A Simple Guide to Floral Arranging — Stevie Storck

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A Simple Guide to Floral Arranging

Over the years I’ve become known as a bit of a flower lady. I’m no professional florist but I did spend a lot of time studying floral design while writing my craft book . Gardening has only deepened my love of floral arranging and these days I will find any excuse to make a bouquet to gift to family and friends. With a few years of practice under my belt, I’m proud of how far my skills have come and want to pass along what I’ve learned. This is my quick beginner’s guide to making beautiful flower arrangements yourself — from finding inspiration to creating structure to keep your stems in place, to the floral design formula and tips on flower care. Follow along as I make this pretty arrangement featuring the classic spring flowers, tulips & daffodils!

Find inspiration

As I’ve been learning floral design, it’s been really helpful to find inspiration from professional florists on Pinterest and Instagram. I’ve discovered I am most drawn to asymmetrical flower arrangements with a romantic, bohemian feel. I am always so inspired by Sarah from Hemlock & Hellebore’s stunning, seasonal arrangements. It takes real artistry to achieve this beautiful simplicity. Taking a closer look at her creations always gives me new ideas to try!

Choose a vessel

Anything that can hold water can become a vessel for a floral arrangement! One thing to keep in mind when choosing a vase is that the wider the mouth of the vase, the more stems you will need. I typically look for vases that have an opening around 3-4” wide but I’ve also made arrangements in low, wide bowls, like an antique soup tureen. Some of my favorite vessels to use are footed compote bowls, ceramic pitchers and small urns.

Add structure

The key to getting stems to stay where you put them is to use some type of structure to your vase. For clear glass vases, I often use a floral pin frog and/or a tape grid.

Example of a floral tape grid from my craft book, Modern Faux Flower Projects , published Sept 2020

For opaque vessels, my go-to is chicken wire - a more sustainable alternative to floral foam. Traditional floral foam is a petroleum based product that is neither reusable or recyclable. Chicken wire creates a nice base for inserting stems into, can be reused many times over and if it’s uncoated, it can be recycled. I have used both the floral version you can find at a craft store (often coated to prevent rust) and regular old poultry netting. Both work equally well! How much you need will depend on the size of your vase, but a 12” square works well for a vase with a 3-4” opening. You want enough to make a snug fitting ball inside your vessel, where the stems can pass through two layers of chicken wire for the best hold.

Use chicken wire as an eco-friendly swap for floral foam

Using protective gloves, simply cut your chicken wire to size then form into a rough ball shape. Push the ball into your vessel and secure, if needed, with an X of floral tape.

Use a formula

There is an order of operations in floral design that leads to the best results! The formula is first foliage, then focal flowers, then filler flowers. By placing the foliage first, you have a bit more control over creating the overall shape and form that the rest of your flowers will fit into. This also has a little to do with stem size. Oftentimes your foliage will be on thicker, woodier stems and it’s much easier to place those at the beginning than trying to squeeze them in at the end. It makes good sense to place your largest, focal flowers next then finish up with placing smaller filler flowers and textural elements in any empty spaces.

Foliage, Focal, Filler

For foliage, I like to use a mix of two or more types if possible. In this arrangement, I used some foraged greenery and a few branches of apple blossoms. It’s best to cut all stems at an angle to maximize the available surface area for water absorption and also to remove all the lower leaves so none are sitting below your water line in the vase. For woody stems, it’s a good idea to cut a vertical slit into bottom end of the stem to increase water uptake and help your arrangement last longer in the vase.

Step 1 : Foliage

Next is placing your focal flowers, which are typically your largest, most statement-making blooms. Odd numbers are the most visually pleasing in all kinds of visual design, so I like to work with flowers in 3’s and 5’s. For a more relaxed, organic looking arrangement, place some flowers below the line of the vase and vary the stem angle so some flowers are facing forward and not up. If you have a flower with a curved or droopy stem, work with it! Imperfection is very welcome in my arrangements — a wonky stem or two can add so much movement and life to a finished bouquet. In this arrangement, I used a mix of single tulips, double tulips and daffodils as my focal flowers.

Step 2 : Focal

Last come your filler flowers, which do exactly what their name says — fill in any gaps and empty spaces. The right filler flowers can really take an arrangement to the next level. Smaller flowers, flowers with multiple blooms to one stem, ornamental grasses and even dried elements make for great filler. In this arrangement I used smaller daffodils, muted pink hellebores and some foraged field pennycress as my filler.

Step 3 : Filler

The Finished Arrangement:

Flower Care

I used to skip flower food, but I’m turning over a new leaf! Flower food provides an extra nutrient boost that helps flowers last longer in the vase. You can buy packets just like the ones you get from florist or you can try making your own . For best results, fully replace the water in your vase every 2-3 days.

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