"Flowers: The Complete Book of Floral Design, Choosing, Creating, Presenting" By Paula Pryke Rizzoli, 2004, $45 This is a stunning book. Flower arranging is a performing art for...

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This is a stunning book.

Flower arranging is a performing art for Paula Pryke, who runs a flower school in London and has been described as “florist of the millennium.” Her innovation and humor jump off every glossy, full-color page. Pryke never stoops to merely filling a vase with water and plunking in a few stems. Rather she twirls golden calla lilies and orange freckled orchids around the perimeter of a glass bowl, and sticks gerber daisies on noodly stems to rise like a gaggle of silly long-necked geese up out of a beribboned cluster of red roses.

She squeezes ruffled cabbages, gourds and spidery mums into an autumn topiary cone, and creates living sculpture from snake grass and heliconia. We forget how varied and truly spectacular flowers are until we see them used in unexpected ways that take full advantage of their textures, shape and color.

“Flowers: The Complete Book of Floral Design, Choosing, Creating, Presenting”

By Paula Pryke

Rizzoli, 2004, $45

I’m a junkie for flower-arranging books. It was the desire to have flower and leaf to cut every day of the year that started me down the slippery slope of gardening. I appreciate that Pryke’s glossary of favorite flowers includes easy-to-grow iris, hydrangea, dahlias, lilies and sunflowers, as well as hothouse orchids and anthurium.

Pryke inspires gardeners to cut from the garden with a fresh eye, for she uses familiar materials in new ways. Many of her arrangements appear exotic, but they’re crafted of nothing more than garden and florist flowers combined with fruit, pods, branches, berries, candles and ribbons. Pryke’s arrangements aren’t unusual just for the sake of innovation. She understands flowers, and is able to use each one to full advantage, making the most of its unique color and shape.

Thus, she reminds me of a skilled kindergarten teacher, lavishing affection and appreciation to bring out the best in each of her charges. She helps the reader to do the same, with a chapter devoted to technique, advice on selecting containers to enhance materials and a list of “ingredients” for each arrangement pictured in the book.

Valerie Easton also answers questions in Wednesday’s Plant Talk on the back of Northwest Life.