FLORAL BASICS:

TOOLS, SUPPLIES, AND SAFETY

by Joelle Steele

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What you need for work will vary according to the kind of floral arrangements you create. In general, you should always buy the very best tools you can afford, with handles made to grip. If you can get a good tool belt to hold them all, that will be a plus for you. Try to keep in mind that you are buying tools that you are going to use 40 hours every week. This is not the time to skimp on quality.

Keep your scissors, clippers, and strippers clean, oiled, and well-sharpened at all times. You will find that it is easier and faster to handle flowers when your tools are in optimum condition.

Hand Tools

• knife
• secateurs (hand pruners)
• wire cutters
• rose strippers
• floral scissors (not house or paper scissors, as they will damage the stems)

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Get your name or initials conspicuously engraved on every tool you own or you will find that they "walk" away into someone else's work area or home. Engravers are fairly inexpensive and easy to use, so you can get one of your own. They also come in handy for marking your TV set, stereo, computer, etc., as well.

Most of the supplies you need will be supplied by your employer or will be dictated by the kinds of arrangements you create. In general, you will need:

• floral foam (also called "oasis," used to anchor stems)
• floral tape (to wrap stems)
• pin holders and wire (to hold stems erect or shape them)

Working Safely

In any industry, it pays to work clean and to be organized. Working with perishables makes it a necessity. If you work in a disorganized area, littered with the remains of every arrangement you've done so far that day or over the past week, you are simply looking for trouble. Dirt and bits of old flowers, oasis, ribbon, and what not can be picked up on the latest arrangement you're working on. With old organic flower matter, you risk getting too much ethylene in your fresh flowers if they are littered with bits of decaying ones. The ethylene is offgassed by decaying materials (including picked fruit), and this can cause buds to not open and flowers to die quickly, and you can't afford to let that happen.

Safety is also an important issue in dirty, disorganized work areas, especially when things fall on the floor. Rotted flower materials in particular are accidents waiting to happen. Even fresh materials on the floor can be invitations to slip-and-fall accidents, and since most floral work is done on concrete floors, this can result in painful or debilitating injuries.

The horticultural industry in general has one of the highest workers compensation rates due to the risks involved in the seemingly simplest of activities. So always keep your work area clean and organized. Sweep your floor area frequently, even while you are working on an arrangement, so that you don't injure yourself or damage your work.

This article last updated: 08/27/2007.