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Detail of Caramel Apple-Almond Crepes

Caramel Apple-Almond Crepes

A great dish for dessert or breakfast, these filled crepes are quick and easy to make, full of wonderful flavor, and make any occasion special.

Flower Arranging 101 - 10 Tips for Better Flower Arrangements

by Wen Zientek-Sico

We work with flowers a lot and have discovered a few tips and tricks to help make our lives easier when working flowers. Discover our tips for helping your flowers last longer, look better, work better, and cost less...all while saving you tons of precious time.

Flower Arranging 101 - 10 Tips for Better Flower Arrangements

Use your gut instinct and forget the rules.

You can read dozens or even hundreds of articles and books about floral arranging, but you will automatically know what will be most pleasing to your eye. If the book says "Never mix purple and orange flowers together" and you like purple and orange together, mix them together. It might not be an arrangement everyone will love, or a good choice for a bridal bouquet, but it if appeals to you it will work for you. Every time I have known that a specific flower would be wonderful in an arrangement and waffled because "the rules" say it shouldn't go…it has been fabulous. Go with your gut feelings and you will not be disappointed.

Cluster small flowers in groups.

I waffle back and forth on this tip and think that while it is not a hard and fast rule, it is good advice for many situations. Small flowers, particularly in large arrangements tend to get lost…both figuratively and literally. By figuratively, I mean that sometimes a small bloom will be overwhelmed by larger or more assertive blooms. By literally, I mean that I have often had single diminutive blooms sink below arrangements or be covered by larger flowers. They are also hard to grab and reposition. By grouping smaller blooms in groups they are easier to handle and make a more distinctive impression. You can cluster flowers loosely by just arranging them close to each other, or actually bundle them together with ribbon, rubber bands, floral wire, or floral tape.

A frog is your friend.

While the invention of floral foam caused floral frogs to almost fade into the background, I prefer them to floral foam for almost every type of arrangement. Why? Well, a few things really. I have had many a stem break or snap while trying to slide it into floral foam, which can really hurt an arrangement when you are dealing with a limited number of flowers. I like to move things around a lot when making formal arrangements, and with floral foam, not only is that sometimes hard to do, but I have actually managed to totally demolish a block of foam a time or two. Many florists also believe that while foam is inexpensive and convenient for "giveaway" arrangements, it actually impairs the ability of the floral stems to absorb water and nutrients and shortens their life. My other two reasons are more personal. The first is that frogs are reusable and require less waste and less cost over time…something which is always a large concern for me. The second consideration is that I think floral frogs are cool and like collecting them. They are very inexpensive and come in hundreds of different styles, shapes, colors, and sizes.

detail of spider mum in a teacupA single flower is a beautiful flower.

Everywhere you look it seems all you see are big and even bigger floral arrangements. Some of them are even downright scary! But little arrangements have their place too, especially the littlest of them all…a single stem. While a single rose or other flower in a bud vase is always elegant, I use single blooms in a wide variety of places in many different ways. I place single blooms in tiny vases and containers, float smaller blooms in wineglasses, teacups, or other small containers, and float larger blooms in bowls or other wide containers. Sometimes a single bloom can be the most elegant and distinctive arrangement in a room full of other arrangements. I frequently fill a room or even several rooms full of single flower arrangements. They are simple, elegant, and in the cases of orchids and other expensive flowers, easy on the budget.

Think beyond vases when looking for a container.

I am sure that if you are a frequent visitor to the site you have noticed that I am not afraid of placing a floral arrangement in a container that is not a typical vase. There are many reasons for this… Most importantly, I like flower arrangements that are unique and using a unique container makes that very easy to do. I also find that it is much easier to find a wide selection of possible arrangements when I can choose from hundreds of containers in my house versus the twenty or so vases I have. Using other containers regularly cuts down on my need for more vases, which helps with my storage problems in our small house. If I use a compote or mixing bowl to hold an arrangement, I can use that compote or mixing bowl for other uses later on, while a vase is pretty much used for only two purposes…decoration and holding flowers. Consider any open container for holding flowers. Even items that won't hold water can be used as vases simply by placing a smaller vase, bottle, or other container inside it.

