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Sumptuous Flowers For Hamptons Spring And Summer Tables

Tightly constructed arrangements came in a range of sizes at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Roses and hydrangeas were mainstays of many. (Photo: Anne Halpin)

A jewel-toned creation with red roses, purple orchids and poppies and black viburnum berries is set off by deep green ivy foliage. (Photo: Anne Halpin)

The season for entertaining in the Hamptons will be under way before we know it. Fresh floral arrangements are a gracious addition to party décor, of course. Floral fashions come and go, and one place to look for inspiration is the annual Philadelphia Flower Show in early March. This world-class exhibition showcases the work of top landscape designers, floral design artists and amateur gardeners and designers who compete for trophies, ribbons and bragging rights in a host of horticultural and design classes.

This year's theme was "Brilliant!"— a salute to all things British— with plants and flowers, gardens, natural landscapes and culture of our neighbors across the Pond. The garden exhibits were lovely and well executed (one particularly beguiling display featured many different varieties of clematis weaving their way through evergreens, clambering over walls and arbors and sprawling over the ground). But the real showstoppers this year, at least for me, were the flower arrangements and table pieces. There were a lot of them, and two trends dominated the displays: sumptuous, dense designs and all-white, and elegant arrangements in jewel tones of rich red, royal purple and emerald green.

A fanciful "arbor" of vines and flowers, anchored in golden urns, is designed to float above the heads of dinner guests. (Photo: Anne Halpin)

In bowls, vases, pitchers and urns, in containers high and low, the designs featured tightly packed, dome-shaped compositions of luxurious blossoms that stayed close to the rim of the container. Where more height was wanted, a pedestal vase—rather than tall stems—provided the vertical line.

One breathtaking arrangement in a pedestal urn combined roses, lilies, delphinium, lisianthus and freesia all in pure, fresh white. Too large for a dining table, a piece like this would be perfect for a side table or grand entrance foyer. An exhibition built around the theme of England's crown jewels positioned dense arrangements of deep purple and rich red blossoms along a red-and-purple-striped cloth. Purple-flowered clematis and other vines meandered through the display (an interesting idea for a summer table). Green foliage provided the contrast that intensified the gem-like colors of the flowers.

If you'd like to try your hand at making your own table arrangement, the easiest way to do it is to start with large flowers such as hydrangeas in a clear glass cylinder or bowl (for a round or oval table) or cube (for a square or rectangular table). Start with one flower as the central point. Hold it in your hand, and position other flowers around it in a ring. Aim to create a domed shape, with the central flower a bit higher than the surrounding ones. Bind the flowers together with a chenille pipe cleaner or a rubber band. Then clip the stems with garden shears or pruners to a length that allows the flowers to sit just above the rim of the container.

This creamy white arrangement combines amaryllis, tulips, roses and hydrangeas in a white vase. (Photo: Anne Halpin)

Anne is a writer, editor and professional gardener, and the author of 17 garden, home and nature books. She lives in Hampton Bays.

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