I f the guests you’re expecting bring more stress than happiness, consider using your décor to keep them in line. Through the help of modern psychology and strategic arrangements, your gathering can be a civilized affair. But it’s not the seating charts or furniture that will save you; it’s your bouquets.
Two studies, one conducted by Nancy Etcoff of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the other by Jeannette Haviland-Jones, professor of Psychology at Rutgers, show that there really is power in flowers. Looking at the links between humans and blossoms, both studies suggest that human behavior can be improved by the presence of flowers. Here are a few of their findings to help you keep the holidays cheerful.
Place flowers in rooms where they’ll have the most impact: kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms. Their presence is enough to soothe the savage beast, or at least make them tolerable for an hour or two. By triggering the feeling of happiness, flowers increase connection between people, bringing them together in a positive manner.
In both studies, people felt less negative after being around flowers, and Etcoff’s study found that flowers improve compassion and kindness for others, something that should come in handy with judgmental visitors. Seat the pessimists near a display of brightly colored posies; perhaps they’ll overlook their feelings on your cooking this year.
Have someone who loves to argue in the group? Hand them a flower whenever they warm up to a topic; it will bring a smile and better behavior. According to Haviland-Jones, people entering an elevator — a place of social awkwardness — acted in a more socially positive way when handed a flower, as opposed to another gift or nothing at all.
At the very least, handing them flowers one by one over the event will keep their mind on your mental stability and off of debates.
Want to show off your antique end table without running the risk of careless water rings left by the drinks of distracted guests? Let a floral arrangement of holly provide protection for the table. The deep green, glossy leaves bedecked in berries look glorious in a winter bouquet, but a few nips from their razor-sharp spines will have your guests looking elsewhere to set their glasses (this advice is not part of the studies. It’s a trick I’ve picked up over the years).
For best effect, spread the holly along the lower and middle section of the display, keeping the size of the arrangement wide enough to discourage drinks but show off the table.
If you’d like to tamp down your guests’ baser instincts, whip up a few floral arrangements. Oasis blocks, found at local hobby stores, hold water and fresh flowers or branches when you’re not using a vase. Soak the oasis in water for a half hour before use, then place in a shallow bowl or tray.
Choose a variety of material from your garden and the local florists’ shop. If using fresh evergreens, snip the ends before inserting them into the oasis, cut stems at differing lengths to keep the arrangement interesting. Strip off leaves or needles from any part of the stem that will be inserted into the oasis.
When inserting anything into the oasis, take care to push the stem only once; avoid pulling it back out to reseat it. This causes an air pocket between the stem end and the foam, and the plant won’t get water from the oasis.
Begin at the bottom of the display, layering greenery in a circle as a foundation for the design. Work around the arrangement in an upward circle to place material into the foam. If arranging for the center of a table, keep the design low to avoid obstructions to conversations with those on the other side of the table. Mist your arrangement daily.
- Expert florist blog – Christmas flowers for your home (interflora.co.uk)
- Winter Wizardry – enchanting winter flower designs (interflora.co.uk)
- More bang for the bloom: Making fresh flowers last (sfgate.com)