Almost everyone I know agrees on flowers. Nothing makes us feel quite as special as flowers do. Whether you are young, old, male, or female, flowers are just pleasant things to give or receive. And in the throws of winter, nothing else gives us quite the same hope of spring as a bountiful bouquet. The holidays are special times that we tend to share more with others, and flowers can make a get-together feel a bit more unique.Live flowers are more readily available than ever before. It is common to find live flowers and greenery in our local grocery stores, some drug stores, and vegetable stands. Many carry stems, plants and bouquets as well as common fillers like delicate baby’s breath and festive fern. Some of the larger grocery chains will actually put arrangements together for you while you shop, some offer pre-assembled arrangements while others simply provide you with the flowers, and you create your own arrangement.
Floral shops are plentiful, offering a wide selection of flowers and floral accoutrements including containers, floral wire, tape, and the like. Additionally, florists are talented, trained professionals who can provide you with a wealth of information. Many people don’t realize that a florist will sell you “just flowers” – not necessarily arranged or in a pot or vase. The do-it-yourself flower arranger can purchase all your supplies here, as well as flowers that are not “in season” or plentiful elsewhere. (If they’re out of season or rare, they always cost more, so keep that in mind.)
Flowers often come from friends and loved ones for special occasions. My belief is that I always deserve flowers, and I treat myself to them regularly. Maybe you do too. So you buy flowers because you know that you’d like to have them in your home, but other than putting them into a crystal vase that someone gave you for your wedding or graduation or an anniversary, you don’t know where to start. There’s help and hope, here.Let’s talk about containers. There are pots for flowers and vases for flowers, yes. We’re familiar with them. I have a few secrets though. Flowers can be arranged in almost anything. What about buckets, glasses, and mugs. How about tea cups or soup cans? Have you ever considered boxes? How about a cardboard cylinder that you’ve made from a file folder? How about a gift bag or a plain brown bag with rope handles? How about baskets? There are a million things that you can easily find and/or create to hold your flowers and make them more uniquely special. There are things that you have around the house that will help to enliven your floral arrangements. For example, ribbon. It’s the time of year when we have lots of ribbon around. Even if you’re the type that buys the stick on bows, you probably have some plain old ribbon laying around. If you are a crafter, you probably have some raffia, as well as ribbon with wire embedded in the edges (great stuff!). You might have some fabric left over from a project – we can certainly put that to work – and maybe if all else fails, you have some tea towels that are colorful and available for other uses. You may also have some small hat boxes that could either be painted or covered with a nice paper (wallpaper works well here).
If you like arranging flowers, you probably have some supplies like frogs (no, not the leaping green kind, but the flat on the bottom, needle bristles sticking up kind that hold flowers in place), glass marbles and green florist’s tape. Floral foam is essential too. You can soak the “bricks” in water until the bubbles stop, then you know it’s full of life-giving water for your flowers.Great, now look around in your yard. Do you have some interesting looking sticks, or evergreen or perhaps a bush laden with berries? Those are wonderful things to have at your doorstep. Plan to take cuttings and incorporate them into your flower arrangements.
With these materials, we are already on our way to creating some beautiful floral centerpieces for our homes and gifts for our friends. Now for the simple rules: flowers grouped together look better in odd numbers; 1, 3, 5 etc. and should be cut fresh under running tepid water to extend their lives. It’s also best to remove leaves from stems below the water line. That’s it. No more rules.
Before you purchase flowers for your arrangement, give some careful thought to your budget, the overall look you want to achieve, and how long you want the arrangement to last. Flowers have varying life spans, so for information on a specific flower, check with your florist. The arrangement types below will help guide you in the buying process.
- Elegant/Contemporary/Oriental Arrangements Use 1-5 flowers, all in the same color. Showy flowers like orchids, lilies, or peonies are best used here. Greenery should include large, flat leaves or tall dark green shoots. Accent with sticks. Flat dishes with frogs surrounded by clear marbles are excellent for this type of arrangement. Cut your flowers at varying heights ranging from very tall to very short. Place the tallest flower in the center, the next one to the right, the shortest one to the left of center near the bottom of the dish. Add leaves by filling in to the right and left of center, reserving one large leaf. This leaf should be self-pierced and wrapped over itself creating the look of a ribbon. To accomplish this, lay the leaf flat. Fold the stem end carefully up to within 1 inch of the top of the leaf and pierce it with its stem. Carefully loop the leaf over itself before placing it next to the shortest flower in the arrangement. Add sticks to accent the arrangements’ height, if necessary. Make sure the marbles cover the frog and that both are covered with water.
- Round, Simple Arrangements
Round arrangements should look good from any angle, and are popularly used for centerpieces or coffee table arrangements. Again, use an odd number of flowers, but in this instance the colors and types of flowers can be mixed. If you are looking for a casual arrangement, use various flowers and colors. For a more refined or upscale look, limit your color and flower choices to no more than two flowers, and preferably one (or two) colors. Vases can be
used, but shorter dishes with a frog or floral brick make a broader, bigger looking arrangement. On a piece of scrap paper, draw an inverted V. That’s the shape you want to achieve with your flowers. Again, we begin in the middle, by placing the tallest flower there. Cut the next group of flowers slightly shorter, and the last group slightly shorter still. Work in a circular pattern, placing all the flowers first. Don’t worry that they look skimpy! You’ll fill in with greenery and/or babies breath. Now as you fill in with greenery, start at the bottom. You need to completely cover the rim of the container and to do so, put your greenery in flat, but face up! This will take about 5-7 pieces of greenery. Work your way to the top, filling in all the bare spots with a combination of greens and babies breath. Voila!
