While grocery store flower bouquets can be the most affordable blooms out there, they also present a few challenges because often no consideration seems to be given to color, texture, type — they’re just thrown together with no rhyme or reason. Though some argue that all flowers look great together I’m not taking that side — I think pink carnations don’t work with orange lilys, for instance. Looking to give that generic bouquet your special touch? Here are ten things I find helpful to consider when I’m arranging flowers…
1. Don’t be scared to break up the bouquet. Example: remove all of the carnations, cut the stems short, and group them tightly together. If I fit a somewhat chaotic blend of flowers I look them over in the store and decide how I will split up the arrangement, what will go into the bedroom, living room, etc. and then I know whether or not that particular bouquet will work in my space. When a bouquet has carnations, and most of the time they do, I remove all of them and group together in a glass bowl (for a modern touch) or in another modern vessel. Keeping all of the carnations together shows their beautiful texture and gives them a more current look. Same goes with other flowers like roses, daisies, etc. I often take a bouquet, lay each flower out on the table and group them according to type and then go from there or I sort by color and put the pinks and whites in one pile, reds and yellows in another, and so one depending on what room they’re going in. Of course I also create arrangements using a wide range of blooms, more on that below. Hint: For carnation inspiration check out: Beautiful white carnation arrangements at Apartment Therapy.
2. If your bouquet has a leading lady… (one rose, one bird of paradise, a single gerbera, etc.) try removing it from the bunch and place it in a single bud vase for greater impact. With a real stand out flower, I call it the ‘diva’, sometimes less is more. Some flowers simply don’t mix with a leading lady and others complement one quite well. Let your eye tell you whether that gerbera should stand alone or not.
3. Think beyond vases. Look at glass containers (Arizona ice tea bottles with those pretty labels), jam jars, teacups, tea tins, flower pots, consider anything that won’t leak as a potential place for your flowers. Have some fun!
4. Think in odd numbers. Group flowers in 3’s, 5’s, 7’s, etc. It’s a bit like styling a table at home, odd numbers in groupings just seem to be more pleasing to the eye.
5. If you feel like following "rules" the pros may tell you to arrange flowers in your hand first before placing them in the vessel. This is how I do it. I start by adding structural flowers first in the middle surrounded by others in a dome shape surrounding them. I then use shorter, filler flowers and greens to the arrangement to add interest and evenly distribute those for a full arrangement. This is how I learned (my mother was trained as a florist before I was born) and it works better than arranging them in the vase in my opinion.
6. If you’re arranging them in your hand… ALWAYS tie your flowers before placing them in the vase or else they’ll immediately lose the lovely shape you’ve created in your hand the moment you let them go. I secure the stems using almost anything from clear tape from your desk drawer (my floral designer friend just taught me that quickie trick for when you’re rushed), to floral tape, wire or rubber bands. If your vase is clear you can conceal your tied up stems by wrapping a large leaf around the interior of the vase.
7. Select a variety of texture and heights for your arrangements if you don’t feel like sticking to one type of flower. Think about when you decorate a room or get dressed, what colors and styles go well together? What speaks to you?
8. Cut your stems under warm running water, with scissors, on an angle. It will make your flowers last a little longer.
9. Use flower food and freshen up the water every 3-4 days.
10. And after all that my final tip… forget perfection and go with your gut! While you can buy books and look to magazines for tips (which I love to do) I feel uncomfortable copying what I see because frankly that’s no fun, what’s the point?
Remember, flower arranging isn’t about being perfect (unless you’re a pro and you are being paid to be the best), it’s about letting the flowers speak to you. No, I’m not the bouquet whisperer or anything, but I truly think decorating, floral arranging, creating art, cooking, while there are rules that can guide us — the heart and soul ultimately wins every time. I am often inspired by something that I see but that’s about as far as it goes. Maybe it’s pride, but I like everything I do to have the Holly touch. You, no doubt, feel the same way.
So when it comes to arranging flowers, loosen up and enjoy the process. Experiment with color, scale, variety, vessels, you name it, work those flowers ladies and gents!
Do you have any flower tips to share?
(images by holly becker)