I am just so giddy introducing this guest post today. You guys are going to just love this. Margaret did a guest post for us on Tuesday as well, so be sure to check that out if you didn’t see it. A native New Yorker, Margaret Kelley splits her time by being both a floral designer and public radio radio producer in DC. She first discovered her floral sensibilities as a child in Junior Garden Club as well as in her British Grammy’s garden. Her blog, The Wing is a lovely slice of life in the District of Columbia through the lense of her camera. This tutorial is so helpful because it really covers all of the basics of prepping flowers for an arrangement and maintenance so that they last a long time. Thanks Margaret!
If you are staying in town for the weekend and are getting an early start to the day by heading to the farmers market, don’t forget to pick up some flowers! A beautiful arrangement of native wildflowers can be a joy to look at indoors, especially if you can’t bring yourself to get back outside because of the heat. Step 1: Go to Farmers market (or your own garden if you have one). Have fun! Look for flowers.
I live in DC, but luckily, the produce and selection at my farmers market is not too different from the one in Charlottesville. The region of DC/MD/VA creates a big commonality in similar offerings, which means it’ll be easy to find similar flowers and reproduce this arrangement.
Farmers Market flowers obviously vary from season to season, as we are all aware. But in the swampy amazonian heat of a Mid-Atlantic summer, you will be bound to purchasing flowers which are typically grown for their drought resistance, hardiness, and colorful appearance. In July and August, most flower farmers at the markets will carry the ubiquitous zinnias, cone flowers, black-eyed susans, sunflowers, thistles, and hydrangea. These are all fabulous cut flowers to work with. If you can find sunflowers that are smaller in nature and are not bending from the weight of their heads, more power to you. Those are easily manipulated in a wild-flower vase arrangement. A regular sunflower might be more difficult for beginners to work with.
If you have trouble finding cut flowers at the market, don’t worry. Look for interesting plant material at other stalls if the pickings are slim! A good source of flowers and greens can come from the vegetable and herb stands. There, you’ll find longer lengths of freshly cut mint, lavender, basils, even thyme, oregano, lettuce leaves or chard. These are wonderful in a floral display, too. Just use your imagination.
Step 2: Buy flowers, herbs.
I bought some rudbekia (variations of black eyed susans), sweet william, cone-flowers (sans pink petals), a couple small sunflowers, stems of butterfly bush, spearmint and lavender.
The black eyed susans & sunflower will be the main/mass flower (flowers with big heads).
The lavender and butterfly bush had nice lines (lines are easily unidentifiable and give an arrangement structure), while the bald cone-flowers and fuchsia sweet william give texture and contrast.
Step 3: Go home, put down flowers, get vases or buckets, find a sink, and fill containers with H2O. Take out flowers, immediately slice their ends on the diagonal, and get flowers in water. Keep them inside, or somewhere cool until you get around to arranging them.
Step 4: Preparation of workspace. Find a flat surface, next to the sink is good, and get weapons: knife or scissors. I use a sharp knife. It gives a cleaner cut allowing more surface area to show when in water.
Step 5: Find suitable vase, and fill with water.
I like using glazed pottery for delicate flower arrangements that require more proportionate weight to their overall finished appearance. It also lends a natural spirit to more wilder displays. Pottery also hides the binding point of your arrangements, leaving less room for distraction when studying the finished design. If you don’t have sentimental pottery just laying around your house, thrift stores are a great source for handmade initialed ceramics. Double score if you can find pieces with their interiors glazed. That means they are sealed and can hold water.
Step 6: Take a breather (since it’s the weekend and it’s HOT) and let your flowers drink some water for an hour or so. They will wilt fast without h2o, no joke.
Step 7: Time to arrange! Go get your flowers, and take out your “greens.”
In my case, I bought some tall lavender and some leafy stems of mint. It’s best to begin any arrangement with greens, as it allows yourself a grid to work with in keeping flowers in their place. Remove all leaves that will be under water. That goes for all the flowers, too. If you leave them on, bacteria will grow, and you’ll start smelling something funky in a day or two. Greens are cut and then placed in the vase on an angle. You can always put more greens in later, but starting with the grid is essential.
Step 8: Begin placement of the rest of your flowers! Insert a few mass flowers (not all all of them at once), giving it volume, continuing on to include your lines and filler, and more mass flowers. Cut the flowers at varying heights, and place at the desired position.
Step 9: Yay! You are done! Enjoy your art. Take pictures, and make sure to keep it hydrated, snipping stems and changing the water every day.