- Rectangular Arrangements
These are probably the easiest to put together, while looking more difficult than they really are. First, select your flowers based on the final feeling you want your arrangement to have. Country casual might include a selection of Daisies, Brown-eyed-susans, and Sunflowers. A more modern look might include something from the lily family or even carnations in a unified color way. The trick here is to use floral bricks. I personally like to use trays for this type of arrangement, because they hold the floral brick securely and mimic the ultimate shape of my arrangement. Select a variety of greenery for filler, since the greenery will be a predominant part of the arrangement, and will help you establish the shape. Before cutting any flowers, decide how long you want the arrangement to be. A floral brick may be 10 inches long, and when you add 7 inches of greenery, your overall size is 17 inches.
See? This isn’t rocket science after all.
For these simple yet elegant arrangements, add the greenery stems on the bottom, creating a “base” for your flowers. Add the flower stems from the middle out, just like before, and follow what I’ll call a clockwise pattern for placing the buds. Noon, 3 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 7 o’clock, and 9 o’clock. Fill with greenery or small buds.
If you want a monochromatic look, use lemons, daisies, sunflowers etc. all in keeping with a yellow theme. Try adding a tall candle to the middle of the bowl and filling in with fruit and flower blooms. Make it up as you go!
Nature provides us with a plethora of organic items we can use in our flower arrangements. We’ve already mentioned twigs, sticks and rocks, but that’s only the beginning. For a more oriental feel, use less flowers and more natural elements like wood, large stones and pebbles.
The most unique thing I’ve even done as a centerpiece? Fill a wooden trough or a tray with sod (yes, grass). In the center, add 3 small clay potted plants (herbs are nice!). Then “plant” some candles in the sod, and you have a distinctive arrangement that’s sure to catch some attention. This is also great with small fishbowls filled with water, floating candles, and a few of your favorite buds (real or silk!). You can hide rough edges with more organic material like moss.
But now here are my favorites. I hope you’ll try at least one of them.
- Peel labels from tin cans and tie an odd number of them together with a large bunch of raffia. Trim your flowers just slightly taller than the can, so that they’ll fit snuggly inside. Casual, comfortable, homey and sweet.
- Group several types of clear glassware together. (Cruets are great for this too.) Make sure you have some shorter, some taller, small fatter or smaller, and add a single floral stem to each. Using either soft ribbon, or perhaps cording, tie a small bow around the rim and you’ll have a clear and simple display of flower power.
- Out of ideas and time? Need something easy and quick? Grab a juice glass from the cupboard. Cut a single flower, like a fully opened carnation or a gerbera daisy and add it to the glass. Tie a small twist of raffia around the glass, make a bow. It’s a wow look that’s elegant and easy.
- Loan your tea kettle or enamel coffeepot to your décor. Remove the lid, add a few spiny flowers like lilac or Cox-combs and you’ll be showing some country charm.
- On the same theme as my # 4 favorite is the white ceramic pitcher that most of us have, filled with bountiful, colorful eucalyptus. Fragrant and fabulous!
- One of my favorite arrangements is oh so chic now. It’s easily accomplished by placing a group of small flowers together in your hand. Hold the stems closely together, turning it slowly and adding flowers until you have a very full look. Then secure them with a green pipe cleaner or covered rubber band, and clip the green stems very close to the blossom. Add this to a small bowl or even a fancy teacup.
- Love those dark blue water bottles that many people just toss out? Scrub a few of them, add some water and some long-stemmed flowers for a casual but colorful look.
- Want your stems displayed in a vase but hate the way the vase looks? Wrong color, chipped or just ugly vase? Disguise it by placing it in a small paper bag! Add a ribbon to cinch the bag securely to the vase, and add your favorite wildflowers. Beautiful.
- Take a few of your favorite blooms, tie them together with a ribbon, and place them in a wine glass lined with glass marbles. The marbles will hold the blooms securely in place. You can add ribbon around the stem of the glass and up to the flowers for more support if necessary. Just tie the ends in a bow. Cheers!
- Using a plain file folder, cut off half at the score line. Roll the remaining half until it is cone shaped. Tape or hot glue it in place to maintain its shape. Next, cover it with wrapping paper, wallpaper, or my favorite, burlap cloth! Hot glue or tape your decorative covering to the cone. You now have a fabulous “container” for a flower arrangement. Your florist or floral supply store will have “votives” (not candles, but little bubble picks that you can fill with water) which will hold a few live stems, or use eucalyptus in contemporary colors along with some silk stems. It’s a wonderful look and extremely creative. If you want a fun look, use newspaper and a red bow. For a whimsical gift, wrap the cone in color comics and add a solid color ribbon. Great laying on a hearth or as a thoughtful hostess gift.
- Cover a hat box with fabric, paper or simply paint it. Line the inside of the box with Spanish moss. Add one, three or more live plants to the center. Prop the top of the hat box to one side. Lovely.
- At Christmas, I’m guilty of being repetitious. I have a large lowboy coffee table that’s rectangular, and the perfect spot for a grouping of poinsettias and candles scattered among them. It’s dazzling when the candles are lit. Just be careful and don’t let the candles burn down to the leaves. I like to splurge and buy the dripless candles for my candlesticks, and add pillars and the oversize 3 wick candles to the arrangement. Simple, flamboyant and timely.
Try one or two arrangements with some inexpensive flowers and then keep going. Whether you like all fresh flowers or a combination of fresh and silk, your décor will have an instant pick me up from our floral friends. If you’re working on a budget, which most of us are, then remember to buy fewer flowers and more greenery and filler to maximize your design dollar. And, as I’ve suggested before, if you see a photo or an ad of a flower arrangement that you really like, clip it and keep it. Chances are you can figure out what gives that arrangement the look that you love. Notice too that floral designers use a lot of greenery – both variegated and solid green – in amassing the flower designs that make us stop and catch our breath. Be creative, be imaginative – I think you’ll like the result.