Showdown: Foam vs. Chicken Wire
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Written by Jessica Reeves
Sustainability in the Wedding Industry
Okay REAL TALK: The wedding industry creates A LOT OF WASTE. Like a lot, a lot. As someone who loves nature, Mother Earth and most of all flowers, it can be hard to just throw everything away at the end of a wedding.
One of the things that contributes to a lot of this is floral foam. All those huge fancy events you see on Pinterest and in magazines are most likely created with floral foam. While there are lots of reasons why I love floral foam, it hurts my heart when I see it thrown in the dumpster at the end of an event. That being said, there are times when using floral foam is unavoidable. I’m going to break down the pros and cons of using floral foam over chicken wire and let you know when is the best time to use one over the other.
Wet floral foam is a go-to component for any wedding florist. The blocks are designed to absorb water and therefore provide a water source for flowers as an alternative to a vase filled with water. Floral foam is what allows florists to create gravity-defying arrangements as well as a way to attach flowers to almost any surface. As a professional florist, floral foam is an essential part of any wedding I work on for a lot of reasons. However, there are definite pros and cons to working with the material. Let’s talk about it:
Weight: While soaked floral foam can get very heavy- it’s a fraction of the weight that a large urn would be filled with water. Anytime you see a large container or urn- it’s most likely filled with floral foam or the foam is sitting in a smaller container placed inside the larger one for ease of transport. In every contract I’ve signed and every job listing posted for a professional florist a BASIC requirement is that you must be able to lift at least 40-50 lbs.
Versatility: Floral foam allows a florist to place flowers pretty much anywhere! The foam will become your water source for the flowers. Foam blocks can be cut to any size or shape which will allow you to place them in any container or space that you need.
Stability: One of the great things about floral foam is that when you place a stem into the foam- the foam will hold it in place! Creating designs with an organic feel are super easy with floral foam and make designing easy for florists of all levels.
Floral foam ISN’T BIODEGRADABLE!!! This is the main pain point here. Floral foam is made from a material called phenol-formaldehyde foam, and it’s one of the oldest types of plastic. It’s made by reacting phenol and formaldehyde with each other to produce the plastic. Air is then added to turn it into foam. That foam is treated with detergents to give it the unique ability to soak up water. As you continue to stick stems into the floral foam it increasingly degrades that foam itself, resulting in cracking or breaking and after this happens it cannot be reused. Essentially when florists are done at events, the foam and the flowers are just tossed in the trash. #sad
Okay now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of floral foam let’s talk about another option that also works really well – chicken wire!
Chicken wire is a great option for creating a structure within a container, especially one that has a wide opening. When I’m creating an arrangement, I like to work in a diagonal formation. I start by angling the stems across from each other so as I continue to build the arrangement the stems that I have started with create a grid inside of the vase that helps to support the rest of the stems that I’m adding- keeping them in the placement that I want. By inserting chicken wire into your vase- you’re creating a grid structure that will help you with flower placement! To secure chicken wire inside your container you’ll need to use waterproof floral tape to secure it.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of chicken wire:
Reusable: You can reuse chicken wire! Unlike floral foam- chicken wire won’t break down. The pieces you use in your arrangements can be taken out of the vase at the end of your event and then used again!
Sturdy: Chicken wire is extremely sturdy and helps to create a great structure that will help you achieve the look you’re going for in your DIY wedding florals!
Time Consuming: Since you’ll need to cut your chicken wire pieces to fit inside your containers and then fold them to fit- this might require a little more prep work than if you were to use floral foam.
You need a water source: When using chicken wire you need to ensure that your containers will hold water. While floral foam retains limited amounts of moisture so your blooms can keep drinking, when using chicken wire, your stems will be directly in water. This will also make your arrangements or urns heavier and more prone to spilling so you need to take that into account when transporting your blooms!
Now that we’ve talked about some of the pros and cons of both floral foam and chicken wire, there are times when using floral foam is unavoidable, such as when creating an arch arrangement. There are ways to create an arch without using floral foam but this is usually something that’s done on the day of the wedding with a team of several people – not something I would suggest tackling for DIY brides or grooms.
Here are some other alternatives to both floral foam and chicken wire:
Natural choices: Use pebbles, sand or gravel, marbles, compact moss or even fruit to support your flowers! You’ll want to use either floral water tubes or fill any containers directly with water with these methods.
Use a bouquet pillow: These are plastic pillows that you can tape to the top of your containers with waterproof floral tape. Instead of sitting inside of your vessel they’ll sit on top. This is a great method if you’re using clear glass and chicken wire and floral foam aren’t options for you!
Whichever method you choose to work with needs to feel right for you! But as the saying goes, knowledge is power and having all the information will help you make the best decision for you and your wedding. If you’re feeling unsure about one method over the other, I encourage you to play around and practice with both before your wedding! Getting familiar with both methods will help you figure out which route to go.
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About the Author
Jessica has a BFA in Art Education/Printmaking and her MFA in Studio Art with a focus in Non-Toxic printmaking. She brings 10 years of floral experience to her roles at Flower Moxie, having worked in Boston, NYC, and Newport, RI. We still don't know if she's a real person or a hologram but work keeps getting done.