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Silk or Dried, the Key Is Authenticity

March 21, 1992|From Associated Press

If you find fresh flowers too much fuss and freeze-dried flowers too much money, there are alternatives in silk or dried flowers.

Silk flowers--actually, most are polyester these days--often are too perfect to look natural. But Charlotte Moss, a New York decorator and author of "A Passion for Detail," says that you can transform the harshly colored flowers into unusual specimens by dipping them in tea or in a solution of bleach and water or by embellishing them with paint.

"Give a harsh-pink rose a stripey effect by painting it with bleach, using a coarse paintbrush," she suggests. "Or dip it into a solution of bleach and pull it out fast, burn a hole in a leaf to suggest insect damage, or paint ladybugs onto the flower. That, after all, is the kind of thing that decorative painters do all the time."

You can also dry your own flowers, Moss says. Remove fresh miniature roses from water just before they droop and hang them upside down in a dark closet or attic, and in a matter of weeks, you'll be able to use them in such arrangements as a rose topiary.

Glue the roses onto a plastic foam ball, covering gaps with moss. Find a fairly straight branch in the woods and stick it into the ball. Place the entire arrangement in a container fitted with a block of florist's foam. Cover the foam with moss.

"It's a piece of cake," says Moss, who has a closet full of such topiaries that she made herself.

If you need inspiration for arrangements, leaf through books of flower paintings at the public library or, if you're lucky enough to live near an art museum, study paintings.

But remember, says New York floral designer Susan Colley, the trend for dried arrangements now is to make them look natural--as if you'd gathered all the elements on a walk in the woods.

"We're using mushrooms and meadow grass," she says.

Of course, it takes hours to achieve that natural look. "It's like the simple black cocktail dress," Colley says. "Somebody has worked very hard to make it look simple."

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