Instead of our weekly “let’s learn about flowers” post, I have a special treat! My lovely friend, Margaret of Jams by Mags, is also a fabulous floral arranger! She is sharing a step-by-step tutorial on taking a regular, inexpensive bouquet of flowers that you can find in any grocery store, and transforming it into a stunning arrangement or centerpiece. Enjoy!
I’m a longtime advocate for having cut flowers in your home. From the days when mom would send us outside to clean up the garden, to snipping a dozen lilacs for my dorm room desk during exam week, to having a home of my own, and bringing home a bouquet each week from the farmer’s market: cut flowers are one of life’s truly worthwhile indulgences. They also make better hostess gifts than a lame bottle of wine; have you ever not been glad to receive a bouquet of flowers?
It’s easy, when receiving flowers as a hostess gift, to take one of these pre-assembled bouquets and stick them in a vase and call it a day, but for flowers to really thrive and last a nice long time, you need to do a little bit of preparation. Today, I’m taking apart a mixed grocery-store bouquet, and a bouquet of tulips, to create two arrangements for your home.
First you want to disassemble the bouquet. From left to right we have: lime leaves, white daisies, two colors of mums (white and pale purple), pink snapdragons, queen anne’s lace, gerbera daisies, tulips, white lilies, and sweet william. Grocery store mixed bouquets like this usually have a couple major flowers (in this case the lilies and gerbera daisies), some cheaper blossoms that add color and volume (the mums and snapdragons), and some greenery (the lime leaves, queen anne’s lace, and sweet william). Adding in a second bouquet of tulips (which are very inexpensive this time of year), makes for a fuller (funner) bouquet!
After you separate the flowers, strip any extra leaves from the stems. If you do nothing else with your bouquet: do this. Extra leaves below the water line will merely rot and spoil the water. Extra leaves above the water line take away valuable nutrients from the blossoms, and shorten the lifespan of your flowers. To strip the leaves, hold the stem firmly right under the head of the flower, and run your fingers down the stem, pulling the leaves off as you go down.
With a sharp pair of scissors, trim the end of each stem on the diagonal, and put immediately in a vase or jar half-full with warm water. (Cold water shocks the stems.) Next prepare your vases: clean out any debris from previous arrangements, and give it a good rinse. Fill half-way with warm water, and mix in half a bag of flower preserver. (A bag ought to come with your bouquet. If not, you can always crush two aspirin tablets and mix them in.)
Bonus: Foraging! I almost never make a bouquet without foraging some leaves and berries (and sometimes flowers) from the gardens around my apartment complex and local parks, as well as houseplants. Today, I used some home-grown hellebores (the little green flower near the top of the vase) and some bright evergreen branches from a bush near my building, plus a couple stems of eucalyptus berries I had leftover from previous bouquet.
Now lets get arranging. You want to make a base out of some of the greenery and the larger, more prominent flowers. In this case, I used the sweet william, eucalyptus berries, the lime leaves and lilies to form a base. You want to follow the form of the flowers. The lilies natural shape (in this case) tend to the left, so I am placing them on the left so they face up and out. The greenery forms a base through which you can weave the other flowers.
Now take your other flowers and weave them into the base. The only flowers that were taller than the lilies were the snapdragons, so I put them behind the lilies, so they reach out behind and above them. The mums come in so many lengths, that I bunched them together under the lillies. The tulips, I arranged with varying heights tending to the right. (Tulips need some special care: you rarely want to strip all the leaves, because the leaves help keep them from drooping too much. But you don’t want too many leaves, or you won’t see the flowers. I generally wait to strip the leaves on tulips until I am placing them in the bouquet.) I tucked in the gerbera daisies and hellebores where there were a few gaps.
For the second arrangement (perfect for a bathroom, or bedside table), I took the leftover tulips, and mixed them with some hellebore leaves, and some of the smaller mums.
Supplies needed: Mixed bouquet ($6.99) and tulips ($4.99) from Trader Joes; one large and one small vase, both by Sarah Coffin Pottery; scissors; mason jar to store flowers while arranging.