Elegant, Exquisite, Easy Flower Arrangements
Flower Arranging 101
1. Create a foundation with foliage. This is the framework for the arrangement. Build a pleasing, asymmetrical shape that leans on the lip of the vase and has a high point in back. Make sure it’s not too thick, so there’s room for the flowers.
2. Add large “face” flowers, cutting stems at different lengths so some blooms nestle low and others extend. The crisscrossed foliage stems in the vase work like webbing to hold flowers where you want them. Take your time, experimenting until it looks good.
3. Weave in wispy elements, like climbing flowering vines or ferns, in three strategic spots: up high on one side, down low (spilling out of the vase), and in the middle, as if they’ve pushed their way through a cluster of larger blooms.
How to Make a Mixed Bouquet
Note: These arrangements can easily be replicated with different flowers. See the Mix-and-Match Chart.
Loosely fill a tall, fluted vase with rose-geranium leaves. Add peonies in loose clusters toward one side, pom-pom-shaped allium to the other. Fill gaps with dark, variegated carnations. Place stems of columbine (yellow) and sweet pea (fuchsia) rising up and star-shaped clematis spilling down to one side. When finished, adjust the lengths, tucking some flowers deeper and pulling others long. This creates movement and gives the eye plenty to look at. Silver julep cup (similar to shown; 7 ½ inches high), $18, jamaligarden.com.
How to Make a One-Color Arrangement
Dark, Dramatic Peonies
Fill a ceramic vase or jug with peonies cut at different lengths, then tuck begonia and coleus leaves around the flowers.
How to Make a One-Color Arrangement
In a widemouthed footed urn, use begonia stems (with buds) as a foundation. Separate showy peonies so they don’t overtake the display. Make a concentrated cluster of garden roses to the right. Use sculptural black-centered scabiosa as a loose divider between the roses and the peonies. Tuck in additional begonia buds and blooms to spill unevenly over the lip of the vessel. Black polyresin urn (7 inches high), $8, jamaligarden.com. Black polyresin urn (7 inches high), $8, jamaligarden.com.
In a low oval container, pack a single color of variegated carnations cut at different lengths, creating a shape that’s more like a wavy landscape than a solid mound. Gloss Brown ceramic oval vase/planter (similar shape to shown), $26, amazon.com.
How to Make a Mostly Green Display
Use leafy Solomon’s seal (with its little white “bells”) as a foundation, loosely filling a column-shaped vase and extending from both sides. Nestle bright, velvety cockscomb deep in the middle, just off-center, like a buried treasure. Fill holes with spearmint and poppy pods. Add tall sweet pea vines, placing them to arc toward, not away from, the arrangement. Tuck fronds of wispy maidenhair fern around the bottom on one side to spill out and down, leaving plenty of space to show its delicate shape.
Tips and Tricks
- Use opaque vases instead of glass. They hide messy stems and quietly complement flowers rather than competing with them.
- Mimic the randomness of nature. Think asymmetry, odd numbers, and varied depth and height when arranging.
- Don’t be afraid to cut tall flowers very short. Playing with scale can give even a solitary bloom a lot of impact: Imagine looking down into the face of a single sunflower in a low, round bud vase.
- Clip backyard plants to make arrangements more interesting. Shrubbery or garden foliage, like forsythia, coleus, begonia leaves, and ivy, can add depth to a display. And don’t dismiss beautiful weeds, such as Queen Anne’s lace.
- Opt for slender-necked vessels if you’re unsure about your skills. Vases with smaller mouths do the work for you—holding flowers artfully without letting them plop—so even the most basic display looks gorgeous.
The Only Vases You Really Need
- A tall, fluted column, slightly wider on top than on the bottom, holds supermarket bunches, bouquets from guests, and any long-stemmed roses that come your way. A height of about 10 inches works well.
- A small footed urn is perfect for a centerpiece. It’s low, so it won’t interfere with dinner conversation, and it offers a nice view from above. Six inches tall by eight wide makes a statement but isn’t hard to fill.
- A trio of bud vases in complementary shapes can work as a cluster centerpiece or be separated to showcase single gorgeous blooms. Choose one medium-height, one tall, and one squat, all with narrow mouths.
The expert behind all the arrangements and advice on these pages is Nicolette Owen of Nicolette Camille Floral Design (nicolettecamille.com) and Little Flower School, in Brooklyn.