Susan Mcleary:  Staying Creative during Covid Shutdowns

I’m thrilled to have Susan Mcleary as my guest for episode 2 of Conversations in Sustainable Floral Design.  Click the video link below to listen to our replay!  There’s many a rich tidbit to discover.

I love Sue’s constant thirst to innovate and create.  Sue is a curious spirit, one part nature lover and one part mad scientist.  Here are some of the key takeaways from our Instagram Live conversation, including answers from our listeners.

Embrace the Simplicity of Limitations to Stay Creative

Instead of being frustrated by what you don’t have, celebrate that which you do!

Get Familiar with Old-School Floral Techniques

Wiring is a technique Sue is employing in a lot of her recent design work.  Having a command of a range of different floral craftsmanship techniques, like wiring, can improve your work and can expand your design abilities.  And from a sustainability perspective, wiring can free you from using so much (toxic) glue!

Tip:  the smaller the wire gauge, the thicker the wire.  Weights like 18 – 22 are useful for things that need sturdy support, such as succulents.  Weights like 24 and 26 are better for corsages and the sort of headpieces that Sue has been making lately.

To Design Without Floral Foam, Choose the Right Materials

Sue and I have found that for most floral installations, you don’t need to use floral foam.  For installations for weddings and parties that only need to last for one or two days, there are many botanicals you can use the need little or no water.   Look for leathery leaves and sturdy blooms.  Consult Sue’s List of Reliables if you are uncertain of what the best materials are.

There are ways to provide hydration that can reduce or eliminate the need to rely on floral foam.  Alternate water sources for hydration in large scale designs include test tubes/water picks, Eco-Wraps, Moss Rolls, and just plain old vases, buckets and cups tucked up into the design.  Get more ideas on how to create large scale installations without floral foam here.

Seek out Instruction on The Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds

Learning about these design “rules” has helped Sue immensely in her design work.  In her book, The Art of Wearable Flowers, Sue does a great job of explaining this.  For deeper learning about these topics, her favorite resources are Searching for Design by Dan Harwell, and Ikebana: The Art of Arranging Flowers by Shozo Sato.


Thanks for reading this post.  I hope you watched the video!  If you have questions for Sue or me about Sustainable Floral Design, please comment below or send me an email!  I’m happy to help.  And don’t miss the next Conversations in Sustainable Floral Design!  They are every Monday at 10am PST over on my @sustainablefloraldesign IG channel!

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