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Delicious Design

Floral designer incorporates confection into conventional bouquets.

Laura Dowling wants valentines to think outside of the box this year — specifically, that long white rectangular one that stifles creative floral design.

"Valentine's Day flowers don't have to be delivered in a formal box," said Dowling, an Alexandria-based floral designer.

This year, Dowling — an renowned expert in using traditional French techniques in floral bouquets and arrangements — decided to incorporates some unusual additions into her Valentine's Day designs. "The whole idea was to use some flowers and things from the grocery store or craft store that people can do on their own," she said.

The results capture the whimsy, if the not the commercial spirit, of V-Day: multi-colored candy hearts, marshmallow Peeps or foil-covered chocolate KISSES surrounding vases of matching flowers. the arrangements are done in a French style with a monochromatic color scheme and small, compact arrangements. "The traditional Valentine's candies are the candy hearts, but if you go to any drug story or grocery store now they're filled with different varieties — the chocolate KISSES now come in all different colors," she said.

One of her goals with this design was to create something beautiful that could be constructed on a budget by anyone for the holiday. "This time of year, the flower prices — especially rose prices — go through the roof. In general, a dozen roses is going to cost $70-90, but if you go to a place like Shopper's or Safeway you can get a bunch for under $10 and candy for $1 a bag," she said.

These arrangements can be constructed using a 4-inch square glass cube covered in foil to match the candy, which is attached to the vase with a hot glue gun. Place some floral foam inside the cube along with some flowers to match the color scheme.

"I would recommend doing this project a day ahead — making the bouquets should last about an hour, and [they] should last for about a week," she said.

More of Dowling's work can be seen on her Web site, www.lauradowling.com. Dowling will be a featured speaker at the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show on Sunday, March 4 at 2 p.m. She will be giving a talk called "The French Bouquet--Deconstructed: Lessons from L'Ecole des Fleurs." More information about the show can be found at www.theflowershow.com.