Wildscapes Workshop
BELLAIRE • MEMORIAL • RIVER OAKS • TANGLEWOOD • WEST UNIVERSITY

In Bloom

The art of arranging flowers

Jennifer Oakley
Click the Buzz Me button to receive email notifications when this writer publishes a new article or a new article in this column is published.
Debbie Robinson

Debbie Robinson brings in clippings from her garden to make arrangements and boutonnieres. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

As a young girl growing up in South Texas, Martha Britton had a zinnia garden. “I think that garden really became my first memory of being interested in arranging flowers,” says Britton, who would cut the colorful blooms and work them into arrangements. “Aesthetically, nothing makes a room pop more than flowers. It’s a really easy way to bring Mother Nature’s artistry indoors.”

Britton is one of three Buzz-resident floral enthusiasts who shared their tips on the art of flower arranging.

Debbie Robinson: community volunteer, The Garden Club of Houston member

Is it difficult to get started flower arranging?

Dive in! You can't go wrong! The hardest part is to just start. Floral design really is no longer about traditional mass designs and formulas, although it can be. Create whatever makes you happy. Keep it simple. There is nothing wrong with a beautiful rose in a bud vase – or 10 of them. Line them down the dining room table. Make it fun!

What tools should people have on hand to start the process?

Clippers, floral snips, floral tape, glue dots, kenzan [a floral frog pin holder, which keeps flowers in place at the bottom of a vase]. I always wear an apron so my tools can fit in the pockets, and it does not matter if it gets dirty or wet. I also have a tool box for all my floral tools.

Can you recommend types of arrangements for specific events like Mother’s Day or holidays?

These events always lend themselves to traditional designs, but I like to mix it up a bit. Try a mercury glass vase with pine greenery and branches and white roses for a wintery feel. Or a long-stemmed orchid floating in a tall cylinder with river rocks for Easter.

Can you recommend types of flowers for people to work with?

I love working with calla lilies, anthuriums and orchids. But carnations get a bad rap – they are super fun to work with and last forever.

Do you have any good suggestions for keeping flowers fresh once they are arranged?

If you are purchasing flowers from the grocery store you can use the little packets of floral food that come with them. Or use an ounce of vodka!

Can people mix in things from their own yards into arrangements?

Absolutely! I use boxwood, pittosporum and aspidistra all the time. And garden roses are beautiful.

What about flowers for parties and proms? Can you make them at home?

Once you get the hang of it, boutonnieres are super easy to make. A garden rose, boxwood and green floral tape are all you need. I can't tell you how many I have made over the years with my four kids going through high school with a mom who is always last minute and doesn't make the order deadline with a florist. Plus, it is your own design. Try a little succulent and rosemary instead of roses.

Mundi Elam

Mundi Elam keeps fresh flowers in her house year-round and enjoys making arrangements. She says flowers make people feel welcome and special (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Mundi Spiers Elam: caterer/party planner, The Garden Club of Houston member

What kinds of vases can people use for their flowers?

Be creative! You can use pitchers, jars, tea cups, vases or bottles. Any container that is water tight works. Try a silver urn or mint julep cups. A collection of vases doesn't have to match either; use a bunch of small blue vases, and then put yellow flowers in them.

What should people look for when purchasing flowers from a store?

Make sure the leaves are fresh and not brown because leaves are often the first thing to show decay. Just like choosing the freshest produce, look for flowers that appear the freshest.

What’s the first thing to do once the flowers are home?

Have some clippers and a work space, along with a trash can and some plastic buckets. If you are busy, just place all the flowers in the buckets of water until you have time to arrange them later. When you are ready to work with the flowers, take all the leaves off the stems as they will cause bacteria to grow. All cut flowers eventually deteriorate, but the leaves under water deteriorate quicker. Take the flowers and trim stems an inch or half-inch at an angle. When you trim at an angle it allows the flowers to best absorb the water.

How often does water need to be changed in a vase?

You need to change the water when it gets cloudy. For some flowers that will be one day, and for others it can be three or four days. When you change the water, cut the stems again so they can continue to absorb the water.

Do you have any good suggestions for keeping flowers fresh once they are arranged?

You want to add FloralLife to the flowers. Or, you can add sugar, Sprite or gin to the water to increase the life of the flowers. Put in one-half teaspoon per gallon of water.

What’s your advice for starting a floral arrangement?

