Flower bouquet

How to arrange flowers

By BBC Maestro

A flower arrangement can make such a difference to your sitting room, dining table or party. It can be surprisingly easy to create a showstopping display of flowers, provided you follow a few simple steps – and as we’ll find out, the trick is in the preparation.

In this article, we take you through how to make a flower arrangement like a professional florist, one step at a time.

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1. Choose your flowers

If you’re lucky, you can pick fresh flowers from your own garden, but most of us pop down to our local florist to choose our blooms. When you’re choosing your flowers, think about what colours and textures you’d like. If you’re super organised, you may have even have a scheme in mind.

Florist Simon Lycett recommends being “within and among the flowers” when you finalise your flower arrangement. You might be inspired by seeing certain colours together in the florist’s or drawn to certain scents. Be prepared to fall in love with what you see…

2. Find the perfect vase

The vase determines the size of the display. You might want to choose your container first, or wait until you’ve created your flower arrangement before you choose what vase to house them in. Have a selection of vessels ready for when you bring your blooms home: you’ll want to start arranging as soon as possible.

When you’re choosing a vase, think about how its shape suits the structure of your stems. Bunchy peonies suit smaller, rounder containers while more elegant tulips look graceful in taller, slim vases. Glass vases always look beautiful; however, an opaque vase can help your flowers stay fresh

3. Now for the mechanics

Mechanics is the florists’ term for anything you use to help the structure of your display – the engineering, if you like. You don’t have to add any mechanics to your arrangement if you don’t want to, but a bit of extra support can help your display stay in shape for longer.

In his BBC Maestro course, florist Simon Lycett explains that mechanics for DIY flower arrangements don’t have to be expensive or complicated. For example, you can fill a container with sand, add water “to create a gloopy quicksand” then simply slide the stems in.

Some florists place a grid on top of the container to help support the flowers. Again, Simon has a great low-cost and natural solution: make a grid using cut lengths of dogwood, fastened together with florist’s tie wire.

4. Prepare your flowers

Prepare all your flowers before you begin arranging. This is one of Simon Lycett’s top flower arranging tips, because you don’t want to break off from arranging your blooms to suddenly trim another stem or search through a pile of stems for the right one. One way to arrange a bouquet is by holding it in one hand as you work (“using your hand as the vase”, as Simon puts it), so it’s important that you can grab stems easily with your free hand.

Here’s how to prepare your flowers:

●  Select which flowers you’re going to use.

●  Trim the stems to length and remove the foliage and side stems. This is especially important towards the lower end of the stem, which will be under water.

●  Arrange the flowers by type – this makes them easier to find and reach once you start arranging. 

●  Have a bucket of water handy to pop the stems into should you need it. 

●   Prepare the vase with just a bit of water and plant food. The flowers will displace the water as you work, and you can top it up once the display is in place. If you’re using a grid or sand instead of water, set that up before you start arranging, too.

5. Arrange the focal blooms

Whether you’re holding the flowers or arranging them directly into the container, start with the larger flowers. Generous blooms like hydrangeas not only create a gorgeous focal point, they also help to support the other blooms.

6. Fill with other flowers

Next, add your secondary flowers, which round out the display, bringing extra colours and texture. Slide these in around and in between your focal flowers. Keep adding until you reach the desired fullness. You can also bring foliage into the display.

Happy? If you’re not using a grid, you can keep your arrangement together by tying it with paper-covered wire. This is gentler than naked wire and won’t cut the stems.

 7. Tweak the final display

How is your flower arrangement looking? Are you pleased with the balance of colours, textures and layers? Is the display as full as you’d like, or are there gaps? Finish off your beautiful floral arrangement by filling any gaps and moving blooms around if the colours aren’t evenly spaced.

Trim any discoloured or drooping flowers, petals or foliage, and double check that there won’t be any leaves or side shoots below the water line. If you’ve been creating the arrangement in your hand rather than the vase, check the length of the stems and trim if necessary. Step back to see how it looks or look in a mirror if you’re still holding it and see what you think.

You’ve now created your own stunning floral arrangement, using the same techniques as professional florists. To find out how to keep your display looking fresh for as long as possible, read our helpful article . Enjoy sharing your space with the wonderful colours and scents of your new display – and start planning the next one.

For more step-by-step flower arranging tips for beginners, as well as lots more tricks of the trade, check out florist Simon Lycett’s BBC Maestro course, Decorating with Flowers. He talks you through creating all kinds of displays, from single flower table decorations to glamourous garlands and swags.

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