15 May2009


No, I have never taken a course. I think you just learn by doing. You take notice of what others do. And you learn over time what things might work better than others. For the dinner table, I like to have very intense small arrangements that are nearly all flowers, no fillers/leaves. Or alternatively, all leaves and no flowers. And try and stick with colors that seem to make sense together. And since we have always done all of our arrangements at home, we have never really had to resort to a florist or shop which generally charge significantly more than the actual cost of the flowers…


We took a surprisingly quick trip to Dimasalang at 6 am the morning of the 60th birthday dinner, the drive taking a record 18 minutes from Makati when it takes me nearly twice as long in the middle of the night. And the place had tons and tons of flowers and not a customer in sight… so despite my earlier plan to just put simple vases with amaryllis bulbs on the table, I decided to get some roses and carnations (several varieties) and some “queen anne’s” lace in pastel colors for a half dozen small arrangements.


Back at home, the flowers were placed in pails filled with water and allowed to drink for several hours, stems trimmed by an inch or so. This is a critical step to ensure that the flowers last longer.


Small white ceramic “plant boxes” like the classic wooden plant boxes in French estates used for orange trees that are out in the warmer months but transferred into the “Orangerie” in winter months were lined with dried moss…


…then oasis floral foam was shaped into something approximating a sphere with a “foot” readching down into the vase to steady the arrangement. The oasis was then removed and allowed to soak in a pail full of water and re-placed in the vase.


In cases where several of the same arrangement are being made, I like to have a rough “recipe” of flowers used, so that there is some consistency… in this case it was 6 stems of large pink carnations, 6 stems of pink-tinged white cluster carnations, 4 stems of dark pink carnations, 12 pink roses and some lace. I started with the roses then the carnations and the lace and tried to get a tight, spherical shape that looked random yet balanced.


Using a recipe also allows you to see if you have enough flowers for the intended number of arrangements. I tend to overbuy most of the time, but recipes help prevent running short or overspending. Think of it as the manner in which your brain naturally calculates how much “ulam” or viand you have on your dinner plate and how much rice you have and you have to pace your eating so that you end up with just a little rice and of course a last bit of ulam or viand. :)


Entertaining at home was far more prevalent in my parents generation, and today we rarely get invited to dinner parties in homes of peers with a formal sit-down dinner. But somehow I find that dinners at home can be far more festive, far more elegant, comfortable and despite all the extras, far more economical than an equivalent meal out at a restaurant or hotel. Floral arrangements such as these just make a table pop and they are often well worth the effort. :)




  1. simplepleasure says:

    MM, as always GORGEOUS!

    May 15, 2009 | 5:51 pm


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  3. rhea says:

    yep, utterly delicous-looking flowers!

    May 15, 2009 | 6:21 pm

  4. lee says:

    wow!! beautiful arrangement!!! pls. post the menu MM…thanks.

    May 15, 2009 | 6:32 pm

  5. mardie c",) says:

    ohhh…love the dinner table arrangement. parang martha stewart. i saw on tv once that when you cut the stem you have to do it under the water. i dont know why, probably so it can soak up the water right after.

    May 15, 2009 | 6:47 pm

  6. Marketman says:

    mardie, in theory, it is so that no air bubbles get stuck in the veins of the flower, impeding the absorption of water. I don’t bother, I just cut with a very sharp knife at an angle and plunge it into water immediately after… or in this case, the flowers were allowed to drink up lots of water before they were poked into floral foam. lee, menu up in the days ahead. rhea and simplepleasure, thanks.

    May 15, 2009 | 7:06 pm

  7. denise says:

    yey!…tama ako carnations and roses :D

    May 15, 2009 | 7:47 pm

  8. myra_p says:

    MM, your “queen anne’s lace” is actually casually referred to as “snow flowers” by baguio growers. Still have to figure out it’s real name :)

    May 15, 2009 | 8:40 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    myra, I figured they weren’t real queen anne’s lace, but the seller was insistent… :)

    May 15, 2009 | 9:15 pm

  10. corrine says:

    I agree. If you know how to cook, better eat at home. I’ve never been invited to a home dinner as elegant as this. sniff, sniff. I do invite family over to our home for a nice dinner and special table arrangement. What I have to learn is to lessen my menu offerings. I tend to overdo it so my kitchen staff and I get too tired and guests had to eat too many. I think better less but really good dishes. Oh, well, more practice!

