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Tips for flower arranging at home

Now that Spring is here and our flower farm is blooming more and more by the day, all the vases gathering dust in a cupboard are receiving a ritual spit and polish, ready for our field-grown, farm-fresh flowers.

For me, flower arranging is an all-consuming, ever-deepening love. I love arranging flowers, even after a long day, I will always want to arrange a small something for the dining table or along a windowsill at home. Arranging flowers in different colour combinations, textures, shapes, and forms, is not merely a decorative hobby, but an essential act with surprisingly broad applications and a long history from the ancient Egyptians to the master ikebana practitioners of Japan. At its most basic level, it is an urge to satisfy visual preferences that are instinctive and have evolved from millions of years of crafting with our hands, with natural materials, and with a deep seated appreciation of the natural world. Flower arranging is a simple pleasure and brings so much life, vitality and colour to our homes.

As a professional florist and home flower arranger, I want to share with you what I have learned about flower arranging over many years. Read on for practical tips for arranging flowers and displaying them at home as well as affirmations and reminders on why we do it at all.

Glorious summer flowers hydrating in the sink before the arranging begins, if I didn't need access to the sink I would have kept them like this!

  • Unleash your creativity

Flower arranging is a great way to tap into our creativity, which we can unlearn through schooling, jobs, attitudes, adulthood etc. Flowers are part of the natural world, which we all have the capacity to be moved by, and flowers are the perfect device to unleash that dormant creativity. Remember that play is as important for adults as it is for children. Flower arranging can be a playful and experimental practice that brings you a significant amount of joy without the pressure of a specific end result. Give yourself a well deserved reprieve from work and connect with flowers to escape the responsibilities of adulthood, even if its just for a moment or two.

Freshly filled vases ready to be distributed around the house.

  • Learn how to edit

When I am teaching floristry, I always guide students to look closely at their arrangement with a 'discerning eye'. Often, the smallest tweak can make the biggest difference. Taking a photograph can help, as our eye critiques photographs differently. Ask yourself questions, really think about how everything is behaving visually, and if that is what you want it to do. Often these decisions are pure instinct and we don't have the language to articulate exactly why, it just "works". It is about being in tune and in the zone. Flowers are the perfect way to connect with our aesthetic instincts, discover our style and learn design principles, it is an appreciation of both simplicity and complexity all at once; this colour complements that colour, this texture adds a contrast to that texture, this shape speaks to this shape, and so on. Being a master editor takes time, experience, constructive critique, kindness, and discernment.

A delicate balance of shape, form and colour with every stem dancing and falling into place. Trailing the fine line being carefully crafted and gently undone, the just-scooped-from-garden look but with the light intervention of a human touch.

  • Let go of your thinking mind

Often when flower arranging, we can become fixated on the end result, but remember the purpose of creating beautiful arrangements is not the end result but the process itself. Arranging flowers is to create some form of order from chaos, it is about extracting essences of the wild jumble of a garden and through that process you are actually cultivating your own thoughts. It helps to deepen you thinking, expand your mind, find rest, and explore ideas with more mental clarity, and is a welcome and essential break from screens and busyness.

An unplugged Saturday morning spent flower arranging, battling crosswords, and an entire pot of jam!

  • Choose the right vase for your arrangement

I use the word "right" here very loosely, and what I mean about the correct vase is more about how you use it and what you put in it, rather than a clear cut right or wrong choice. The vase you choose should be just what you need for the flowers you have. Build a varied collection of vases from all different shapes, sizes, colours, materials, and textures. From transparent glass to proudly display the stems of your expertly executed bouquet spiral to a range of opaque vessels for obscuring stems and hide any haphazard arranging techniques! Every vase requires a slightly different treatment when arranging the flowers for it. Different flowers have different growth habits and naturally grown, garden flowers can be temperamental. We want to work with their eccentric architecture and bendy character rather than forcing them to go the way we want them to go, let them guide you. Some flowers have short stems, some long, others are branchy and therefore heavy. Large headed, blousy flowers such as peonies will need to be grounded with a vase that can match and balance their weight. A vase which has a neck that is narrower than the base is easier to arrange in and therefore, can be arranged quickly and easily. These vases are great for beginners. A wider necked vase will need some more technique. Another consideration is the colour and style of the vase. Think about how its colour and surface texture speaks to the flowers you choose for it. Don't overthink it, the best flower vase can even be something as simple as an elegantly shaped wine bottle or a jam jar.

Early spring narcissi in one of my favourite vases, blue and yellow being opposites on the colour wheel and therefore perfectly complementary, it makes me think of sunshine and clear skies; the clarity of spring after a long winter. The glass frog supports the stems and because the flower heads are so small and lightweight, I was able to leave the stems long.

This is another favourite vase, a vintage find and a real bargain. The skirted rim of this vase supports the weight of the large dahlia heads. Warm pinks and peaches match the colour of the vase and the light catching on the glass speaks to the lighter tones of the mint flowers and the statice.

  • Arrange your flowers before placing in the vase

When arranging for a vase with a wide neck, arrange the flowers in your hand first. Simply form an O shape with your thumb and forefinger and add flowers into your hand at different angles and heights. Tie the stems together before placing the vase. You can leave the flowers tied in the vase or cut the twine or raffia and let the stems fall open and the arrangement loosen. This ensures you get a full and lush arrangement with structure and shape and the flowers don't rest on the rim of the neck leaving the dreaded hole in the middle.

This ceramic jug has a very wide neck and an additional pouring spout which makes it even wider. I arranged these flowers using the "hand vase" technique using my thumb and forefinger to shape an O, creating this arrangement with peonies, allium, sweet pea, geranium, roses, lupins, scabious, and columbine. Just a few of June's favourites!

