Flower Duet Decorates a Rose Parade Float
by Casey Schwartz
Casey with our brother, Stu, on the LMU float just under “Iggy” the LMU mascot.
Our older brother, Stu Coleman, just wrapped up his expedited completion of his MBA at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) here in Los Angeles. To celebrate their centennial, LMU was entering a float for the very first time in the history of the Rose Parade. LMU posted they were looking for volunteers to help decorate the float, so Stu signed us up.
History of Float Decorating Runs Strong
In high school, I hosted the homecoming float building at our house my Junior and Senior year and Kit hosted the float decoration at our house her Sophomore year at McLean High School in McLean, VA (we are five years apart in age, but attended the same high school). We had a design and plan. We did the framing and chicken wire, and the covered it with little cut-out squares of tissue paper – not flowers!
All our lives, we can remember our Mom (a native of Los Angeles) would be sure we were awake to watch the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day Morning (not a hard feat when you live on the East Coast). The vivid colors, the detail and reality that everything was covered with flowers – and not tissue were all hard to fathom. We always wondered, “How do they do that?” and I was delighted that I was able to find out this past week as a genuine Rose Parade Float decorator.
We arrived at the Pasadena Rose Palace where Phoenix Decorating is based a bit before 8 a.m. for our eight-hour shift. We got the briefing from the crew chief that we were going to be assigned jobs from cutting to gluing. If we were okay with heights, we might have to work on scaffolding. Stu’s shift the day before had been as a volunteer crewman where he spent the day aloft at 80 feet above deck on the Tall Ship Lady Washington, so heights were not an issue. There were over 30 volunteers for just the LMU float, and many other groups reporting in for other floats. Once we entered inside the Rose Palace, I was surprised to see about 8-10 floats all side by side, in various stages of completion. It was an amazing site. Volunteers who had gone in ahead of us were already cutting Statice flowers. Kit and I use this flower often, as it is a great filler and dries very well which is perfect for floats! Stu and I and another sibling set were chosen to climb up the float and do our best to finish the LMU mascot, Iggy the Lion. I thought, “Wow – what an honor.”
Color By Numbers
Stu works on Iggy.
All parts of the floats have been color coded in order to fill in with the proper medium. They are basically a giant 3D “color by number,” but instead of paint, you fill in the spaces with flowers or seed or moss.
Not Too Fluffy…
Casey applies the Pampas Grass.
The four of us were tasked with filling in where it was cream colored coded with very small plumes of Pampas Grass. Those huge billowing beige tufts you see close to the beach shooting out of green grasses, scaled down to just a pinkies worth had to be laid down in the same direction atop a floral glue called Oasis Glue. We were instructed to make it, “Not too fluffy, matt it down with your hands.”
How to Apply Seeds to a Float
Casey demostrates the glue-sponge-capture excess technique for applying seeds and cut-up flower petals.
We got to work and it was really cool. We got a rhythm going and wrapped up pretty quickly, most of the body and face were done so we moved next to the feet and the four of us each took a paw. On the paws, we used Clover seed, Orange Straw Flower and more Pampas for the tops of the feet. We used plain old white glue to apply the seeds and straw flowers and it was a pretty basic, but effective technique. We brushed on the glue with a simple wooden handled narrow paint brush over the area to cover, then scooped up a pile of seeds or flowers on half a dry kitchen sponge, then pressed it against the area that we just glued. The excess drops into the box that you need to hold underneath the area you are covering. It was all a bit messy, but once you get the hang of it, the coverage is fast and efficient and really fun. The feet were just about done and we took a break for lunch, which LMU supplied.
Approval of a Job Well Done!
View of the other floats from our perch near Iggy.
Stu and I returned to finish up Iggy alone, as the other siblings had left, and everyone seemed to be happy with their jobs. We looked for areas that needed more coverage, finished the tail, and touched up all over and were approved that Iggy was done! Next, we vacuumed under Iggy to pick up all the Pampas, Clover and Straw Flowers that had missed the box.
Below us they were adding a ton of Statice for the windows and across from us.
Across from us, four ladies were applying two layers of rice to give the look of stucco for the LMU campus building and bell tower. It was amazingly effective.
At left: Ming Moss in a bucket waiting to be applied to a float to become the “skin for an elephant.”
As we were close to ending our shift, we were not assigned another job. So we decided to walk around and see what was going on with the other floats. I felt a little like a spy. We walked by about eight people breaking out Ming Moss from its woody stems, then straining it through a grate to separate it further. It was to become the skin of an elephant.
Next we came upon a few volunteers applying poppy seeds to markings on a dinosaur, then we turned the corner to see over a dozen people applying pinky/orange lentils to the middle of daisy-like flowers. The tiny lentils had to be applied one at a time in a mosaic pattern. We saw buckets of onion seed, poppy seed, Statice of all colors, lettuce seeds, parsley and tons of clover seed which is mustard colored.
