FLORAL FOAM / OASIS

Hello! Yes, it’s been far too long since I last posted. I went through a period of lockdown blues, then Frank, my partner’s beloved brother, died of Covid, and then I too got Covid. It was impossible to find enthusiasm for anything other than biscuits.

As if that wasn’t enough, our wonderful labrador, Barney, had to be put down just before Easter. Yep, 2021 turned out to be just like 2020 – lousy. In 14 months, my partner has lost two brothers, two best friends, a mare and foal and his adored dog. And one of my best friends died too. So I haven’t really felt able to grasp the nettle of this blog.

But the story does get better, I assure you. When the first lockdown easing happened, I went up to North Norfolk – my nephew has a little one-room flat separate from his house which he keeps for family and friends wanting to take the Norfolk air. So I was able to have an entirely legal holiday there, meet my nephew’s adorable babies and get to know his fabulous wife, see my beloved sister who lives 7 miles away, and see my darling friend Olivia who was 25 miles away. It was during that warmish patch when spring arrived and so being outside all day was no problem.

And I can tell you right now, hand on heart, that it’s quite miraculous what four days with family and friends can do. I am still grieving, but I’ve got some of my mojo back.

Stop waffling, Dillie

Anyhow, I was going to publish this in time for Valentine’s Day but I didn’t. And then Easter and Mother’s Day slipped by. So I’m hoping this will land in time for all those May birthdays – and once you’ve read this, you will send birthday bouquets rather than “arrangements”.

Because you need to check carefully if those arrangements use Oasis®. Yes, it’s one of the unrecognised evils which we take for granted in modern life and it is made by those old friends of the environment (IRONY ALERT), du Pont.

(I should at this moment add that this piece was suggested by one of my readers, Shane Connolly who is a Floral Designer Of Great Note and thus knows what he is talking about. Thanks, Shane, I never knew this!)

I’m horrified to admit that I have used it quite a bit in my life. I love flowers in the house. I’m firmly of the belief that a jug full of cheap daffs can really lift the spirits. My mother, who loved a nice bowl of flowers, was a great fan and used tons of the stuff. It’s beloved by floral artists the world over and if you ever go to Covent Garden flower market early in the morning, as I have done many a time, you will see stalls where it’s piled high.

Here’s a particularly offensive bit of kit. These things are called “Connecting Floral Wet Foam Cylinders” – that’s Newspeak for “more plastic than you can possibly need”.

But of course, I had no idea that Oasis is actually a plastic – it’s produced by mixing phenol and formaldehyde with each other and then adding air, which turns it into phenolic foam.

In other words, the same stuff the building trade use for insulation on external walls. It has a low thermal conductivity which is good for keeping heat inside the house, and is very nearly non-flammable with negligible smoke emission, and a very low level of toxic gas emission. In other words, it’s an incredibly efficient form of insulation – an eco use of something non-eco. (Later Edit – thanks to reader Sandy Macpherson for reminding me that inflammable means easily set on fire.)

I’m not naive enough to think that we can stop all uses of plastics – it’s far too useful to humankind – but we can surely stop frivolous use of plastics, and using it for flower arrangements certainly counts as frivolous.

This pretty arrangement is likely to use both floral foam AND a plastic bowl. Ouch!

I’ve written enough on plastics here on the blog, but if you want to know what happens to plastic as it degrades and why it is dangerous, have a look at my piece on Saran Wrap/Cling Film.

But really, all you need to know is this. Oasis is plastic that crumbles easily – heck, it almost becomes a nanoplastic the minute you use it. Even if you try to dispose of it properly enters the sewage system where it is eventually washed out into the sea, into our rivers and onto the land with catastrophic results.

Flower arranging without foam

Yes, just search “flower arranging without foam” and you’ll see that it’s perfectly possible. There are YouTube videos showing you how, gadgets for holding flowers, and shops that sell arrangements.

And I made the wreath for Frank’s coffin without oasis. Before I show you what is possible from a total amateur (me), here’s a pic of the frame. The plastic cup was part of an arrangement that someone had sent me, and could be removed afterwards.

The glass of wine helps with all the boring knotting.

Then I put chicken wire in between the layers of bamboo which held the stems. Finally, as I wanted the arrangement the size of the coffin, I placed the frame on a piece of chipboard which supported the frame. Everything was reusable, in other words. Obviously, I hope I don’t have to reuse any of these for a long time!

Best of all, every single branch of greenery and every single flower either came from my garden or the gardens of friends who’d also loved Frank. And it was February too. Here it is.

Goodbye, lovely Frank. We miss you, you big eejit.

And goodbye Barney…

I always end with a picture of one of our animals, because they’re such wonderful friends; they gladden our hearts and sustain us through bad times. Barney was John’s dog, so I didn’t post so many pictures of him. But oh, he was a glorious member of our household for very nearly 13 years.

Dear Barney, Piper is not the same without you. She’s grieving still.

46 thoughts on “FLORAL FOAM / OASIS

  1. I am so sorry you’ve had a pretty awful year or two. “Things can only get better”, etc, etc are the most annoying sort of platitude at this time so I will stop with SORRY.