  • Dedicate a vase to a single variety

As much as I love a bouquet full of detail and variety, sometimes a single variety or even a single stem is all you need. Garden roses sometimes deserve a vase to themselves as they are so diverse in colour, shape, size, and scent. A vase filled with roses can be just as dynamic as a bouquet full of many different varieties.

Highly scented garden roses in full bloom and in tight buds which opened in the heat of the house, a vase of flowers is a living and changing entity.

A small vase of deadheaded rose flowers with short stems sending the most delicious lemon scent through the kitchen.

A single rose in a passata jar, simple and fun!

A vase dedicated to sweet peas is also a beautiful statement with every stem naturally being a different length, a different colour, and bending in different directions. For this reason, they arrange themselves in the vase and the arrangement will come together naturally as you cut them in the garden.

Sweet peas quickly and informally arranged in the garden while cutting, simple but so beautiful

  • Venture outside

I love to display vases of flowers in the garden, for no other reason other than it looks beautiful and it can demarcate a special spot to sit, have breakfast, coffee, dinner, read, chat... Bear in mind that if your flowers are in full sun, this will significantly shorten their vase life. Either embrace this transience or place them in the shade.

Flowers on a table in the garden and all around.

  • Think outside of the box (or swap the vase for a box)

There are lots of different ways to display flowers at home. For this arrangement, I lined this apple crate with lots of glass jars and added flowers to them quickly without thinking too much about what went where to create this fun, flower-filled box for a garden party. My guests, although they have come to expect to see lots of flowers at my home, were really smitten with this!

Flower crate with glowing marigolds, sweet peas, dahlias, echinacea, and blackberries.

  • Create space

You can make arrangements appear airy and spacious by using a combination of short and long stems. Allow flower heads to tower high on long stems to create negative space. Cut some of the stems short so that the flower heads sit close to the rim of the vase. This will guide the eye up and down, creating balance and elegance.

A cloud of cow parsley, one of my favourite early summer flowers.

Have you ever wondered how florists make it look as though the flowers are growing magically from the vase? A flower frog or kenzan is a Japanese flower arranging tool which is a network of spikes on a weighted metal base. Insert the stems onto the spikes and the flowers will stand tall and proud - it's one of the easiest ways to instantly elevate your flower arrangements!

Narcissi and bluebells in a low scalloped bowl with the stems secured in a flower frog to create that magical, just-grown-from-the-vase look.

  • Place vase in front of a mirror

Displaying flowers in front of a mirror is a great way to amplify the arrangement, making it look more lush and abundant because the flowers are reflected from behind.

Lupins stealing the show here being delightfully wayward and bendy!

  • Embrace short stems

Tiny flower arrangements really make me smile. If ever there was a contrast between the length of the stem and the impact of the flower head, the pansy is the perfect example. Large flower heads, deep colour, overlapping upper petals, striped side petals, and a single bottom petal with a beard of contrasting colour, even a smiling yellow face in the middle. These flowers are visually striking and complex. Florists and flower arrangers often disregard flowers with short stems but we grow these especially for cutting, and they certainly deserve to be admired in a perfectly scaled ceramic dish fit for a dolls house!

Little pansies, big impact.

Tiny vases no more than 4-5cms tall, filled with the tiniest buds. Is there anything more delightful than miniatures?

  • Give flowers pride of place

Place your flowers in the most focal spot in the room where you can see them; on the coffee table, dining table, mantlepiece, next to your bed, and in the transitional spaces of the home; next to the front door, in the hall, so that you see them every time you walk past. Flowers instantly elevate a space, as well as giving them pride of place, think about adding a strong pop of colour to dark corner or a muted backdrop, anywhere in the home that needs a little lift. A hallway is the perfect space to display vases of fresh flowers as they are guaranteed to bring joy as soon as you walk through the door and beckon you back home every time you leave. Adding a simple vase of flowers in any room, gives a homely and personal touch, making you and/or your guests feel really special.

The happy sight of bright yellow daffodils bringing sunshine to a quiet corner.

  • Source vintage vases

If you love decorating with vintage, add style, uniqueness and sophistication to your flower arranging practice by hunting for second hand vases online and in your local charity shops to expand your collection. I particularly love antique brass, murano glass, enamel jugs, painted ceramics, hand blown glass, and anything with a unique shape, colour, and time worn patina.

Muscari in an antique copper jug, according to an old wive's tale, if you pop a copper penny into the vase water it will make the flowers last longer. Win win if the vase itself is made of copper!

I have been sourcing these frilled glass flower bowls in different colours. So far I have found a pink, blue, gold, and green one - all with their original glass frogs! Here they are filled with dancing ranunculus and complete the table set for a birthday dinner.

All of the images in this blog are from my home and just some of the many flowers that graced its surfaces last year. It is often said that flowers bring joy, brighten up a room, bring the outside in, make a space more homely, but I think the impact is deeper than that. Flowers are living entities which provide us with a much needed mediation and perspective on the transience of life and death. They are ancient holders of knowledge and they have captured our imaginations for as long as we have been living among them.

Freshly cut flowers and freshly harvested strawberries.

I urge everyone to keep a pair of flower snips with them at all times, in your kitchen drawer, bag, pocket, car, bike, belt. You never know when you might uncover the notion to arrange a vase of flowers. Whether it is buying yourself flowers, gathering a few twigs on a woodland walk, or cutting from a garden (your own or with permission!), or from pots on your windowsill, or when someone surprises you with the gift of flowers! The act of creating an arrangement will brighten up your day and transport you to that precious moment of calm, fill your heart with pride, and cultivate deep thought.

Thank you for reading!

Lauren x

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