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I love flowers and have always wanted to be able to create DIY flower arrangements like the pros. From the early days, when I started following Martha Stewart for entertaining advice. She always made her own flowers, and I envied how easily she placed blooms in vases to create beautiful floral designs. There’s nothing better than fresh flowers in your home.
While I’m no Pim Van den Akker or Jennifer McCarigle, who we’ve featured on ICONIC LIFE, I have been able to create flower arrangements that have given me great joy. What I didn’t realize is that for an amateur like me, it just takes a little intuitive creativity, a desire to create and a real love for these flowering plants. Then, you just have to dive in.
I thought I’d share my tips here, because if I can do it, so can you!
For me, it started with becoming a student of flower arrangements. I would pay special attention to blooms that caught my attention and notice the symmetry (or lack of), balance and density of arrangements that I liked. I’d snap photos and keep a little mood board. I am a big fan of tight, dense arrangements that look likes balls of flowers and are easy to see over at a dinner table.
Then I started paying attention to flowers that I love—hydrangeas, peonies, chrysanthemums, hyacinths, lilac, tulips, heather and dahlias, and of course roses, especially the ones with a slight ruffled appearance.
Pay attention to the flowers that attract you.
ICONIC TIP: Start a flower journal to keep track of what worked and what you like.
By the way…did you know that there is a reason why we hear the phrase, stop and smell the roses? It’s all about energy and when you stop to smell the roses, that energy actually raises your vibrational energy! All of your cells are made up of energy and you can actually raise or lower their frequency with scent, roses being the most effective. Never pass by a rose without deeply taking in that beautiful scent.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THAT VASE
When I started, I used a globe-like vase every time. Now, I’ve literally branched out to modern, mirrored long rectangular receptacles to crystal water pitchers. I have a pumpkin soup terrine that has now become the vase for my annual Thanksgiving centerpiece.
Vintage and resale shops are great places to find amazing vases and containers for floral. Colored glass makes wonderful modern creations as well. I now collect vases, some of them decades old, but full of memories.
ICONIC TIP: I’ve taken to creating flower arrangements for family and friends as gifts, and everyone seems to know that if they return the vase, it will soon come back again filled with flowers.
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CREATE A COLOR STORY
I never really know what I am going to create until I get in front of the flowers. My favorite days are perusing the flower farms for blooms, but in a pinch, Trader Joe’s, my local gourmet grocery store and my everyday-shopping grocer offer a pretty terrific assortment of flowers. Get to know on what days the fresh flowers are delivered for the best selection and freshness.
I start by examining what looks fresh and full, and start pulling flowers, putting them in my basket to see what looks good together. Sometimes I like an all-white them with many different varieties, sometimes I like a strong green theme, and when the blue hydrangea look healthy, I’ll add purples and greens for a cool color story.
I’m also a huge fan of bright yellow flowers, but they have to be hearty, and not cheap filler flowers. Once I have my theme down for my flower arrangement, I look for greens to finish the look, and I’m off.
ICONIC TIP: I have my own flower buckets, and I bring them with me so I can keep my flowers in water as to not shock them while transporting them home without water. They are already shocked enough that I’m taking a break from my busy life to arrange flowers.
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
Now it’s time to have fun! Get your supplies ready and find the vase or vases you want to use. Fill them with tap water and add some flower food (a packet of citric acid, sugar, and bleach.) If you are arranging with flowers from your garden, lucky you! You can make your own preservative.
To keep them fresh, dissolve three tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of white vinegar per quart of warm water. When you fill the vase, make sure the cut stems are covered by three to four inches of the prepared water. The sugar nourishes the plants, while the vinegar inhibits bacterial growth.
ICONIC TIP: Soda, vodka and aspirin are also effective in keeping your flower arrangements fresh for as long as possible. Some people shock their flowers with cold water to clear the stems.
Lay your flowers on your workspace and prep them by removing the thorns and leaves. Extra leaves can decay and make your flowers lose their freshness fast. You’re ready to go. Ready, set, arrange!
If you are using a globe bowl or simply glass flower vase, you can begin by lining your vase with Aspidistra, a thick green leaf that creates a liner to hide the stems. I do this about half the time. Otherwise, I let the stems float freely or fill my vase with cranberries or marbles to hide them.
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When you cut your stems, be like a carpenter: measure twice and cut once. When you cut your stems, cut on a diagonal to allow maximum water absorption per stem. I start with the larger flowers first and just start placing them until I have a base. Then I keep adding the smaller blooms until my arrangement is tight, which keeps everything in place. Just add what feels pleasing to the eye. You are creating a sculpture.
If you are working with a shallow vase or receptacle, floral foam (wet down before you begin) will help hold your flowers in place. Insert your larger flowers first into your arrangement to create a base and just keep going until you can’t see the foam anymore.
ICONIC TIP: Your arrangement should be between one and a half and two and a half times the height of your vase for balance.
When you feel your arrangement is done, it’s probably not. Greenery and ornamentation can take a good arrangement to great. I like dramatic greenery that adds height or that gets tucked into the sides for width. During the Christmas holiday, I clip pine branches from my tree for seasonal greenery.
I like eucalyptus, bells of Ireland and ruscus leaf. Myrtle is one of the most common, but it’s bright green color works every time. I’m not a fan of the common leather leaf or baby’s breath. You can also add ornamentation like ribbons or pinecones or dried berries. And now your DIY flower arrangement is ready for prime time.
KEEP THE LOVE ALIVE
Your efforts don’t stop there, though. Be sure to keep your water levels up and when the water gets murky, change it. You’ll be surprised how long you can make an arrangement last with ongoing care.
The most important thing is to have fun and Live Beautifully.