evenly throughout the vessels. Before placing a taller bloom into the same vase, I prefer to place the first bloom lower in the vase to provide some further physical balance. Remember to go tall with your taller blooms, filling out all the space above the mantle.
4: Reinforce the undulating pattern you’ve designed by adding a bolder selection of floral materials – Cotinus, Arrowwood, Miscanthus, Sanguisorba and Achillea will all help when added through the vases. I prefer to listen to the nature of the stems I’m using. Arrange the Sanguisorba and Arrowwood stems tall, as they grow in nature, yet tuck the Cotinus foliages in lower, allowing their dark leaves to provide the perfect contrast to the bright Dahlia.
5: Add further Dahlia into the vases, playing with the contrasting shapes and structures, creating moments of interest and moments of pause along the mantle. I find the trick to a great mantelpiece display is to work in layers. With shorter stems placed at the front and taller stems placed at the back of the mantle, you will be able to achieve a real depth to your work.
6: As you arrange the stems, take a few moments to step back and assess the display from a distance – this will give you perspective and allow you to appreciate your work from various angles. Once all stems have been arranged we style the mantle with any additional elements like candlelight is lovely, but otherwise, season to taste.
An extract from The Flower School: The Principles and Pleasures of Good Flowers by Joseph Massie.