January 23, 2011

Create a Mardi Gras floral arrangement that glows with submersible aqua lights!

Glow in the Dark Mardi Gras Centerpiece

 Creating a Mardi Gras centerpiece or floral arrangement that literally sparkles is easy with the help of submersible aqua lights. These water-safe lights create added drama and sparkle. The submersible aqua lights float in the water of a vase or container. Even with basic greenery at the top, a lighted vase looks stunning.  Envision these lights at a seated dinner or a dimly lite Mardi Gras ball. The glowing vase is sure to stand out! 
White Submersible Aqua Lights
White Aqua Lights
What are submersible lights? These ingenious new lights are battery powered. The entire length of the lighted cord is safe to submerse in water. The small (3" square) black battery pack is not water safe, but it can be easily hidden either among the foliage of the flowers or behind the vase. The lighted strand is made of ultra-thin, flexible metal wire that has 36 tiny LED lights attached. The wire is approximately 9 feet long and can be bent into a specific shape to conform to your vase or container. The aqua lights come in two colors,  warm white aqua lights and gold aqua lights. The lights have two settings for dim and bright light depending on your preference.

Update (July 2011): Another version of submersible LED lights are now avaible. This less expensive version offers a smaller 40" of light with 20 LED light sources. It also has a new flashing light setting. To see more on  information of this submersible light, click here.

The lighted Mardi Gras centerpiece shown here makes a big statement. The lights are eye catching, but the arrangement is beautiful as well. With little more than supermarket flowers, this arrangement was created. Add in some simple Mardi Gras sprays, sparkling submersible lights, a beautiful mask, feathers and you have a show stopping Mardi Gras floral arrangement for a fraction of what you would pay from a floral designer.

How to create this glowing Mardi Gras arrangement:

Choose your flowers. Flowers in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold were picked. The flower color does not have to be an exact color match for these traditional Mardi Gras colors. Shades of these colors blend nicely with Mardi Gras decorations. In this centerpiece, a  lime version of green, a burgundy version of purple and a bright yellow were chosen. Basic floral greenery fills in the rest of the arrangement. The flowers shown here are from a standard supermarket mixed bunch. This proves that an elegant floral design does not have to mean expensive flowers. Editing the colors  used for the arrangement creates a uniform design and saves money.  The flowers we did not want to include were saved for a different arrangement (see below.)
Mardi Gras centerpiece flowers

Pick out a vase or container based on their height and shape of your chosen flowers. This container does not have to be clear glass just one that is not opaque so you can see the submersible lights. Colored glass vases would work as well. The vase shown here is large and tall, giving the aqua lights plenty of room. A smaller vase gives the aqua lights a more concentrated appearance. (See the gold tone submersible lights below.)

Position your lights in the container, with the vase empty. The lighted strand is a metal wire that can be bent to conform to the shape you prefer. The light strand can be put in the vase where is looks bunched or random. Or you can circle the lights around the perimeter of the vase. Once the water is put in and the flower stems placed, the light strands will move. It will not be a precise placement. Be sure to turn your lights on and test them before you begin your floral arrangement. Also think about where you will place the light battery box (in the arrangement, under it or on the side.)

Add the water to the container and place the flowers.
Balance similar flowers evenly in  the arrangement. Work with the rule of 3. Odd numbers of flowers or items usually look better. Start with the flower you have the largest amount of and work down to the one you have the least of. Lastly, fill in with greenery. Greenery should be around the edges of the vase and in the center, but it should never stand out. The flowers need to stand taller. The greenery should recede.

Green Glitxy Sticks
Add in some fun Mardi Gras sparkle. Simple Mardi Gras floral elements were chosen to not compete with the flowers, only accent them.

Glitzy sticks are metallic glittered sticks with a wire center that can be bent and shaped into any form. These glitzy sticks are sold flat. The ones shown here have been shaped into curls, crowns and stars. There are three glitzy sticks in this arrangement. These were formed into loose curls by wrapping the sticks around a small cylinder (like a broom handle.)  Slide the glitzy stick off the cylinder and you have a curl shape.

