Florist Alexander Posthuma and the art of working with flowers
Alexander Posthuma is one of the most highly sought-after florists in the Netherlands
Now age 30, he grew up on the northern outskirts of Amsterdam and as a child spent hours hiking through woods and fields. This marked the start of his great love for nature. After completing his agricultural and horticultural studies and a work placement in Australia, he set up his own business in the heart of Amsterdam. His floral creations decorate castles, museums, companies, ships and hotels, including the Andaz in Amsterdam, featuring interior design by Marcel Wanders. Posthuma was awarded the "Best Floral Design" prize in his home country.
His favourite bouquet
looks a little as if he had, while strolling through a flowering alpine meadow, randomly plucked all kinds of blossoms along his path - seeking out the finest and most colourful blooms.
However, Alexander Posthuma actually selected the flowers for his cheerful spring bouquet with painstaking care: roses, buttercups and delphiniums, guelder rose, snapdragons and mimosa.
As luxuriant a display as those depicted in the floral still lifes of the Dutch Masters. “My shop, A.P Bloem, is right in the heart of the Amsterdam Canal District," he explains. Where the golden 17th century comes vibrantly to life at every corner.
"Each spray of flowers needs to tell a story and reflect emotions," believes the famous Dutch florist. "Otherwise, it lacks soul and is simply a lifeless copy."
He has tied his favourite bouquet for us and we watched his nimble fingers closely.
His slogan is:
"Trust yourself - let your imagination run free!"
The brighter the bouquet, the more large flowers there are. "A lot of small flowers are too distracting." Then add a few peonies. The newly grown giant buttercup from Italy. And, of course, some large roses. "This will create structure - and a feeling of peace."
Opulent bouquets in the style of the Old Masters are the 30-year-old Amsterdam florist's speciality. But, by customer request, Posthuma also ties compact nosegays, and airy bouquets consisting of just a few long twigs and stalks: "For these compositions, you need to pay attention to the shape, to the outline. It should form a circle or a triangle. Otherwise, it looks inconsistent and boring."
The skilful tying of extravagant bouquets is expert work: "The only reason I can create something like this is thanks to ten years of experience." Because you need to arrange the individual flowers in your hand and keep them at a slanted angle, "it takes practice".
An additional factor to consider for tulips: they shoot upwards in the vase. Anemones, hyacinths and daffodils also continue to grow a little. In addition, with daffodils, you need to wash the slime off first. In flowers from the spurge family, such as the poinsettia, this can even be poisonous.
Which vase is the right choice?
When it comes to vases, Posthuma rates functionality above an artistic appearance. "What's more, unusual shapes are hard to clean and things can start to smell." And don't buy an overly large vase, "because it will then cost you a fortune to fill it." The ideal vase for opulent mixed bouquets is narrower at the top than in the base: "This helps the bouquet to maintain its shape." On the other hand, roses look best in a conical vase with a narrow base: "This gives them enough space at the top to spread out and show off their beauty."
But take care: both flowers and vases need to coordinate with your crockery service. One option is picking out a specific colour from the service and reflecting this in the flowers or leaves. "In the case of pastel-coloured crockery, a very soft pink, light blue or mimosa yellow." On the other hand, to create a contrast, you can combine pink shades with bright purple, violet and dark green. If the service has a bright, colourful pattern, the flowers need to create a feeling of peace. Select just one colour and alternate, for example, a vase of white roses and a vase of white tulips on the table:
"Two varieties are enough. Don't make it too complicated! Keep it simple!"
This will make them last longer and increase their blossoming period...
A sharp knife should be an essential item in your kitchen drawer, to ensure a clean, smooth cut. This will allow you to enjoy the vibrant floral display for as long as possible. "It avoids blocking the many small channels in the stalk that suck the water upwards."
The harder the stalk, the more water the flower needs. Guelder roses and roses need a lot of water, while tulips, daffodils and gerbera need just a small amount. It is best to use lukewarm water as this is absorbed faster. And because a flower's leaves draw the water away, leave only the essential ones and pluck all the rest off.
Tulips need special treatment as they are generally delivered with just a small amount of water, which means their stems are soft. You need to place them in paper in a bucket of water for a few hours first, to allow the stems to become saturated with water again and to harden.
To limit bacterial growth, in the absence of a sachet of powder, a few drops of bleach in the water with the flowers has the same effect. Secret tip: A few drops of Seven-Up works as well: "The sugar makes the flowers bloom even more beautifully."
For gardeners who love hydrangeas: don't cut them too early, otherwise the hydrangeas will start to wilt immediately in the vase. If this happens, you can immerse them head first in a bowl of water overnight to reverse the damage. But it's better if you wait for the right time to cut them: when the leaves are not so delicate and feel a little harder.