A design template with a strong vertical line pairs well with accents that show creative flair.

Draw a single vertical line that points directly downward to a circle below it, for the focal area. What could be simpler and more straightforward? That is the strength of this underlying design architecture, as powerful and expressive as an exclamation point.

In execution, however, the danger is that such a simple scheme could yield a boring design. Not to worry! The very simplicity of this basic structure invites the use of creative flourishes that will add depth, texture and interest to the design. Among the possible variations are: a) reinforcements to the vertical line; b) foliage that fans out to one side; and c) quickly crafted accents that mediate between the focal and the vertical, connecting them and filling the space in between. As you add to and adapt the basic structure, always check your additions for overall balance, proportion and unity in the design.

The template sketch clearly indicates a formal-linear design, with a strong central vertical, pointing downward to a focal area that must live up to its name and reward all the attention it is getting. The lines that indicate and reinforce the vertical line may fan out slightly, further emphasizing the focal area with their implication of rays spreading from a point of origin. Curving lines just above the focal area seem to orbit and shelter it, adding to its visual weight and impact. They also soften the central vertical, without obscuring it.

Four lengths of river cane, all cut to the same height, form the main vertical axis in this design. They are reinforced with wine-red snapdragons and accented with banded sections of red aluminum wire. The color scheme may be considered monochromatic, with green as nature’s neutral.

The focal point is established with a single eye-catching large bloom, a ‘Starfighter’ Oriental-hybrid lily. The Oriental- hybrid lily is an excellent choice. You don’t want to distract from its impact by overembellishing it. And yet, in the context of a competition or professional design evaluation, you would want to go a little beyond the easy and expected.

To score that extra point that you will need to get your design upgraded from average to excellent, you may want to add subtle accents, like the wire decorations seen here: petal shapes added to the back of the lily as though the lily was a double; and medallions, made of coiled wire, added into the lily bloom and repeated on the Monstera leaves at the side.

Above the lily, crossing over and softening the strong vertical line of the river cane and snapdragon stems, loops of lily grass weave through each other and around the snapdragons. Without them, the composition might look quite flat. The Monstera leaves on one side are inserted with a considerable gap between them (separated by hot pink carnations), for a terraced effect.


Lilium spp. ‘Starfighter’ (Oriental-hybrid lily); Antirrhinum majus (snapdragons); Dianthus caryophyllus (carnations); Dianthus barbatus ‘Green Trick’ (hybrid sweet William); Liriope muscari (lily grass); Monstera deliciosa, miniature (swiss-cheese plant, split-leaf philodendron); Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata’ (variegated cast-iron plant, barroom plant); Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’ (variegated Japanese Pittosporum, variegated Australian laurel, variegated mock orange); Arundinaria gigantea (river cane, switch cane, canebrake bamboo, American bamboo)


OASIS TM Aluminum Wire (Red), OASIS TM Bullion Wire (Red) and OASIS ® Floral Foam Maxlife from Smithers-Oasis North America; 4” x 4” x 4” Square Vase (Champagne) from Syndicate Sales.

Here, the natural curve of the yellow snapdragons inspired the placement of some of them slightly off to one side, in a closely fanned formation—but with their tips pointing inward toward the central axis. The line of the snapdragon stems, now slightly diagonal, leads the eyes down to the grouping of white ‘Eskimo’ roses that dominates the focal area. This primary line is reinforced with the backing of a single Monstera leaf. It flows through the focal area and out at the opposite side below it, where it continues with loops of gold etched wire, backed by Calathea leaves.

Sheltering the focal area and softening the transition between it and the descending central line, knotted loops of variegated lily grass take the arched form of cathedral windows. The focal area is further complemented with yarrow and button spray mums in varying hues of yellow, plus green Hypericum, mini green Hydrangea and Pittosporum, completing an analogous color harmony. This is a very clean and simple design statement, featuring a well-balanced asymmetrical line.


Rosa spp. ‘Eskimo’ (hybrid tea roses); Antirrhinum majus (snapdragons); Achillea filipendulina (fern-leaf yarrow); Chrysanthemum morifolium (button spray mums); Hydrangea macrophylla (mini green hortensia, mini green Hydrangea); Hypericum androsaemum (tutsan, St. John’s wort); Monstera deliciosa, miniature (swiss-cheese plant, split-leaf philodendron); Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’ (variegated lily grass); Calathea lancifolia (rattlesnake plant); Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’ (variegated Japanese Pittosporum, variegated Australian laurel, variegated mock orange)


OASIS TM Etched Wire (Gold Matte) and OASIS ® Floral Foam Maxlife from Smithers-Oasis North America; 4” x 4” Cylinder (Champagne) from Syndicate Sales.

Once again, a single open ‘Starfighter’ Oriental-hybrid lily bloom establishes a strong focal area, nestled on a cushion of white carnations and flanked with Japanese aralia leaves on one side and red Anthurium on the other. ‘Freedom’ roses define the vertical line, not only with their stems but also with the implied line that the eyes draw from one red rose head to the next. White snapdragons and lily buds back up the roses, adding volume and texture to the design, but their pale hues cannot compete with the vibrant advancing color—red—and they remain appropriately in the background.

The excitement is punched up with red aluminum wire, fashioned into rectangles that bring the angles of the cube container up among the flowers—a creative touch that adds points for harmony and unity in the design.


Lilium spp. ‘Starfighter’ (Oriental-hybrid lily); Rosa spp. ‘Freedom’ (hybrid tea roses); Anthurium andraeanum (flamingo lilies, tailflowers); Dianthus caryophyllus (carnations); Antirrhinum majus (snapdragons); Matthiola incana (stocks, gillyflowers); Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia); Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata’ (variegated cast-iron plant, barroom plant)


OASIS TM Aluminum Wire (Red) and OASIS ® Floral Foam Maxlife from Smithers-Oasis North America; 4” x 4” x 4” Square Vase (White) from Syndicate Sales.