Monday, May 6, 2013

Flower Arranging 101

Hello friends! This is the time of year when things get so busy and it seems like every weekend there's a graduation, or birthday, or shower, or wedding, and don't forget Mother's day! Whether it's a little vase for a baby shower or a surprise for mom, I thought this would be a good time to share a few flower design tips. I worked in a flower shop for years and eventually did go to school for floral design, so I've learned a few tricks I'm happy to pass on to you. I really think anyone can make grocery store flowers look like a bouquet right from the flower shop. 



I think the easiest way to make flowers look professional is to go with one type of flower. Daisies,  alstromeria or sunflowers are all good candidates and often go on sale at the grocery store. 


The best way to help flowers last the longest is to make sure there's no foliage below the water line. I'm sure you've heard that before, but I think most people sort of half strip the leaves.


If there are leaves in the water they start to decay almost right away making the water gunky as well as the stems. You really need to just go ahead and strip all the leaves right off. Doing this also helps the stems focus energy and water distribution just on the flowers, which will help them last longer as well.


Once all your leaves are stripped you want to choose your vase or container. I usually just use mason jars or any kind of jar. Be sure it's clean and fill 2/3 the way with water and the flower food that comes with the flowers. The rule of thumb for floral design is that the flowers should be 2 to 2.5 times the height of the container. I usually just picture another vase/jar on top of the one I'm using and cut the flowers to be slightly above that. If your arrangement is too short it looks like you just shoved the flowers in there, too tall and it's top heavy and makes the container look like the flowers don't fit.

Another thing that will help preserve your stems and allow them to drink up water better is to use sharp garden pruners to cut your stems instead of scissors. Because scissors are not as sturdy or as sharp, when they cut the stem they actually squish it , making it hard for the base to suck up water (just like a straw). You want a sharp, clean cut at an angle to expose as much of the white core as possible.


For a daisy arrangement I always cut off the individual flowers with the longest stems, like those on the right above. Since there's multiple blooms per stem if you don't take some off, all the flowers will be the same height and look like some kind of plateau. You want the arrangement to have a balanced, rounded feel, so if there's a lot of flowers exactly the same height, trim some off at the very bottom of the bloom's stem and use those to create the medium and lower tiers; like below. Put them in one stem at a time, not all at once. Some stems will have multiple blooms (if they're varied heights), others will be thin stems with just one flower, used to fill in gaps.


Make sure the arrangement has room to breathe; don't pack them in. In general for these simple types of arrangements you want the flowers to feel airy. Compare the flowers above with below. See how there's a little more room in the one below?


I did two arrangements here so you can see the difference greenery makes. There's two methods for basic designing: greens first or flowers first. I think when you are doing a simple arrangement using only one type of flower (like just daisies), it's easiest to do flowers first, then add greens to fill in. 

They sell packs of just greens at the store, so you can do that, or (spring through fall) you can grow your own. Garden herbs make great greenery! The greens in the lavender daisy arrangement above are lemon balm, which grows like a weed in our garden. Mint, basil, oregano, and even decorative grasses all work well. If I use a jar I always tie a length of coordinating ribbon around the neck of the jar to give it a more finished look. 

There you have it, flower arranging 101. Hopefully there's a tip here that will help make your next arrangement a success!

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

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