At left: Straw Flowers.
Everyone was working hard, some quietly, some chatting with family or groups that had come together and some in polite conversation as they most likely just met. All the while, each volunteer was working steadily as was expected and necessary. Every job is needed and important and part of the process in this amazing annual event.
Before, During and After…
In 2009: Casey with her two sons, Will on the left and Sam on the right, in 2009 at the viewing of the floats after the parade.
Kit, Mom and I were fortunate to buy tickets for the Rose Parade many years ago and made the trek up to Pasadena to sit in the bleachers in the cold New Year’s morning to watch the floats, horses and amazing marching bands go by in person. Kit and I have taken my two boys to see the floats the day after the parade to see and smell them. Now, I can add to my list that I’ve seen, touched and climbed on the floats before they are fully dressed and ready for their close-up. It is a great event, known worldwide and I would volunteer to decorate a float again for sure. I am grateful to my brother, Stu, for the opportunity and so happy to be part of his MBA completion celebration!
Parade is on January 2nd for 2012
The 123rd Rose Parade presented by Honda themed “Just Imagine…” will take place on Monday, January 2, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. (PST) featuring spirited marching bands from throughout the nation, majestic floral floats, and high-stepping equestrian units. In 1893, officials decided it would be best to avoid interfering with Sunday worship services and decided to move events to January 2nd whenever January 1st fell on a Sunday. The last time the “Never on a Sunday” policy was in effect was in 2006.
See the Floats Up Close After the Parade
For a small admission fee, you can see and smell the floats after the parade on January 2nd and 3rd. Find out more details on Post Rose Parade Float Viewing.
Finally, Casey and I can say we are “cover girls.” Not only that, but we can say we are the feature story in this month’s edition of Bloomin’ News magazine!
About Bloomin’ News
Bloomin’ News is published by the American Florists’ Exchange / Los Angeles Flower Market and was started in October 1949 by the Southern California Floral Association, which operated the two major wholesale flower markets that, along with storefront vendors, today comprise the Los Angeles Flower District in the 700 block of Wall Street in Los Angeles. This magazine serves a varied audience of retail florists, designers, event and wedding planners, wholesalers, growers, vendors and LA Flower Market tenants. It helps them to stay in touch with each other and learn about events and news of the floral industry locally and nationally.
In October of 2011, Bloomin’ News editor, Peggi Ridgway, came to our design studio in Torrance, Calif. to interview us, take some photos and have a tour of our offices and design space. It was a great experience to re-trace our steps and talk about how Flower Duet sprouted up in the late 1990s. It reminded me of how far we’ve come with the business and how wonderful it is to be partners with my sister.
Learn How Flower Duet Got Started
Flower Duet Adds More Videos to its YouTube Channel
We continue to add more free videos to our YouTube channel. Casey appeared on behalf of Flower Duet for the 2010 and 2011 season of Creative Living, which airs on PBS stations across the country. We are able to air these segments with the permission of Creative Living via our channel on YouTube!
This month’s video is called Gather, Drop and Fill. In less than ten minutes, you can learn how to arrange flowers into a low vase and have it look like you spent hours doing it!
Subscribe to our YouTube channel: fashioningflowers so you’ll know when we’ve uploaded a new show!
Bouquets for Brides by René van Rems
Kit had the pleasure of attending a Christmas Flower Workshop with René van Rems down in Vista, Calif. at the beginning of December. Flower Duet feels it’s important to keep learning new techniques from top floral designers and René is one of the best and so close to our home base. While Kit was there, she picked up a few books for our design library. If you are working on weddings, then you must get the new Rene’s Bouquets for Brides book. The cover tells you a lot about what type of quality ideas and inspiration you’ll get inside.
You’ll find 25 chapters of large photos, close-up images and some “how-to” visuals to showcase the various bouquet styles.
From René’s site: “This book is for brides, designers, bridal consultants, special event designers and others who want to be unique and different, yet in real-time taste and style.”
Roost Architectural Flower Frogs:
Get a little help designing flowers and an arty boost to the underwater vase look with these modern flower frogs from Roost. These designs are made from heavy iron and plated with zinc to help prevent rust. These sturdy pieces are designed to work with heavy glass vases. Roost sells the vases separately, but I would just order these and then see if you have any vases that might work first. You can also use these in an opaque vase as an eco-friendly option to floral foam.
Each Floral Frog’s Dimensions:
Low Totem: 4 1/4″ dia x 9″ H
Tall Totem: 5″ dia x 12 3/4″ H
Truss: 5 1/4″ dia x 8 1/2″ H
Circle Grid: 10″ dia x 3 1/4″ H
Square Small: 4 1/4″ sq x 4″ H
Square Large: 8″ sq x 5″ H
BONUS: These can be ordered through velocityartanddesign.com and all Roost products are on sale for 15% off through January 16, 2012.