As promised yesterday, I’m very excited to share the tips and perspectives on flower arranging by the very creative and very savvy Ms. Lujo. She got her start in floral arranging by joining the “Flower Guild” at her church, and with a little patience and practice, learned the basics of arranging so that she now does arrangements for social functions and friends (including my own very fabuloso safari themed baby shower – more on that to come!).
Here is the insider’s perspective on the in’s and out’s of making flowers look good at home! Enjoy!
When you started wtih the Floral Guild, did you think you would be surrounded by “purple-haired ladies” potting poinsettias?
Unsurprisingly, the flower guild is made up [mostly] of “mature” women. That said, there are a few of us that are younger, and one of my younger friends from flower guild is actually very experienced in flower design and does the flowers for lots of fundraising events around DC as well as weddings.
What’s the most valuable lesson when it comes to arranging flowers?
Oh, boy. I don’t know about the most valuable lesson. I think it is important to remember to include greenery or other filler – it will make your flowers pop more. More isn’t always more, you want to be able to notice a really beautiful bloom in an arrangement. Also don’t be afraid that you are going to mess anything up – these are flowers, and they look great no matter what you do to them.
Where do you go to for inspiration?
Since I am not terribly skilled in arranging and am usually not a big planner when it comes to my arrangements – I go to the flower wholesaler or Eastern Market [my two favorite flower sources] for inspiration. I usually buy whatever I think looks good that day – I look for blooms that will last the longest and open at the right time. Then I decide what my color scheme is and the number and size of arrangements I want – one high arrangement and two low for example. I usually bring it all home and sort of play with it until it works for me or my guests have arrived, whichever comes first. I have never been able to look at a picture of an arrangement in a magazine and recreate it, nor have I tried. I have a whole new respect now for florists that are able to do that well.
What do you need for a good home floral arrangement? Do you really need foam or a frog? What if you don’t have access to buckets and buckets of flowers?
At home I tend to do simple arrangements that will last a long time. This means avoiding particularly delicate blooms [unless I am only concerned about having an arrangement last through dinner or a party]. In the spring I love to use flowering branches because they last a long time and are nice and tall. In the winter you can do a lot with greens, which also last a long time, and a few red blooms and berries to brighten the arrangement. Cabbage flowers and other big, sturdy pieces give you great texture and depth.
I don’t use a frog, but I will sometimes use foam bricks [oasis]cut into small wedges when I am making a large arrangement at home. Oasis is great, but it takes a while to fully soak and doesn’t look very nice when you can see it in the bottom of a glass vase. More often I make a grid [like a tic-tac-toe board] over the top of the vase with floral tape or even scotch tape and use that to keep the flowers in place. That said, most home arrangements don’t require anything to keep flowers in place because they are smaller and you are hand placing things.
Other than that, you will need a few low containers and a few high containers. My favorite ones are inexpensive low glass cubes and a high glass cylinder. I find that most arrangements I make at home look great in one of the two of those. You will also need a good pair of clippers to cut the stems after you purchase them and to get the length/height you want for your arrangement.
As far as access to flowers – work with what you’ve got. In some ways having narrower selection allows you to really be creative. Having too much to choose from can be overwhelming. If you have a narrower selection it is probably because you are only seeing what is in season – that is probably the best quality stuff and what you want to be working with anyway
Best arrangement on a budget?
I think the best arrangement on a budget is the most simple. Usually for me this means a monochrome arrangement. If you are buying inexpensive flowers [even carnations] you can afford more of them and they look quite nice in large bunches; they can actually look very chic when they are paired with a few nicer blooms of the same color.
Any floral faux pas the amateur should avoid?
I think the great thing about amateur flower arranging is that anything goes! This isn’t always the case in church, where you have to arrange in concert with the church calendar and account for feast days. I’m sure if you are doing formal arrangements for high-end events where the pure volume of flowers overwhelms there are also some rules of thumb, like making sure you aren’t killing people with certain scents. But arranging on a small scale really allows you a lot more flexibility – do what you like!
How do you take care of your arrangement at home?
I usually change the water after two days and I always put a few drops of bleach [yes, bleach!] in the water to keep it from getting green and stinky. Don’t worry, if you just use a bit it won’t kill the flowers – it will actually make them last longer! Wrapping leaves around the inside of the vase to hide stems looks nice for a day or so, but then they start to rot in the water. While I might do this for a one day event or occasion, I usually try to avoid it at home for longer-lasting arrangements. I also pull blooms out as they die or wither, a smaller arrangement of the most hearty blooms will often last several days longer than the full arrangement.
What’s the best way to a great floral arrangement when you have guests on the horizon? (ie. what’s the best way to arrange something pretty for the home that you know others will see?)
It is nice to have flowers throughout the house when you are expecting guests. What I will often do is buy enough flowers that all work together and make one large arrangement, usually downstairs in the living room or dining room. I use the remnants of that arrangement in the bedrooms – sometimes just a single bloom in the guestroom. Fresh flowers are one of those little luxuries that you really notice. You don’t have to have a huge arrangement, a little goes a long way.
Pictures below of Ms. Lujo in action, her flower supplies and finished goods for her office Christmas party. Note the very chic Mariniere she’s sporting!