Experts always say that what they do may look hard, but is actually quite easy. Eva Monheim, who is astonishingly fluent in "the language of flowers," continues the tradition.

"People are always afraid," she says, "but there's no really wrong thing in making a nosegay."

In other words: Yes, we can.

Here's how:

Collect stiff-stem materials.

Lay them out and clean them up. Cut stems under water, remove lower leaves, and set in a container with lukewarm water.

Monheim likes holly, especially winterberry and inkberry, lisianthus for its bell shape and ruffled look, roses (often put in the bouquet's center), hydrangea, carnations, statice, Christmas fern, butcher's broom, baby's breath, and alstroemeria.

For greens, she likes Scotch broom, juniper (blue berries), Eastern white pine (tiny cones), incense cedar and - surprise - azalea, which has a warm rusty color off-season. Boxwood works, if you can stand the smell.

Use several stems of each item. A bouquet of "onesies" is a bit chaotic.

Doing a Christmas arrangement? Monheim says flower prices, especially red and white, go up in December. Use nontraditional colors and add sparkly pipe cleaners, raffia or ribbons for a seasonal touch. You can also swap greens with neighbors.

Monheim likes smaller bouquets. Elizabeth Kennel, the tussie-mussie gal from West Chester, makes tiny ones that measure only three to six inches across.

Holding loosely, add stems.

Monheim "feathers up" the carnations and roses for show, turning them slowly as she laces the edges with baby's breath.

Twist the stems on a diagonal. This adds style and holds things together. You can make a perfect mound, but Monheim spikes it up with ferns, burgundy berries and gold or silver twists or pipe cleaners.

Tightly wrap raffia around the finished bouquet. Cut stems to one length. They should stand on their own, like an upside-down teepee.

Pop into a vase.

Add water to enjoy now or skip the water and let the bouquet dry. Later, you can use pieces of it for Christmas tree ornaments or gift-toppers.

If you use water, change it and slightly recut stems every other day. Monheim doesn't add sugar or preservative. You can also put your nosegay into a big vase or bowl with colorful Christmas balls.

"You work with what you have," Monheim says, "which is why I don't throw anything out."

- Virginia A. Smith