Having fresh flowers at home is a little luxury we should all indulge in more often, don’t you think? But getting the flowers to look just right is something what mystifies lots of people. Simply plunking the tall blooms into a vase doesn’t quite do it. My wife Sara asked me to do the flowers for a baby shower she was hosting this past weekend so I took some photos to illustrate my tips and techniques.
It starts with the flowers. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy. I went to a local flower market and picked up inexpensive bunches for $3.99 each. The whole bunch only cost $38 and that was for three arrangements.
I originally wanted pale pink for this baby girl’s shower, but the pinks weren’t looking so great that day. I moved on to an unusual combination of apricot, pale orange and soft purples, in roses, dahlias and small wildflowers. The colours don’t match, they go. Having this type of unexpected palette really adds energy and makes your flower budget go further. Start by opening up all of the flower packages on your counter like I did above.
Next, think of what type of containers you want to use. Again, they don’t have to be fancy or expensive. The two milk glass urn-shaped compotes are from thrift shops. They are common 20th century florist vessels made just for this purpose, way back when. The taller white ceramic vase is a simple, all-purpose Ikea number that goes with everything!
Notice how I used regular tape on top of the vases? I use the tape to create a sort of spider’s web (not too dense) that helps hold the flowers upright. If you don’t do this, you need a lot more flowers to avoid a big floppy mess. This is a great money-saving tip.
Have good tools on hand. These garden clippers are great for trimming roses and woodier stems. The scissors are good for softer stems like tulips.
Don’t be afraid to trim your flowers! Most people think they have to keep the stems long and elegant. If you don’t have hundreds of flowers, your tall stems fall to the outer rim of your vase. Cutting them shorter makes for a tight, dense arrangement that is elegant and lush. Look how much greenery I trimmed from these few bunches! Don’t be scared, it’s how the pros do it!
Start with your tallest, showstopping flowers in the centre of your tape-web. This will be the tallest point of your arrangement and you can nestle the other supporting flowers in around them. Doing all three arrangements at once like this allowed me to spread my flowers out evenly and keep things cohesive.
Start making mini-bouquets in your hand of about three flowers at a time. Stick to one colour of flower so that you can ‘colour block’ within the arrangement. Don’t add all different coloured flowers one at a time — grouping is key. Trim these mini-arrangements and add to the tape-web, making each bunch shorter as you approach the rim. This creates a dome shape.
This shot illustrates the beauty of trimming your flowers short. One arrangement is shorter and tighter and holds together beautifully. The other has stems that are too tall and everything flops. Don’t worry, I trimmed them back!
Once you have your bigger blooms in place you can tuck in little, airy flowers in between to soften things. But please, don’t add the whole big branch in one spot! I like to take these branches apart and tuck little wisps of the flowers into the nooks and crannies. Here’s one bigger branch of tiny flowers separated in this way.
Once you’ve tucked the little guys in, you’re finished! Turn the arrangement around a couple of times to make sure it’s even with no bald spots. I always have a favourite side!
I like that there are a couple of crazy dahlia buds reaching up to give you a high five. It keeps the arrangement from being too serious and structured. So for $38 (with some thrift store/Ikea vessels), you’ve got a taller arrangement for the dining table, a shorter one for the coffee table, and an extra one for the front hall or powder room!
Make sure you take time to smell ‘em! Ahhhhhhhh….
1-11. Michael Penney