Who said you can’t make beautiful flower arrangements?
Holiday tables just beg for flowers. Arrangements that exude the colors of the season add not only beauty, but complete a table’s decor.
For some, arranging flowers can be a challenge. But that needn’t be the case! Here are a few guidelines for creating flower arrangements that speak to your personal style, budget, and tablescape.
Step 1—Choose a Vase
I have a wonderful collection of vases of all sizes, colors and shapes. I can go from highlighting a single flower to hosting a dozen gladiolas in no time. It is important to match the vase to your decor and the level of formality of the dinner or buffet.
Depending on what look you’re going after consider these containers cum vases: watering cans, empty food cans (with or without labels), flowerpots (use a glass insert to hold flowers and water); canning jars; crystal candle sticks, teacups, wine bottles, chemistry glassware, wrapped box bottoms or baskets (use a bowl to fit inside for water and flowers). Or vases. Real vases work well too!
For this arrangement, I chose a very simple vase that has a “waist’ about a third of the way up. This gives graceful dimensions to the piece without making it too fussy or elaborate.
Step 2—Place the Filler
The easiest thing to do is to start with baby’s breath—the stems with hundreds of tiny white flowers that you can buy in almost any grocery store. This not only serves as a filler for the arrangement, it also works to “prop up” or hold the other flowers in your vase.
You can tell that I didn’t labor over this step too much. Basically, I grabbed the entire bunch, pulled the stems together and cut off about four inches from the bottom. This gave me the height I wanted, but also allowed me to go a bit taller with some of the flower stems. I was careful to maintain a rough 1:1.5 ratio of vase height to flowers (see “Arrangement Dimensions” below).
Step 3—Add the Greenery
Once you have the filler arranged to your liking, it is time to start placing greenery. I like an arrangement to look full and lush, and greenery helps do just that. It also adds texture (nice crisp holly leaves), color (green with spots of red in the berries) and visual interest.
I’m one of those who likes things to be off-kilter a bit. If an arrangement is too balanced, it looks formal and stiff to me. So I’ll often add a hanging or long wispy piece off to the side, or put tall flowers on one side and graduate down to shorter ones on the other.
Step 4—Add the Flowers
I designed the piece here to be viewed from all sides. That way, I can use it in the middle of my island; on the table between meals (it’s a little two tall to put between people who are seated), on my piano, or even in the window. I like the way the red carnations are placed in little “pops” of color, while the white alstromeria tend to create lines of color throughout.
Trust your eye and your sense of balance and style.
We live in a world that likes groupings of uneven numbers. This suggests you might want to have seven flowers, five sprigs of greenery, three secondary flowers, and an accent piece. However, if that doesn’t resonate with you, do whatever looks good! Quite frankly, I have no idea how many flowers are in the arrangement above! I just used all the flowers I had and that seemed just right.
- Purchase flowers and greenery with different texture and shapes — you’ll want variety in your arrangement.
- Cut off at least 1″ of stem of flowers, greenery and filler. This provides a fresh surface for taking in water so your flowers will last longer.
- Strip all leaves from any stems below the water level. Leaves tend to deteriorate and can cause water to turn brown, and can even create an unpleasant odor.
- Use the “flower enhancer packet if you wish. I have used this off and on for years, and have never really noticed that it made a difference in the arrangement’s longevity.
- Every two or three days, pull out any dead flowers and pour out the old water and add new. With a few light rearrangings , I’ve had centerpieces last up to three weeks (especially with alstromeria — it is really long lasting!).
- Arrangement dimensions: Determine the final height for your arrangement. Is the arrangement going to be on a dining table where people will be seated across from each other? If so, the arrangement should not be more than 12 to 14 inches tall, unless it is a narrow towering piece where the flowers themselves are above seated eye height. Are you placing the arrangement at the end of the table where no one will be seated? If so the arrangement can be much taller.
- There are suggested proportions for height of the flowers in relation to the dimensions of the vase. If a container is taller than it is wide, the flowers should be approximately 1.5 to 2 times the height of the vase. For example if you have a 12” vase, the total height of the arrangement should be 18” to 24.”
- If the container is low and wide, consider creating an arrangement that is 1.5 to 2 times taller than the container is wide. To keep flowers low on the table, you might use a shallow bowl that is 10” wide by 4” tall. In this case, you will want the arrangement to be between 15” and 20” inches tall.
For a cozier meal, seat up to five guests grouped around one end of the table with one person at the end and the others on the sides. This allows for better conversation, AND leaves the other end of the table open for a more elaborate “centerpiece” that can accommodate flowers, candles, blinking lights, ornaments, etc.