    Thank you for so eloquently highlighting the Floral Foam issue. Perfect approach and seeing what you (obvs not such an amateur as all that!) could do for a funeral, which is the hardest thing to do without Foam for most florists, was inspirational. All glory, praise and honour.

    Thank you for this and I really do hope we meet again soon. Even at the respectful distance of stage and (cheap) seat.

    With fondest regards

    Shane

    Shane Connolly

    Shane Connolly & Co. Unit 7 Latimer Road Industrial Estate Latimer Road, London, W10 6RQ E. shane@shaneconnolly.co.uk T. 02089644398 shaneconnolly.co.uk

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  2. I had no idea you’d had such a shit time, dear Dillie. I’m so sorry. I hope things start to improve for you and all those you love.

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  3. FYI, inflammable means “easily set on fire”. I know, you meant ‘nonflammable’. This is a great post and a perfect example of plastics that disintegrate and pollute. Thank you. Have you ever written about that ubiquitous soil conditioner, “peat moss”. I’m hearing that it is desecrating the bog lands and destroying plant species. I’d love to see a sustainable substitute recommended.

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  4. I just wanted to send condolences on all of the losses you have faced – what a truly shit time for you and your family. Sending you a virtual hug from someone who has missed your blog x

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  5. Thank you for sharing these thoughts; I am sorry you’ve been having a shit time, I think many have found the start of this year particularly hard. I hope now things will continue to improve, and there will be more joy and more flowers in our lives. I have got to know my garden better in the past 14 months. That, and dog walks have kept me sane.

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    • Thanks Angel, what a lovely message. I’m cautiously hopeful of improvement. I think our tour will happen. Cross fingers and all that. Stay well, meanwhile.

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  6. Welcome back to the blog. Things can only get better! xx

    And thank you for this – like you I never really thought about it. I will now though! Living away from family I often send flowers etc. From now on I’m going to ask for them to be oasis free!

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  7. Welcome back Lovely Dillie, Have missed very much your entertaining and educational blogs. So glad that you are feeling a bit better. “Shit you don’t need” ironically includes all the horrible stuff that you and your family have been through too! I shall NEVER buy Oasis again! My Mum used to use chicken wire and she also had a range of those old fashioned glass vases that had holes for stems in them, which you can find in charity shops OR buy the modern ones! I love your wooden and string frame…. brilliant! 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 Bye for now, Odette xx

    Sent from my iPhone

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    • You’re right about the personal “Shit You Don’t Need”! Bloody awful. But I spent the day yesterday in London wandering happily round St James’ Park in the sunshine with a friend I hadn’t seen in for ever and it did my soul good. Little things can cheer us immeasurably. xxx

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  8. Sad to hear about all your losses. Barney’s death reminds me that our animals are getting on a bit too. I dread the day when thy leave us.

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  9. I am so sorry to hear of the sad time you and your partner have had over the past year and for the loss of your loved ones. I’m hoping for better times for us all. We too lost our beautiful Barley who was a golden retriever last May so I do understand your sadness over Barney. I’m glad you still have your little Piper to cheer you up. Thank you for your interesting take on oases, I had no idea and have to admit having a chunk of it in the cupboard. I will not be buying it again!
    Best wishes to you,
    Anne

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  10. Hello there Dillie! I’ve missed you and your amazing blogs. Booked for next year in Newcastle – see you then (and you could sus out Pumphreys for some lovely loose tea – I use Assam). With returning to loose tea with your amazing advice, I am enjoying converting many folk to do the same.

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    • Ooh, that’s great advice. I don’t know Pumphreys but I shall seek it out. Cross fingers the tour happens this time – I’m a quietly hopeful that it will.

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  11. Lovely to have you back. Shit you don’t need is very encouraging. Thank you. And fun, of course. Very necessary.

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  12. Wonderful piece here,Dillie. Oasis is now out. All dogs definitely in, especially Piper. Nick

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  13. Lovely to have you back. I hope your mojo continues to keep you company. Love to you, your family and friends. Not forgetting the rest of Aida 😘

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  14. Thank you for sharing this Dillie. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had such a sad time over the past year

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sending massive hugs to both you and John. I too lost my 97 year old Uncle this year, how I wish he hadn’t lived so far away in Saundersfoot (you may recall Dillie I came and saw you perform in St David’s after visiting him for the day). I prayed he would reach 100 but alas it was not to be. But life goes on and as we head out of this pandemic I am reminded how vital human contact is and pray and look forward to the day when I can see you again. Until then keep writing and educating us
    Much love Jerry x x

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    • Oh, sorry to learn that. Losing anyone you love at any age is awful. Deepest condolences. And thanks for your lovely message. lots of love xxx

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  16. Dear Dillie love the article and I really believe we need to embrace the wonderful lives of family and pets although sore and sad short term keep giving us you thoughts … very best an Exeter fan x Keith

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  17. I have been made to reconsider my own actions so often by your blogs. I’ve not had call to use oasis that often in my life but at least I am armed with knowledge to pass on when I need it. Maybe the RHS and/or local flower shows should have a ban on its use to really spread the word on this!
    Sorry for all your losses. They’re never easy to deal with. Glad you are feeling able to move forward a little again and we can’t wait to come and see the tour.

