Three types of flower arrangements
We're full on into spring entertaining season here in the South, and whether that means a formal wedding or a backyard barbecue, flower arrangements always belong on the table.
But before you exclaim, “Only the professionals can make a great flower arrangements” or "Flowers are too expensive ... I’ll just go with the fake ones,” keep in mind that beautiful flower arrangements don't have to break the bank. And, more importantly, anyone can do it and have fun while they're at it by creating and arranging with various items you find in your home and garden.
I spoke with Audra Cohen, the head designer at French Market Flowers in Atlanta, Georgia to learn about how to pull off the perfect arrangement for every occasion. Even me — someone with little experience in the floral world — was able to create three different arrangements using local flowers, greenery and a little advice. In about an hour, I became confident I could create a beautiful arrangement on my own using her tips and tricks.Start with an unexpected vase
We all have a glass vase or two laying around our home, but that particular vase might not work with the aesthetic of the decorations for the event you’re preparing for — and that’s okay. There are plenty of other vessels around your home that will look beautiful holding flowers, and by using a different style vase, you can add another dimension of charm and elegance to your flower arrangement.
“You would be surprised how many people don’t have vases, but there are other things you could use,” Cohen said. “Things you might have at home include watering cans, pitchers, a tea pot, glass terrariums or Mason jars.” We chose a watering can, a glass terrarium and a ceramic wine chiller as unusual vessels for our flower arrangements.
And, Cohen added, you will likely be better off picking one of these unique "vases." “Sometimes you don’t want a clear vase because it shows the dirty water,” Cohen said.
Take a walk around your yard for materials
The flowers and greenery you’ll find at French Market Flowers are sustainably grown on a Coweta County farm throughout the year. Hydgrangeas, poppies and ranunculus are a few of the flowers that caught my eye when we were gathering materials in the flower shop.
And while it’s perfectly okay to pick up flowers from a flower shop or grocery store, some of the best materials can be found in your yard. “Georgia has incredible foliage,” Cohen said. “Hydrangeas are such a big thing right now. They are so popular here in Georgia.”
If blooming flowers are not accessible at home, look to your yard or a neighbor’s yard for greenery. “A lot of people have these things growing near them,” Cohen said. “A lot of people have hosta leaves in their yard. You can take the hosta and line the inside of the vase if you don’t want to see the stems. Same goes for Magnolias. I’m sure you have one on the block where you live.”Need a table runner? Cut down a string of Ivy or clematis flowers to make a textured table runner or wrap it around the base of a tall vase.
Be confident about your choice in flowers
"Common things that people will say are, ‘I don’t know how to pick out flowers.’ But people do know how,” Cohen explained. “You pick out what your heart goes to.
Choosing flowers is as personal as choosing an outfit. Each person has a different taste and style, which will reflect in the bouquet. By choosing flowers to which you’re drawn, you’ll have an easier time building the arrangement. You can always ask for advice from the professionals, but if you think two or three flowers look beautiful together in the store, they’ll probably look great in a centerpiece.“You have to feel good about what you create and give. If you’re hemming and hawing about something and forcing something, you’re not going to feel good about it,” Cohen explained. “Pick out what your heart goes to and it makes a beautiful bouquet every time.”
Prepare before you start building the arrangement
Sure you can bring home a bouquet of flowers, throw them in a vase and call it a day, but with a little more effort, you can ensure your flower arrangement will last longer than a day. The two most important things to remember? Clean water and cutting the stems.“I always say, ‘Treat flowers how you treat yourself,’" Cohen said. "You probably don’t want to be standing in the blazing hot sun and you don’t want to be in the freezing cold, so that’s how I like the water temperature. ... [Likewise,] you don’t want to be sitting in dirty bath water. You don’t want to drink dirty water. It’s the same thing with flowers.”
During transportation, air seals off the flowers' stems, so in order for them to stay nourished when you arrange them, you'll need to trim the stems before placing them in water. “You want to cut on a slant, because by cutting it on a slant the water can get up into the stem. [This is] compared to cutting it horizontally, where it rests on the bottom of the vase,” Cohen explained.
Cleaning the stems of any foliage will give an overall cleaner look to the arrangement and will keep bacteria from growing in the water. “You don’t want any foliage in the water because that collects bacteria, which kills flowers,” Cohen said. “Once a flower is cut, it’s in dying mode, ... so what you’re really doing is preserving it."
Other people swear by different remedies, like aspirin, to keep water cleaner over a longer period of time. “I [knew] another florist, and I [went] into her shop and her water was so clean,” Cohen said. “Her secret? She swears by a tiny amount of bleach. I used to live in the Caribbean and they swear by vodka.”
If you're not up for experimenting, just swap out murky water for fresh to keep the flowers perky for a few days more.
Layering an arrangement
The possibilities for building an arrangement are endless. Keep in mind that the overall look depends on the number of different flowers you are using, along with the type of vase you’ve chosen. You probably wouldn’t use towering branches of magnolia in a Mason jar, but they work well in a wine chiller. Be inventive by using different types of flowers that have a cohesive color palette and varying heights and shapes.
“When you decorate your home you have a carpet, then you put [out] a table, you put a picture [on the wall] and you have a light, so what is that?” Cohen asked. “Levels and layers, and that’s what creates an arrangement.”
With a simple turn of the stem, a flower arrangement can take on a different look. While experimenting, make sure you’re not hiding any of the beautiful aspects of the flowers in the arrangement. “Flowers have faces, so you want to be able to see their face in an arrangement,” Cohen said.
The occasion, vase and flowers will dictate the design of an arrangement. Some types of floristry design have the flowers all in a mound, which would work great for a dinner table, where you still want to see the person sitting across from you. For a more dramatic look, use magnolia leaves to give an arrangement height while layering in other types of flowers.An easy way to show different layers is by trimming the stem lengths. Giving the flowers a little hair cut will help clean up the look of the arrangement, and you can get creative with the heights of each flower. “You might want to invest in garden shears or scissors to help with trimming,” Cohen said.
Work some magic by adding texture
At French Market Flowers, the bouquets are contrasted with delicate petals, thorny thistles and varying greenery. Cohen believes texture is just as important as the colors and height of the flowers. Texture closes up empty spaces, adds depth to the arrangement, and incorporates more color into the color palate.“We always add texture to our bouquets,” Cohen said. “You have your thistle, poppy pods and tall eucalyptus, which grows locally in Georgia, and we always love to add a berry when whenever we can.” She uses a lot of asymmetrical concepts in her designs and this is more easily achieved when adding more texture into the design. “A lot of times I’ll have people come in here and then I’ll come out with a bouquet, and I’ll say, 'Do you want to put it together? Do you want to arrange them?' And they love that,” Cohen said. “People think they can’t do something [but they] feel so good when they try it themselves.”