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This week we visit The Willcox in Aiken, South Carolina. Tina McCarthy introduces us to this beautiful old hotel. The Willcox welcomed its' first guests in 1900. Frederick Willcox had moved to Aiken from Cheshire, England. He originally was a caterer for the Hillum Park Hotel. When it burned he opened his own hotel. The Willcox was said to have the first bathtub in the south with hidden plumbing connections. It is still beautiful today, the lobby has beautiful curly pine paneling, the rooms are fantastic. Social leaders from the east would spend their winter social season in Aiken. Some referred to Aiken as the "winter colony." Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Arden, even Franklin Roosevelt have been rumored to have stayed at The Willcox. The warm weather and equestrian events were the draw for these folks. Aiken has a sandy soil that is conducive to horses. The Willcox has beautiful flower arrangements throughout. Karen Jeffcoat creates these works of art and she shares with us design tips and techniques.

Karen Jeffcoat is a floral designer and teaches floral design classes. When producing an arrangement she takes into consideration the room, the decor and often the personality of the person that will occupy the room. She considers the paint and color of a room and the furniture is considered to make sure the arrangement is coordinated. If someone will be staying in the room with a outgoing personality she tries to utilize big, vibrant flowers, an arrangement that is over-zealous or over-abundant so the inhabitant will feel happy when in the room. The time of year plays an important part. Karen likes to use fresh, cut flowers from the garden with cut flowers from California and other processors.

Karen and Rick look first at containers. Karen chooses a container with several things in mind. First can the container enhance the room. Does it echo the qualities of the room, color, etc. Secondly does she have a lot of mechanics to hide. The mechanics are the also referred to as armatures. An armature is a "tool" used to contain or hold flower stems. Karen likes to use natural materials for armatures, materials like Curly willow, Honey Suckle Vine, any vine that is pliable. You can make a vine more pliable by soaking it in water overnight.

The first design utilizes Calla Lilies. These are used because the intended room is yellow. The furnishings are basically green and yellow. She tries to enhance the room, not detract from the room with her arrangements. This arrangement is in a clear glass container and has a smaller glass container in the middle to help keep the flowers contained. Lemons are placed around the inside of the bigger container for visual punch. She makes a collar with the Lilies, then adds Dahlias. The Dahlias give height, the Callas cascade over the side. Karen cuts the flower stems at an angle, that allows faster water intake into the flower stem. She cuts the Dahlias so the flower heads are within the same area. She then uses Hypericum Berries around the base. They support the design and add another color element. This provides a topiary-type effect, with three levels of visual stimulation. The lemons in the container, the Calla Lilies, the Hypericum Berries, interspersed, then the taller Dahlias. As well this provides a lot of different textures, adding excitement to the design. It is visually stimulating from a distance and up close. To hold the Dahlias together you could use a vine, raffia, even ribbon. Karen uses a vine. This design is beautiful in this room, it brings in the yellow, and greens in the room.

The next floral design is in a solid container. Not only will it look beautiful in the intended room, but the solid container hides the mechanics. She has used water picks and inserted Anemones stems into them. Because there was no water source, to keep the flowers fresh she needed to utilize the water picks. Anemones were chosen because of their intense color. As well when the flowers fade, new flowers can be exchanged and the arrangement will look fresh. Karen has moss in the container and the moss sits in its own container, a container within a container. Ivy is in its own container. The Orchids are in their own separate container. None of the plants are actually growing in the outside container, they all have their own container. All the plants have different watering needs, this allows them all to be properly cared for, yet allows all to thrive. This arrangement is visually stimulating, it has balance, with a range of textures. The needle-nose Ivy is fine textured. The leaves of the Orchid are large and coarse textured, providing a nice contrast. It is a well done composition in terms of warm color and texture. This arrangement will go in one of the bathrooms at The Willcox. Karen believes that Orchids are very exotic, the bathrooms are classy, white, clean and streamlined, thus the Orchid is the perfect choice of flower. As well the climate in the bathroom is perfect for Orchids. this arrangement is simplistic, relaxing, yet beautiful, a perfect compliment to the beautiful bathroom.

One of the hottest colors in the garden is Chartreuse. Coleus, Gay's Delight, is a great example of the Chartreuse color. Chartreuse is an intense color, very bright and works well with a lot of different greens. This foliage of this plant will look good throughout the entire season.

Karen now demonstrates how to make a larger arrangement, one fit for the lobby of The Willcox. The ceilings are at least 20-22 feet tall, so this arrangement must be big. She uses an Oasis to hold the flowers. The Oasis is inserted into a liner to keep the water inside. This Oasis is much larger than normal, but a gardener could buy one at an arts and crafts store. When using an Oasis let it soak for an hour or so, because if you don't you could end up with a dry spot in the center and if a stem were inserted into the dry spot a dead flower would result within a day or so because there is no water going into the stem. Also once the stem is inserted try not to pull it back out because you will have another hole and because an air lock could result. The density of the Oasis is determined by the type of stems that will be inserted. If thick stems a thicker density is needed, if fragile stems, like Tulips or daffodils, a low density Oasis is needed. To begin, define your height. Karen starts with Bells of Ireland because they provide height. They don't need to be stuck deeply into the Oasis, they're secure without that. She places them close together, it's ok if they touch, it makes a solid looking vertical mass. These don't grow in the south, however if you wanted to use southern plants that provide the same feel Snaps, Delphiniums, Hollyhock would work well. Next she takes Calla Lilies and bends them. To bend them they need to be at room temperature because they won't bend when cold. When bent, she makes a collar around the container. This will draw attention to the base of the arrangement. Karen then uses three different types of greenery because it adds different textures and greenery is relatively inexpensive. Variegated Pittosporum is one and it will hide the mechanics. Place the branches so they face the center and the flower faces outward. It is a camouflage for the Oasis and adds green texture to the base. It has a nice shiny look, variegated color, all adding interest. Keep it low because Karen has more design elements to add. The lobby is dark, formal, this will add a lot of color. After the Pittosporum, Karen adds Hypericum. There are a lot of leaves on the stem, so she strips some away, concentrating on the berry clusters. This provides another green texture. She sinks it down into the design. Avoid a symmetrical look, placement is more random. Next Karen adds Kermit Buttons, a type of Chrysanthemum, that is the popular Chartreuse color. To finish the design Karen uses the Calla Lilies, removes the cotton from the main heads, inserted for shipping, then makes a fresh cut to the stem. The fresh cut is important, to keep the flower fresh. She inserts them into the Oasis and wraps them around the Bells of Ireland. If it is difficult to make a hole in the Oasis, start the hole with a pair of scissors. With a coated green wire, to protect the stem of the plant, she attaches the Calla Lilies to The Bells of Ireland. In this design the Bells of Ireland are being used as an armature, she's used plants to secure other plants. The Oasis can be watered and the plants will last for a week and a half. She has movement, positive and negative space coming into the design. Karen tries to get people to think outside the box, to make flower design fun and creative. Karen has created floral designs that are stunning. We thank her for the lesson.

Link: The Willcox

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