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    • Thanks so much for that, Yvonne. So often I feel I’m whistling in the wind and then I get a lovely email like that. Best wishes, Dillie

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  18. I was just feeling sorry for myself because if the horrible weather. Given myself a slap around the chops after reading the dreadful a time you and yours have had. Ashamed of myself.
    Take good care of yourself and hope you come to Salisbury again. My back gardens free x

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  19. Really pleased to see this blog. Oasis has been a “bete noire” of mine for a while. Evil stuff! Problem is I have quite a bit stashed away and have no idea how to dispose of it. Any recommendations?
    Sorry you have had such a tough time. Hope the COVID did not affect you too badly.
    Best wishes

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  20. Lovely to see you posting again – I’m glad my comment on the previous post gave you a wee nudge as sometimes that is all one needs, is it not? Having just read your reply, I’ve now got G&S back in my head although it’s jumped along the same score a little to Katisha’s Entrance – one of few contralto solos that is actually GOOD. Musically so clever. I must watch the ‘92 Buxton or the ‘82 Stratford (Canada) versions on YouTube to resolve this as both are wonderful.

    Fully agree with you re: oasis (and phenolic plastics in general) – oasis being particularly just awful as it breaks down so easily into tiny little particles that get into water and soil and sit there for an eternity buggering up the ecosystems. Microplastics and all that. I must say, the arrangement you made sans the rotten stuff is absolutely beautiful – is there anything more satisfying than making something with one’s own hands and it being so beautiful (okay sure, Gaia did 50% of the work before you but you know what I mean!). I think we need a resurgence in those glass or ceramic “frogs” one used to get in posy bowls in which to stuff one’s stems and stand one’s stalks and shove one’s shoots. I have myriad in my collection of Vaseline glassware (green, mildly radioactive, utterly beautiful) but I use them to keep my watercolour brushes not my flowers – perhaps I might start using them as-intended more. I don’t tend to arrange flowers per se, I just jam 10 x 50p bunches of daffs into as many Le Parfait preserving jars as I can and dot them about the place, or whacking big aliums or sweet peas.

    Sorry you’ve had such a colossally shit 2021 thus far – but from the worst of shit, the finest roses grow, so hopefully things will be better in the coming months. I’ve just yesterday had my second vaccination and very much happier for it!

    Take care and keep writing – you’re so very good at raising ecological issues in a sensible way. Too many “ban plastics” or “stop using fossil fuels” extreme views that are just impractical out there (but nice ideologies and very valid) – you tread the common sense midline very well…oh bollocks the earworm has turned! Goodbye Katisha, hello Johnny Cash!
    r

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    • Well it’s been another long time since I posted but this time for more positive reasons, which I will include in the next post.
      Lovely to hear from you.

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  21. So sorry to hear about Barney. Loosing a pet is so difficult. I lost my darling Spaniel Bernard nearly 5 years ago & miss him so much every day. I too had Covid despite having had both jabs but I am sure it would have been a lot worse had I not had them. Just discovered your blog which I love reading. It was a real joy to meet up with you yesterday at the Kings theatre. I am Chris one of the archivists. I haven’t forgotten about the ‘Fullers walnut cake’. I have found the recipe today so going to try it out at the weekend. Take care & keep safe.

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    • It was lovely to meet you too. Don’t forget to send me the recipe for Fullers Walnut cake, though it will be hard to replicate that amazing icing!

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  22. This pandemic and its lockdown have had effects on people that will keep social scientists and psychologists busy for decades.
    I also have a blog on something I care passionately about (No New Wars) and was intending to post every day, but it has become so hard. And yet most every day there is something I want to say. But there is this huge wet blanket across society that drains the energy. A combination of relentless misery from the news, media that are not covering anything much because the researchers aren’t out and about and politicians that are as useful as a filled nappy. Without the normal human interaction we are not sharing and testing ideas, not inspiring one another, not validating our passions nor testing our arguments and ideas, readying them to fire at the world whether it be by blog post or by fantastically witty, scathing and satirical songs.
    Many of us have had a really shit time this past year or so, and that lack of human interaction has made it so much harder to bounce back. Being told to stay at home to bottle up the virus has also bottled up the emotions. Turned us into troglodytes. No, worse. Troglodytes lived in tribes but we’ve been under house arrest. House arrest hermits.
    And there are not many hermits famous for producing literature or music.
    Dillie, don’t worry. It will be OK, eventually. We outlived Thatcher, we survived Blair and we’ll get over this shambolic lot too. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, carry on carrying on, and keep building up that inner ball of resentment and anger that will eventually creatively explode into your next series of blog posts and Fascinating Aïda productions, I am sure.
    Meanwhile, if all you can do is scribble thoughts on the walls of your cell or paint small victories on the cave wall, so be it. They will endure and inspire too.

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  23. Ruddy ‘eck, you’e touring again! And you’ve already started. Ignore that soppy bollocks in my last post…!

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