One of my favorite design styles is the cascade or waterfall design.  As in its name, it has a form with primarily downward motion but with some curls in upward motion.   Gregor Lersch says. “Water falls down and splashes up.”  We teach this Art Nouveau inspired design in our Advanced One class at Longwood Gardens.  The Art Nouveau period from 1890-1910 brings a resurgence of nature as inspiration to the decorative arts with naturalistic winding lines and whiplash curves.

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Cascade designs from Longwood Gardens Continuing Education class show layered materials of contrasting colors and textures. Foliage includes shiny aspisidtra, feathery springerii, and graceful Italian ruscus. Flowers for the assignment are callas, lilies, chrysanthemums, anthurium, carnations, wax flower. Each side of the design uses different materials in a coordinated color palette. Student designs line the classroom counter showing a variety of interpretations using materials in different vases.  Students provide their own containers in some of the more advanced classes allowing for some varied and exciting arrangements.    Flowers in assorted colors add to the design challenge and beautiful outcomes.

Bridal bouquets in cascading forms are becoming more and more popular. Here tulips and alstroemeria combine with lily grass. Small pearl beads add a decorative touch and help to weight the grasses.

Hanging heliconia ‘Sexy Pink’ comes with its own cascading form. Here a glass cylinder covered with wire mesh holds heliconia, green banksia, ondicium orchids, and pink roses to complement the pink color of the heliconia. A woven rope garland hangs over the vase and passion vine weaves in and out creating movement. Flowers are from Green Point Nursery in Hawaii and combining tropical flowers and garden flowers is call Neotropica.

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When an arrangement is elevated on the top of a vase, a horizontal line can have a downward or cascading movement. Here two straight black dowels on top of a tall black vase hold purple lisianthus and tulip anthurium while curving and cascading passion vine winds around the horizontal supports.

I had great fun with the cascade design in the Philadelphia Flower Show, The Disney princess Rapunzel design was created with yellow packing tape and oncidium orchids cascade from the ceiling for the prize winning AIFD exhibit of Disney Princesses. Rolls of tape were put in place by cherry picker and tall stems of orchids placed with 12 foot ladder. My design partner, Theresa Collucci, of Meadowscent Flowers and I were very pleased with the outcome.

In honor of Gregor Lersch who was visiting from Germany, the show created a class titled cascade. Gregor brought this design into popularity with his books and classes in Bad Neuenhar, Germany. My design was a palm spathe on a metal stand which supported volumes of orchids, anthurium, and gloriosa lilies along with greens and feathery vines.


The year of Philadelphia Flower Show’s New Orleans theme, a class titled “All that Jazz” inspired a cascade of wildly curling kiwi vine with hydrangea, lisianthus, roses, and gloriosa lilies. There are so many times when this graceful design can be used. My students say that it is challenging, but I tell them that it is worth a bit of practice. The overall effect is graceful and dramatic.