1. Pick the right vase or container
It should be roughly half the height of the tallest flowers. And remember that flowers are generally supplied on the long side, so that you have the choice of how short to cut them, but don’t be afraid to cut your flowers down to size, quite drastically if necessary if you have a perfect vase in mind!
Wide necked containers will create a ‘looser’ display, narrow vessels (or those that narrow towards the top) will keep things tighter.
Colour is important. If you’re after a harmonious, relaxed look, go for neutral colours in your choice of vase, or choose a coloured vase that complements or contrasts with your flowers. For example, greens, turquoisey blue and cream complement pink well. Cream or other neutrals with yellow. Greys and Blues with greens, reds, orange and purples…
Vase + Flower match-making
Bold, patterned vases are great and tend to work especially well with a single colour display. However if you have a colourful mixed bunch of flowers then the general rule is to stick to a plainer container. There’ll be plenty to keep your eyes busy, without a vase clamouring for attention too…
This all said, with a creative eye, bold, chintzy, clashy combinations can be a lot of fun and make a real statement too… so don’t be afraid to throw out the rule book altogether and mix reds, oranges, purples and pinks together, shades of blue, yellow with purple – anything goes so long as you like it!
2. Preparation is key
Chopping up any thing of beauty can be quite hard to do – but just like a clever tuck or re-hem can make a vintage dress find work for a new owner, so a good cut will make the world of difference to your flower arrangements!
Use good quality scissors (many florists use Fiskars scissors), or secateurs (available from garden centres, ‘Felco’ are the best – expensive but will last forever!)
Cutting is best done underwater, to avoid air getting into the capillaries in the stems. Cut soft stems at a slight angle, woody stems at 45 degrees.
Thorns should be sliced off rose stems – otherwise they can damage the stems of other flowers (not to mention your hands!). Do this with a sharp knife.
Don’t cut everything to the same length – you won’t ever see half of your flowers and it looks terrible in the vase!
Finally, trim off any leaves that will be under water to keep bacteria at bay and the water from turning murky.
3. Arrange away, but don’t be too neat!
It’s a good idea to work in threes, fives and sevens, for example select three big ‘feature’ flowers’, five middle sized ones and seven abundant flowers or sections of foliage for ‘padding’. Odd numbers help avoid symmetrical patterns forming, and help keep things looking natural.
It’s best to arrange your flowers in your hands before placing them in your vase, because this reduces the risk of damaging the stems and gives your more control over the shape that you’re creating.
Starting with your tallest flowers, work from the centre, holding your flowers in your left hand (or right hand if you’re left-handed!) and adding more flowers with your ‘leading’ hand as you move round. This way you can check that your creation works from all sides as you go.
Gradually decrease the height of the flowers as you move outwards, to create a relaxed ‘domed’ shape. Once you’re happy, you can secure your arrangement with an elastic band if you like, so that it stays in place – just don’t make it too tight, as that can restrict water flow and damage the stems.
If you’re not comfortable with the hand-tying method, you can arrange your flowers directly in the container. Arrange your foliage loosely first, largest, most upright pieces in the centre. Next, position your largest flowers, keeping them well-spaced. You will then be able to use the larger flowers and foliage stems as a ‘frame’ for inserting the rest of your flowers.
Many of us are used to pre-arranged bouquets these days, and don’t have a lot of experience with flower arranging. If you’re in this camp, it really pays to allow a bit of time for trial and error.
Try out a few different arrangements with the same bunch, in different containers…. it can be quite surprising to find what works for you, and you’ll quickly pick up the ‘knack’ of creating the look you like.
For example, play around with more or less varieties – sometimes it’s nice to keep things simple and go for just one type of flower – this creates a block of colour and can make a real impact. Other times you might prefer to mix things up more – this creates a more traditional, or cottage garden feel.
And don’t be afraid to re-organise flowers that come pre-arranged – with just a little re-grouping, re-sizing, or making into smaller posies, in a few minutes you can transform a ‘one size fits all’ bouquet into something that suits your own personal style.
5. Keeping it fresh
It’s perfectly natural for some flowers to last longer than others. As you discard stems which are past their best, re-arrange the remaining blooms into a smaller arrangement and display in a different container.
Have fun and enjoy your flowers!