    May 15, 2009 | 9:16 pm

  11. Bubut says:

    happy birthday to your friend! for sure she was so happy at the party. the flower arrangements are gorgeous! when will be the next eyeball ? ;-)

    May 15, 2009 | 11:50 pm

  12. kim says:

    the only time i ever have a formal dinner would be during weddings or company events … at home or any friends parties would always be buffet, and like corrine, i tend to overdo leaving guests w/ doggie bags & still lots of food for a day or two … :'(

    May 16, 2009 | 12:39 am

  13. silly lolo says:

    Simply “mahvelous”, MM! But how about let’s get back to lechon? Please?!? Thanks.

    Have you heard of a La Caja China? It’s this contraption that Cubans use to do their Lechon and based on what I have seen, you might get interested in it. Why I can just see you blow the Cubanos away with your own version using their contraption. Just google Caja China and you will see what I’m talking about. They have videos and all. Saveur Magazine picked it as one of the Best in 2004!

    May 16, 2009 | 12:42 am

  14. Marketman says:

    silly lolo, I have seen a caja china, Bobby Flay featured it on one of his shows.

    May 16, 2009 | 1:08 am

  15. joanie says:

    Mr. MM = Mr. Martha Stewart of the Philippines.

    May 16, 2009 | 1:13 am

  16. angelbride says:

    Just beautiful!

    May 16, 2009 | 1:45 am

  17. Maria Clara says:

    Stunning arrangement all flowers and no fillers. Commercial florists will not make that kind of arrangement as their profit margin will go down or will charge extra bucks. Greens are their money machines. The cut stems of carnation makes a good filler in tall arrangements ensuring leaves are plucked which go at the bottom of the container to prevent the growth of rotten water.

    May 16, 2009 | 2:28 am

  18. madspartan says:

    These last couple of posts sooo make sense now. Not to mention a relief!

    The first time I tried to make my own arrangements, my husband had to take over after my frustration had me in tears. He, of course, made one stunning arrangement after another — and made me feel worse!

    His mom (being the perfect corporate wife) arranged flowers for their dinner table and the rest of the house every week of his and his sisters’ (there are 8 of them) lives! This was because they always had dinner guests. I imagine this was true for your childhood as well.(Moms rule!)

    I’ve since learned how (in my awkward way) — by developing a tight friendship with floral foam. ;)

    But looking back — men seem to have a better knack for arrangements. Observation lang, ha? I used to always choose a male florist back when I didn’t know how pa. For some reason, the women florists lacked an eye for oomph and tended to “theme” out the colors. The male florists were braver (or maybe color blind?) and had more adventurous and brilliant arrangements.

    May 16, 2009 | 5:44 am

  19. millet says:

    how beautiful! and the blue tablecloth sets off the whole thing dramatically.

    i’m not sure that’s queen anne’s lace, because its petals are a lot finer, and i beleive it comes only in white.

    May 16, 2009 | 8:04 am

  20. Marketman says:

    millet, it isn’t “classic” queen anne’s lace, they seem to have just called it that. madspartan, an interesting theory. However, I have one crew member that after I have done one or two of these arrangements, can continue replicating them without much effort. And she is female. She is the go-to person for flowers in our home. And my sisters and mom were/are far better flower arrangers than I am… so the gender thing doesn’t seem to work in our family… My mom was good with flowers in general, and was serious with her Ikebana, a much more artistic form of floral arrangement. But I think it is the eye for something aestetically pleasing which was passed on the kids somehow…

    May 16, 2009 | 8:19 am

  21. Vanessa says:

    Very, very nice. Those carnations are divine.

    May 16, 2009 | 8:40 am

  22. Vanessa says:

    Additionally, Marketman, what is a good way to bind the flowers together? How do you tie them to keep the spherical shape? What material would you use? I imagine after binding you would stick the stems onto the wet floral foam, right? Thank you!

    May 16, 2009 | 8:43 am

  23. Jaja says:

    So nice! love the vibrant colors! =)

    May 16, 2009 | 9:43 am

  24. Sanojmd says:

    Oh, yeey! This ignoramus is right after all.. There was roses in that flower arrangement..

    May 16, 2009 | 3:54 pm

  25. Eileen says:

    Very nice flower arrangement, MM! Love the colors! :)

    May 16, 2009 | 4:32 pm

  26. evel del rosario says:

    love it! sana next eyeball, you’ll include flower arrangement demonstration.. i’ll be the first one to register.

    May 16, 2009 | 5:09 pm

  27. marissewalangkaparis says:


    May 16, 2009 | 9:57 pm


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