Mardi Gras Onion Grass Sprays
Simple, inexpensive sprays of purple, green and gold onion grass were added next. There are 5 Mardi Gras onion grass sprays scattered in the arrangement. The onion sprays can be used straight or you can curl them to add a little flip to the ends. The metallic foil will curl just like curling ribbon. Simply use the scissors to run down the side of the spray for as much or little curl as you want.

Green Feather Plume
Fluttering purple ostrich plume feathers were added to coordinate with the feather stick mask and for another added punch of purple. These feathers  so add a wonderful new texture. Five purple plume feathers were used.

Fantasia Mardi Gras Mask
Lastly to finish off the centerpiece, add this beautiful Fantasia feathered stick mask. Conveniently the stick on the mask is used to anchor the mask into the vase and flowers. The stick nestles into an open space in the middle of the arrangement, held in place by the greenery and flower stems.

To finish up the arrangement, turn on your aqua lights and make any adjustments necessary to balance the arrangement front to back, side to side, etc.  Rearrange the flowers, sprays or feathers as needed. The wire lights can be adjusted as well now that all of the elements of the arrangement are included.

 With your Mardi Gras arrangement complete, take a step back and revel in the glow of your submersible light creation!

Glowing Mardi Gras Centerpiece

As for the rest of the flowers left in our supermarket bunch, here is one last arrangement to inspire you. The red, pink and white flowers did not coordinate with our color choices, so we saved them for this arrangement. With a smaller vase and less flowers, the gold submersible lights still create a big impact.
Gold Submersible Aqua Light Floral Centerpiece

Submersible lights can be used in other applications as well. Try them in a clear ice bucket, beverage cooler or indoor water feature for a neat lighted look. Let us know what you come up with. Send your floral creations or ideas for these fun submersible lights to: Ideas@MardiGrasOutlet.com!

Links to supplies used in this arrangement:

January 6, 2011

Epiphany ushers in the 2011 Mardi Gras season today!

Carnival season officially begins today on Epiphany. Mardi Gras Krewes host parties to start off the fun. The tradition of King Cakes served at both offices and homes alike begins today as well. With Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, on March 8th this year, we look forward to many weeks of Mardi Gras fun in 2011.

Epiphany and what it means to Mardi Gras
Even though most of the themes surrounding Mardi Gras involve Bacchanalian pursuits like eating, drinking, and throwing things (beads and parade throws), the true basis of Mardi Gras is grounded in religion.  The Carnival season is dictated by dates on the church calendar. The start of the carnival season each year is signaled by 12th Night or Epiphany. Epiphany is the 12th day after Christmas,  the day the three kings bearing gifts arrived to the Christ child.  Some people believe that the true 12 days of Christmas (as in the Christmas carol) were intended to be these 12 days after Christmas leading up to Epiphany.

Carnival Season 2011
The start of Carnival is always on Epiphany (a date that does not change), but the date of  "Fat Tuesday" or Mardi Gras changes each year because the end of carnival is signaled by another date on the church calendar, Lent. Lent is the six weeks leading up until Easter. With the date of Easter changing each year, the date of the start of Lent and end of Mardi Gras changes as well. The Mardi Gras season is extra long this year with Fat Tuesday falling on March 8th. Mardi Gras is usually in the month of February. It is unusual for is to be as late as March. This gives us more weeks in the carnival season this year and more time to celebrate Mardi Gras 2011.

In honor of Epiphany and the beginning of carnival, celebrate with a king cake party. What a perfect way to usher in Mardi Gras 2011...king cake and  New Orleans chicory coffee.

January 4, 2011

How to: Create a Custom Mardi Gras Centerpiece

In a few days, Epiphany will signal the beginning of the 2011 Mardi Gras season. What a perfect time to start planning decorations for Mardi Gras. Creating a Mardi Gras centerpiece can be fun and simple. Use the 10 simple steps provided below to create a festive Mardi Gras Mask Centerpiece or use the basic steps to create your own themed centerpiece.

For Mardi Gras decorations, there are a few simple things to remember. The traditional Mardi Gras colors are: purple, green and gold. Mardi Gras decorations should be predominately these traditional colors. Also, the more glitter and glitz the better. Mardi Gras decorations are best when sparkly and metallic.

