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The last two Christmas’ I have had the honor of helping to decorate the Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Mansion. This year I was on flower duty! 33 original arrangements for the gala that kicked off the Christmas season.

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The First Lady of Pennsylvania, Susan Corbett, chose some amazing peonies she wanted to be the star of the arrangements. After I gave each one a fresh cut, I took the end of my cutters and gently pushed down on the end of the stem, essentially breaking it. HOT TIP: Breaking the bottom of the stem gets water to the flower faster and helps it to live longer. Then, the flowers went back in their buckets until I was ready for them.

The best thing about the PA Governor’s Mansion are the beautiful gardens. Even in December, they have all sorts of greens to clip. A short trip to the garden and I had all the greens I needed. HOT TIP: For winter arrangements chose several different varieties of greens to make your arrangements more visually interesting.

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When making more than one arrangement to be used at the same event, let your creativity go when making the first one. Then when you have a look you like, re-create. Somtimes this is not so easy! If your arrangement is not looking right from the start, or goes astray, start over. Trust me, it’s easier and faster in the long run. HOT TIP: Don’t fight your flowers and greens. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s faster to pull it all out and start over. Trust me, you’ll end up doing it anyway. Cut your losses, and you’ll be surprised how fast it all comes together.

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