Flowers are intimidating. First, there’s the cost…like serious sticker shock at the floral shop. Then, you spy the much less expensive flowers from the grocery store. You bring them home and plop them in a vase. They look nothing like the beautiful arrangements from the florist and they never seem to last longer than a week. You think, maybe cheaper isn’t better. So flowers go from being an everyday luxury (which you want) to an out of reach luxury (you think you can’t have).
I was lucky to find a part-time job in college at the local flower shop. I was certain I would just be sweeping floors and watering plants, but the wonderful women I worked with taught me everything I know about flowers. I learned how to make all the typical arrangements you can order from FTD, plus corsages, boutonnieres, and my own creations for customers that walked in off the street.
I actually enjoyed waking up early on Saturday mornings to go to work—to spend the day playing with flowers. I spent an entire summer working at another flower shop, too.
After college I continued arranging flowers. I made my bouquet and all the boutonnieres and corsages for my wedding. Now, I grab pretty bouquets from the grocery store here and there to enjoy fresh blooms around my home.
[Tweet “Second only to a good cleaning, flowers are the best way to freshen up any room.”]
The most important thing I learned as a part-time florist is floral arrangement is a skill you can learn. There are “rules”—a process to follow—for good-looking, long-lasting arrangements. Once you know what they are, you can arrange almost any flowers together.
That’s what I want for you. I want you to know how to arrange flowers, so everyday floral arranging isn’t a far-fetched dream, but a reality—if not all of your days, most of your days.
Because I know if you knew how to care for and arrange those grocery store flowers like a florist, then you would:
Create affordable arrangements that look as good or better than the ones at the flower shop
Enjoy your fresh blooms for weeks, not days
Bring flowers into your life more often
To get you started, here’s four steps that will help you learn how to arrange flowers more like a pro:
1. Make a Big Mess
Flowers force you to let go of any of your neat freak tendencies—at least for a little while. You can bet while I was whipping up arrangements on camera for Everyday Floral Arranging class, the stems, thorns, and leaves were flying. The floor was covered. It takes less time to toss it all on the floor. When your finish your floral masterpiece is, you can sweep up the debris.
In both flower shops I worked at the arranging stations were behind a counter, so our customers didn’t see the full mess. But we kept a broom and dust pan handy. In that respect arranging flowers is like hair styling, let all the cut pieces fall to the floor and sweep them up when you’re done.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
You’ll get better and better the more arrangements you make. The basics of arranging are quick to learn. What takes practice is getting used to the medium–living, breathing, drinking flowers. They don’t always curve the way you want them to. They shift and move. Sometimes they test your patience.
The more you work with flowers, the more you get used to their organic, wild nature. You learn to look at the shape of the bloom and the curve of the stem before deciding where to use it in your arrangement. As corny as it sounds, you let the flowers tell you what they want to be.
With practice you also find your favorites. Your favorite flowers to work with. Your favorite flowers to look at. And sometimes you make an exception for flowers you hate to arrange, because you love to look at them.
You can practice at least four times with a single bouquet of flowers. That’s because every three days you should remove your flowers from the vase to completely replace the water and give the stems a fresh cut. That’s an opportunity to re-arrange them. As they get shorter and some blooms whither away, you can re-arrange that single bouquet into smaller groupings—another chance to practice and let the flowers lead the way.
3. Use Every Last Bud and Bloom
My favorite part of being a florist in college was bringing home the spent blooms that couldn’t be sold. My favorite were the roses that were 1-2 days from losing all their petals. Even though they only had days left, I always had fresh flowers in little bud vases around my dorm room.
One thing you learn as a florist is to make use of every last bloom—hopefully before they are past their prime. When you’re making an arrangement, there are always stems that are too short and offshoots you have to remove near the bottom of the stem. You can save all those flowers and buds for other arrangements. Florists would save them for centerpieces, corsages, and boutonnieres. You can save them and display them in smaller arrangements. Enjoy their beauty.
When I recorded Everyday Flower Arranging, I made five complete arrangements. Then all I had left was a random assortment of blooms, so we filmed one more segment. I made the best of the random mix and created a small compact footed centerpiece. These “waste flowers” turned into one of the most stunning arrangements of the day. And now I am enjoying them in my bedroom.
4. Learn the Basics
Arranging your own flowers will save you big money over ordering arrangements from the florist. It also might be the difference between having flowers in your life often vs. not at all. Imagine giving flowers as a gift more often, too.
This arrangement from a florist would easily cost $45+ (not including the container). It cost me about $10 (not including the container).
Flowers aren’t hard, but there are some basics you need to know to create beautiful arrangements. This is the stuff the pros know.
- Where to place the flowers
- How many flowers to use
- What order to add the flowers to the arrangement
- Which flowers go together (Spoiler alert: all of them look great together, but there are several tried and true ways to choose a great mix.)
- How to take care of your flowers so they last for weeks
Do you want more flowers in your life?
I’d love to teach you the basics and show you how I made six gorgeous arrangements from grocery store flowers. In a word, this class is beautiful.