10 easy steps to create a sparkly Mardi Gras centerpiece:

Mardi Gras centerpiece box
STEP 1:  Choose a container for your centerpiece.
Here, we picked a fabric covered, striped Mardi Gras box. Ideally, you want a container that has a large opening so you can layer in multiple Mardi Gras decorations and a nice flat bottom so it sits securely. Placed in the Mardi Gras box are two standard blocks of floral foam. Use floral foam labeled for artificial flower arrangements, not the type for wet floral arrangements. Two blocks of the standard size foam fit snugly in this box so there was no need to trim or anchor them. If you need to cut the floral foam down to size to fit your container, use a knife or scissors to shape the block for your container.

STEP 2:  Add height to the centerpiece with floral sprays
Add an element of height to the centerpiece with tall floral sprays, picks or branches. We chose these two Mardi Gras curls floral sprays which added height and a sense of whimsy. Pairs or a group of  three creates a more pleasing arrangement. This pair of curly Mardi Gras streamer sprays anchored into the floral foam is situated on opposite corners of the box to balance the visual weight of the centerpiece.

Step 3: Add a focal point and center filler to the centerpiece.
A striking Fantasia Feather mask on a stick becomes the centerpiece focal point. The colors of the feather mask coordinate with both the box and floral sprays so the whole centerpiece is cohesive. To mimic the feather accents on the mask, a large feathery floral spray called, Weeping Grass Mardi Gras spray, is added to the center of the arrangement. This Mardi Gras grass spray not only provides height and filler, but also repeats the feathery details on the purple mask.

Step 4: Fill in the open base of the centerpiece container

Mardi Gras centerpiece supplies

Step 5: Create custom floral spray/picks out of  Deco Mesh
To hide the green floral foam and base of the the floral picks, we created fluffy floral sprays out of the 21" wide roll of poly deco mesh in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. We used the supplies shown above for these simple floral sprays (21" wide deco mesh, floral wire and scissors).

Mardi Gras centerpiece step 6
Step 6:  Cut the deco mesh into squares. 
Roll out the deco mesh and cut squares that are approximately 21" square. For this arrangement we used (6) six sprays of the deco mesh to cover the floral foam, so we needed 6 square pieces of deco mesh, two from each of the three colors. In addition, cut the same number of pieces (6) of floral wire. The pieces of  floral wire need to be approximately 16" long.

Mardi Gras centerpiece step 7
Step 7: Gather the deco mesh to form a floral spray
Gather up the deco mesh by the center of the square to form a puff or flower shape out of each. Wrap the wire around this gathered section in your hand to secure it into this form.

Mardi Gras centerpiece step 8
Step 8: Use the floral wire to create a wire stem
Wrap the end of the deco mesh to form a stem  for this floral spray. At the base of the stem, wrap the wire to create a pick for this deco mesh spray. This wire end will be the pick used to insert the deco mesh into the floral foam of the centerpiece. Repeat the process with the remaining 5 pieces of deco mesh.

Step 9: Cover the floral foam at the base
Using the wire tips on the deco mesh sprays you created, insert the sprays of deco mesh into the floral foam at the base of the centerpiece. Layer in alternating colors of deco mesh across the entire base until you can no longer see the floral foam.

Step 10: Fluff and arrange the pieces of the centerpiece.
After all the parts of this centerpiece are assembled, take a step back and arrange the pieces to balance each other. The curls of the wired sprays can be manipulated into any place and shape you prefer.The floral foam is very forgiving so if you need to move a piece of the arrangement, simply pull it out and move it to another spot. Be sure to look at the the design from the angle it will be presented a the party. For example, if the centerpiece will be displayed on a round table make sure it looks good from all sides. Don't forget this important step. It can make the difference between a good design and a great one.

At the base of the completed centerpiece scatter purple, green and gold Mardi Gras beads and doubloons. These Mardi Gras parade throws add to the festive feel of the centerpiece and gives your guests a little something to take home.

Links to supplies:

For Mardi Gras centerpiece options, see these links:

Use these 10 easy steps to create a custom Mardi Gras centerpiece of your own!


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