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How do you choose between the hundreds of common foliages out there when you’re making a paper flower arrangement? How many do you need? Which paper should you make them out of?
As a paper florist, you may struggle with these issues, and you’re not alone! These questions came up in our Paper Talk Facebook group recently. It’s not surprising. Foliages don’t get a lot of time in the spotlight, but they’re just as important as your blooms. They create the foundation for your piece. If something is off with your greenery, people will notice, even if they can’t put their finger on what exactly is wrong.
So let’s talk about foliage and how you can improve your arrangements by making smart choices with your greens.
Types of Foliage
Emily M. asked on Facebook about how to choose greenery for a specific piece. Do you focus on color? Should the leaves be similar geographically or climate-wise to the flowers?
These are great questions!
I follow several criteria that all basically revolve around including variety. That means that I always make sure to have a dark color and a lighter color. Large and small leaves get included. I add round shaped leaves and more narrow, longer leaves to catch the eye. I don’t worry too much about where the plants come from, but more about how they look together and with my blooms.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic formula for choosing the perfect foliage for your flowers in a snap. It takes time to research the possibilities, but these principles can guide you in the right direction. Keep perusing paper and fresh florists’ pics for ideas and inspiration. Keep a list categorizing your favorite greens. It’ll get easier the longer you’re in the game.
What I can tell you, is that you won’t go wrong including contrasting types of foliage.
Amount of Greenery
So you’ve done the hard work of figuring out which foliage to include. Now how much of it do you need?
The amount of foliage that I include is more than you would expect. My ratio is more greenery than flowers. This is because I make leaf stems that are smaller than the stars of the arrangement: the flowers.
One of the most important factors in all of this is the shape of the arrangement. Foliage is the foundation, so I use it to build the final shape of the piece. I typically use about three-fourths of my greens to make the right shape, then add my flowers, and then I finish off the arrangement with the rest of the foliage.
Green Crepe Paper
To make all of that foliage, you need green paper. In our Facebook group, Linda D. asked about a well-known issue with green crepe: color-fastness.
Oh greens! How much I love and hate them all at the same time. They change color in sunlight, with glue, when I apply watercolor or paints. Using UV sprays does not alleviate the color-fast issue long term. So what are we to do?
First off, let’s identify the worst offenders. Here are the fading Italian crepe paper culprits:
By now, you probably already know that the 180 gsm - 17A/8 Olive Green is the biggest headache. Not only does it fade super fast, but it turns a weird yellow/brown color in the sunlight. If you use white glue and even hot glue, the paper will change to a strange blue color. What a pain to find out after the fact! Color Spraying will not help, or even using watercolor or alcohol inks or markers, because it reacts so poorly to liquids of any kind. The only thing that will mask this color change is if you actually use acrylic or gouache paint to cover the paper.
But more on that in a bit. Let’s talk about www.papermart.com Chinese Crepe, specifically the Moss crepe paper. It’s truly been a hit and miss, but luckily a hit most of the time. Sometimes, you will get a roll or two that misbehaves and will change color. I find that it’s often worth trying a sample piece beforehand to find the good rolls.
You can also use Werola German Heavy Crepe, which you can purchase from rosemille.com. It is 160 gsm and comes in five shades of green that don’t fade as much as some of the other options: May Green, Light Green, Grass Green, Apple Green, and Dark Green.
Since fading is an issue with most greens, many paper florists turn to combating or masking these color issues. Luckily, there are multiple options that you can experiment with.
Because of those color change problems caused by liquids, you want to use a super tacky glue on your green crepe.
I find that using Elmer's X-TREME Extra Strength Washable School Glue Stick (https://amzn.to/3CdmPYn) minimizes the color change on the paper. But one mistake that I see over and over is not using enough glue. You have to make sure that the glue stick application gets in between the crepe or folds of the paper. Otherwise it won’t stay together and come apart later. But if it does, just apply a bit more glue to the separated paper and it should stay put.
Inga Peterson found that Yes! Paste is another great option when it comes to avoiding changes with greens. If you try this one, I’d love to hear what your experience is like.
These sprays will help your color hold for longer. Again, green will almost always fade sooner than other colors, but every bit of saved time counts.
Color Sprays and Paint
Another option is to add more color onto your paper.
For that troublesome 180 gsm - 17A/8 Olive Green, I like to use Design Master ColorTool Spray in Basil 676. Design Master has an extensive lineup of sprays that can help you add more green that will last longer. You can spray the paper beforehand, or if you’ve had experience using it and know how the colors will interact, you can spray the finished leaves.
Another good alternative is to paint the crepe with acrylic paint. Watercolor is a temporary solution, as it will eventually fade. As with all of these solutions, test out the paint on a scrap first to see how it reacts.
PanPastels will add a layer of protection and color to your foliages. Here are my favorites:
There you have it. All of my tricks and tips for choosing and making paper foliage.
To stay on top of the latest crepe paper news, join us for Awesome Blossom! presented by Paper Talk. Cartotecnica Rossi has big news coming this fall, and our Awesome Blossom! students will be some of the first to hear all about it! We have two workshops dedicated solely to foliage, so you won’t want to miss out. Class starts September 16, 2021. Hope to see you there!