A lot of it is trial and error. Sometimes you have to practice a little bit. Bring home some flowers from the grocery store and see how it works. Don’t be discouraged. You can cut some nice greenery from your yard – cut off a little bit of your bushes or your vine – and then go to Central Market for $1 Rose Tuesday and add them in and see how it works. Experiment and have fun and a sense of humor.

What are some easy arrangements for beginners?

Try an arrangement of all the same color flower. For example, choose all yellow flowers with different textures and then put them together. Or, pick three different kinds of flowers and arrange them in clusters of color blocks. Try five pink roses, one big, white hydrangea and a bunch of yellow Gerbera daisies. One easy arrangement is to choose a bunch of the same flowers. Try 18 pink roses; take all the leaves off, and put them together in a vase.

What do flowers bring to a home?

Flowers fill the space because they are cheery, and they transform rooms. Flowers make you happy. And fragrant flowers are enticing – they draw you in.

Martha Britton

Martha Britton, here with her arrangements, says flowers connect people with nature. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Martha Britton: mom of three, River Oaks Garden Club member

What’s a good way to start flower arranging?

At a grocery store, on your way before checkout, go pick up one or two bunches of flowers that you think look good together. I feel like the grocery stores have expanded their diversity of flowers and have tons of selections.

What tools should people have on hand to start the process?

You need sharp clippers. And because roses are the grande dame of flowers, I also recommend a stem trimmer to take off the thorns when you work with roses. All thorns and leaves below the water line need to be removed.

What can you do to help preserve the life of the cut flowers?

Some flower arrangers believe you are supposed to put a penny in water with tulips because the oxidation helps tulips live longer. Hydrangeas, a popular flower to buy at the store, require tons of water. Stay on top of their water because they are one of the thirstiest flowers. If they stay hydrated they can live longer.

Are there some rules of thumb about vases?

I think it is important to keep in mind the scale of your container. That is something you have to visualize. If you are doing an arrangement for a dining table, you want to look at the top of your fist to your elbow. Place your elbow on the table with your fist up; your flowers should not be higher than the top of your fist so people can see one another across the table and no views are blocked.

What kinds of vases are good to use?

I really love to have flowers in my house all the time. But to have flowers in your house at all times, you need an assortment of vases. I think it is nice for people to collect vases as they see them; if something strikes your fancy, pick it up.  I have gotten so many from my grandmother, and I cherish them. I keep my vases in a closet, and I have bud vases all the way up to 6-inch glass bowls. When I bring home flowers, I can go in there and grab a vase that works well.

Do you have suggestions for working with items from your yard?

I always enjoyed having some kind of flowers or bush or plant that would produce flowers, like a camellia bush or gardenia bush. It’s nice to go into your own yard and take some clippings and bring flowers into your everyday life. I love magnolia leaves; they look great for larger scale decor. Just take a bunch of small magnolia branches and put them in an urn – it looks really artsy and organic.

What’s your feeling about flowers?

The apex of Mother Nature’s artistry is condensed into a flower. Into this compact, little item, so many people are inspired. I marvel. How can Mother Nature make these? Flowers are so gorgeous.

  • Mundi Elam

    Mundi Elam makes these arrangements to show how flowers can decorate a home. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • Mundi Elam

    Mundi Elam makes these arrangements to show how flowers can decorate a home. She says flowers make people feel welcome and special. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • Debbie Robinson

    Debbie Robinson displays floral arrangements and boutonnieres that she makes at home. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • flowers in three colorful designs

    Martha Britton uses roses and other flowers in three colorful designs. She says flowers connect people with nature and make them feel good. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • Debbie Robinson

    Debbie Robinson makes boutonnieres using elements from her garden. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

  • Mundi Elam
  • Mundi Elam
  • Debbie Robinson
  • flowers in three colorful designs
  • Debbie Robinson

More photos

Mundi Elam

Mundi Elam makes these arrangements to show how flowers can decorate a home. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Mundi Elam

Mundi Elam makes these arrangements to show how flowers can decorate a home. She says flowers make people feel welcome and special. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Debbie Robinson

Debbie Robinson displays floral arrangements and boutonnieres that she makes at home. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

flowers in three colorful designs

Martha Britton uses roses and other flowers in three colorful designs. She says flowers connect people with nature and make them feel good. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

Debbie Robinson

Debbie Robinson makes boutonnieres using elements from her garden. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

People in this article: 

To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Or you may post as a guest.