German master florist Gregor Lersch mixes classic greens and reds with tropical fruits for Christmas displays

Gregor Lersch, known for his unusual creations such as one inspired by his hair, says fruit and botanicals add an unexpected touch of red to Yuletide displays

This Christmas, spice up your red-and-green decorations with some unexpected touches. Instead of the usual suspects of mistletoe and poinsettias, the reds can be supplied by fruit such as apples and pomegranates, or other botanicals such as orange and red cacao pods.

If you want flowers, you could opt for amaryllis, a graceful funnel-shaped flower, and Christmas rose (helleborus niger), an evergreen that flowers in winter.

These are some Yuletide decor tips from German master florist Gregor Lersch, 68, a well-respected floral designer, teacher and author of floral design books.

Those who prefer a bit of edge in their floral displays would do well to listen to Mr Lersch, whose unusual creations are strange, beautiful and architectural.

His works range from minimalist artistic displays to large-scale installations of thousands of flowers.

Unlike most floral designers, who work commercially for weddings and fashion shows, he prefers to teach, write and create. Despite his "outsider" position, he has achieved guru status in the floral design world, with more than 30 years in the industry and over 25 books to his name.

He tells The Straits Times: "I'm not keen on a big team of 50 people working with 100,000 flowers. It doesn't interest me and it's not creative enough. It's just a masterpiece in organisation.

"I'd rather be giving 10 varieties of flowers a different appearance daily."

He was in town last month for a series of Christmas-themed workshops and an exhibition of his Christmas works, organised by the Nobleman School of Floral Design in North Bridge Road.

The works included a stylised "Christmas tree" - a minimalist, scarecrow version of the usual fir for the modern home. The basic structure was made using wires and candles and the entire frame was threaded with roses and orchids.

The school has a workshop on Tuesday on Christmas wreathmaking.

Mr Lersch's creativity has a certain impishness. A hanging floral structure with flowing wheat and upside-down amaryllis is inspired by his hair, he says. He has a grey mop and beard that seem as artfully tousled as his floral arrangements.

Unlike most designers, he dislikes forecasting trends or forging them. He says it would be easy, for example, for him to declare that this year's colour for Christmas is blue, when in fact the classic colours of red and green remain the perennial favourite.

He also tends to avoid fancy and pretentious designer cliches for his own home. For his Christmas display, he is sticking to the straight and narrow.

"If I say, this year, my home has lovely Mediterranean greens with turquoise glass elephants, people will say, ah, he is a designer," he says. "But I will just have something green with fruit and candles. It is very organic and pure."

This is not his first time in Singapore. Over the years, he has come here to conduct courses and do floral demonstrations. He was also one of the winners at the inaugural Singapore Garden Festival in 2006, with his dramatic floral display of Images Of Orchids Large And Small.

The 10-by-5m horizontal layout of orchids - which he described then as "uniquely Singapore" - won Best Of Show in the Floral Windows To The World section.

From the age of 14, Mr Lersch has had an interest in architecture and enjoyed working with iron, steel and other metals.

Coming from a "green family", he is the fifth generation of a family of gardeners. He decided to pursue his passion when he met his flower design teacher at the age of 18 and started with styling for commercial productions and winning competitions.

Now, the father of three is internationally sought after to conduct demonstrations and classes, as well as to attend conventions on floral design and horticulture. His 59-year-old wife is a pharmacist turned florist.

Although he is constantly surrounded by flowers, he is hardpressed to pick his favourite.

He says: "If I'm standing in front of a pond of white lotus flowers in China, they would be my favourite. If I'm looking at the 200-year-old varieties of peony in my garden, then those would be my favourite flowers. Or, if I see a cactus blooming in Mexico - that is also a dear flower."

•For more information on the workshop at the Nobleman School of Floral Design, call 6296-3977 or go to www.facebook.com/noblemanschool

•Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ


Try making these floral displays inspired by Gregor Lersch

CHRISTMAS FLORAL ARRANGEMENT

What you need

•Plant material: cornus (a type of woody plant in the family Cornaceae, commonly known as dogwoods); sliced pine branch (as the candle holder); pine cones; star anise; rose hip; calla lily; amaryllis; anthurium (also known as flamingo flower); and scabiosa (from the honeysuckle family)

• Wires

• Clippers and scissors

• Wooden stars decoration

• Candle

Method

1. Construct a floral structure using the cornus. Snip off two straight, equal parts of the cornus and attach with a wire to one of the main branches. This creates a "stand" to support the structure.

2. Add wires along the structure to hold the flowers and secure the sliced pine branch to the stand.

3. Add the accessories - pine cones, star anise, rose hip and wooden stars - and secure with a wire.

4. Add the calla lily and amaryllis, such that the end of the flower stem is secured at the stand.

5. Finally, add the anthurium and scabiosa, and melt the candle at its base to stick it to the pine branch.


CHRISTMAS WREATH

What you need

• Ring-shaped floral foam, 25cm in diameter

• Glass-rimmed cake stand, 27cm in diameter

• 4 to 8 long red candles

• Wires

• Clippers and scissors

• Plant material: noble pine fir; pine cones; rose hip; red roses; mimosa; dried round chillies

• Star decorations

Method

1. Place ring-shaped floral foam onto the cake stand.

2. Twine wires around the base of the candles and insert the candles into the foam.

3. Insert pieces of the noble pine fir into the foam, arranging them around the candles. Ensure you cover the foam completely.

4. Twine the base of the pine cones with wires, then add them to the foam in between the noble pine fir. Also add the rose hip, roses and mimosa. To finish, add the dried round chillies and star decorations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'Get fresh with fruit, says master florist'. Print Edition | Subscribe