Always cut flowers with a sharp knife or pair of scissors.

A very common mistake I see people making is using a dull pair of scissors or cutting knife…or even worse their fingers…to "cut" flowers either in the garden or when trimming them to fit into an arrangement. A sharp edge is needed to make a sharp even cut that will allow water to enter the flower stems. A ragged edge actually inhibits water and food absorption and will make your flowers fade faster.

detail of miniature mauve mums in a mini wine glassKeep your flowers in a cool location.

There are few things prettier than a bright bouquet of flowers in a sparkling crystal vase set in a sunny location. But as pretty as that flower arrangement is, it won't last long at all in such a warm environment. The cooler the location, the longer your flowers will last. Keeping flowers away from direct sunlight, large lights, heating vents, heaters, active fireplaces, stoves, and even appliances will help them last longer. If you just have to keep an arrangement in a warm location change the water frequently using very cold water and even add an ice cube or two to the arrangement every so often and your flowers will last longer.

Remember that flowers smell.

I know, you are completely aware that many flowers smell. My point is that you need to keep the scent of flowers in mind when you are making arrangements. Most of my horror stories about flowers and entertaining come from scented blooms. I have heard of many a dinner party where the table centerpiece was so strongly scented that every dish tasted like the flowers and have seen party guests made sick by the strong scents of gardenias or lilies in a small or hot room. Remember that even pleasantly scented flowers can be problematic in tight quarters, hot rooms, or on the dinner table. On the opposite side of pleasant smelling flowers lie what we affectionately call "the stinkers". Some flowers just don't smell good, or don't smell good to other people. A flower that smells mildly unpleasant in the garden or florists shop might smell very unpleasant when arranged in a small room or when all you can smell is the flower arrangement.

Watch your water.

I have to freely admit that this is one area that I have been known to slack a bit on myself, to the detriment of my floral arrangements. Flower arrangements are not static. You shouldn't just make them and ignore them…and then expect them to flourish. With clear vases, problems are a bit more obvious…if you are out of water or if the water is cloudy (which is a sign of a bacteria infestation and means you need to clean your vase and change your water) it practically jumps out at you. With opaque vases or other containers it is much harder and you to be a bit more careful about checking the arrangement frequently. I have had seemingly innocuous arrangements suck up water by the gallon and bacteria flourish in just hours, both of which can be deadly to your arrangement.

Flower arrangements don't have to be "perfect".

We are bombarded with images of huge, gorgeous bouquets of perfect flowers in stunning vases on the pages of magazines and in television shows and movies. What you don't realize is that many of those arrangements use hundreds of flowers and cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Yikes! When it comes time to make your arrangements at home it can be almost scary and disappointing, especially when you are working on a limited budget. My suggestion? Forget the extravagant arrangements. While they might be nice for very formal occasions, smaller arrangements can have just as much, if not more, appeal, charm, and beauty. As long as you like the arrangement, and as long as it makes you happy, it is indeed a "perfect" arrangement.

Additional Resources

Arranging Flowers : How to Create Beautiful Bouquets in Every Season : The Best of Martha Stewart LivingArranging Flowers : How to Create Beautiful Bouquets in Every Season : The Best of Martha Stewart Living
- By Martha Stewart and The Editors of Martha Stewart Living

One of the best and most beautiful books about floral arranging that is actually quite approachable and easy to use. The instructions and reference part of the book is very well written and informative, and the photo section is truly done beautifully. If you like the floral designs found in Martha Stewart Living you will love the entire book…if the arrangements are normally a bit impractical for you, you will only love the reference part of the book.

Flowers A to Z : Buying, Growing, Cutting, ArrangingFlowers A to Z : Buying, Growing, Cutting, Arranging
- By Cecelia Heffernan

An excellent resource that will educate you on how to buy or grow flowers, take care of them, prepare them, and, of course, arrange them quickly and easily. A great, easy to follow resource that is full of useful information, this book will quickly become your flower arranging handbook. Includes excellent information about individual flowers and makes picking and choosing flowers for a cutting garden or an arrangement almost foolproof. From agapanthus to zinnia, this book will have you covered.

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