Flower Arranging 101

Something that always brightens my day is a beautiful vase of flowers.  I feel like sometimes I get tired of the decor in my kitchen or dining room, but once I get a vase full of flowers it already feels warmer and prettier.  We usually had flowers growing up somewhere in our house and my mom was very creative with arranging them.  She took a floral design class while a student at Virginia Tech and taught me the basics of creating an arrangement.

I was able to test my floral design skills around age 12 when I entered some arrangements in the Culpeper Farm Show  (yes, there is such a thing as a “Farm Show” and believe it or not I entered lots of things in it!).  I think I entered about 4 arrangements my first year and won best of show for one of them.  Growing up we got our flowers from our back yard, DaGa’s yard, or along the side of the road.  Some of my favorite flowers to use were Queen Anne’s Lace and Butterfly Weed which would require us to grab a bucket of water and clippers, pile into our Jeep, and drive up and down the country roads with our heads out the windows trying to spot a patch of these flowers in the ditch without getting hit by a car.

When I got to college I took the same floral design class as my mom (and I’m pretty sure I had the same professor my mom had… he looked ancient) mainly because I wanted a fun class and we got to take the flowers home.  I ended up not really liking the class because I felt we made more funeral-looking arrangements that were too structured and not very natural looking.   I think I learned much more from my mom than that professor!

Anyways, this past Saturday I was making my weekly stop at the NC State Farmer’s Market and decided to pick up some flowers.  There are always several cut flower stands to choose from and they generally have similar flowers and prices.  The bouquet above is one I got on my first trip to the farmer’s market when I moved to Raleigh, NC back in October 2011.  It contained sunflowers, fresh basil, and some small purple flowers similar to clover.  The best part is that it was only $5!  The flowers that I got Saturday were $10 and consisted of Zinnias, Oriental Lilies, Sedum (I think?), and some other flowers I have not yet identified. Zinnias are my favorite because they are easy to grow from seed, come in beautiful colors, and look super cute in an old mason jar.

What you need for a good flower arrangement are the following:

  • A tall, dramatic flower
  • Medium-sized flowers of similar or contrasting colors
  • Smaller flowers for a “filler”
  • Greenery (or leaves)
  • Clippers
  • A vase or container (I got my vase as a wedding gift from Crate and Barrel… it’s the perfect size!)

First Important Tip  – cut all stems to length at a 45 degree angle.  This increases the surface area so the flower can absorb more water and ultimately last longer! Even if the stems have already been cut at this angle, cut them again!

Second Important Tip –  Remove the lower foliage from the stems that might be covered in water when you put the stem in the vase.  If you don’t, it will start to rot and most likely decrease your arrangement life by a few days.  You don’t want to remove all of the foliage, just what might be sitting in water.

Third Important Tip – I think this is the most important tip, so listen closely.  Think in terms of ODD numbers.  For instance for your taller flower, use one or three , or five of them to get your shape.  If you use even numbers it just doesn’t look right… I’m not quite sure but it doesn’t!

So here I have my 3 flowers of visual interest – the sedum, lilly, and dahlia.

I put them in my vase and then add in the zinnias, using 5-7 throughout the arrangement.  Since this arrangement is for the middle of my dinner table and will be seen from all sides.  I want it to look good from ALL sides, not just the front.

Then I add in my other smaller flowers to fill in the arrangement.  You might be thinking at this point, “Wow this really looks terrible, maybe I should have just gone to the florist and spent the 50$ for an arrangement!” but DON’T!  It will look better I promise you, you’re not done yet!

Then add in the filler flowers.  Use as many as you like or have.  I still recommend using odd numbers.  You want to fill in the holes in the visual space of the arrangement and give it some type of shape.  Do not cut all the flower stems the same length.  What makes an arrangement interesting are when there are different textures and depths to the flowers.

Finally, add in your greenery, but not too much.  You want to add just enough to give the arrangement some depth and shape.

Once that’s finished, take a final look from all sides and trim stems that might be sticking out too far.  Add water to the vase if you haven’t already, usually lukewarm is preferred because it stimulates the flowers to open up more.  For best results change your water daily and the arrangement will last much longer.

Enjoy your beautiful arrangement!  Your family and friends will be super impressed and your bank account will thank you for saving money on this DIY project!

3 responses

  1. This is so helpful! I’m going to buy some flowers and try this one out today. I usually get so lazy– I’ll just buy the bunch and stick them in a vase. If they’re too tall, I’ll chop a bunch off. That’s my flower arranging for ya!

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