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The Basics of Flower Arranging

Updated on September 26, 2012

A Simple Sunflower Arrangement

Beautiful, but simple. Sunflowers and cut short and just placed in the foam, with other yellow flowers and fillers spaced around. Foliage or medollino sticks can then be used to embellish the final design.
Beautiful, but simple. Sunflowers and cut short and just placed in the foam, with other yellow flowers and fillers spaced around. Foliage or medollino sticks can then be used to embellish the final design. | Source

Food for the soul

Flower arranging is an art which combines color, shape and texture to form decorations. You find them in most homes and businesses, and most celebrations would be incomplete without them.

Flowers, whether artificial or fresh, are a part of life, and have been since ancient times. There is no ‘right’ way to arrange them, fashions have changed with the ages. In the 1920’s and thirties, all the way to the sixties, carnations were popular cut flowers. In the Middle Ages, floral arrangements included sweet smelling herbs, buttercups and daisies and foliage was an important part of every arrangement or posy.

These days carnations tend to be reviled, while more ‘cottage garden’ flowers, like hydrangeas, are often found in 21st century arrangements. Bridal bouquets feature many flower heads and little foliage, (though this trend is changing) and silk flowers have become so realistic it is often difficult to tell them from the real thing.

A knowledge of flower arranging even at the most basic level, will enhance your home and your life. An old chinese proverb says that if you only have two pennies left in the world, you should buy bread with one penny and a flower with the other. One is food for the body, the other, food for the soul.

Ikebana Arrangement


What Is A Flower Arrangement?

A flower arrangement can be anything from a giant urn filled with blooms to is a single flower in a tiny vase. This last may sound far too simple, yet the Japanese have made an entire art form, Ikebana (the way of the flower) around minimal arrangements. These may look easy, but the effect is very precise, and although I’ve tried many times, this is one aspect of flower arranging which eludes me. Highly prized in Japan, and in contrast to Western flower arranging, usually practised by men rather than women.

A Simple Monochromatic Arrangement

Simple, lovely arrangement, mostly one color, plays with different textures and flower sizes.
Simple, lovely arrangement, mostly one color, plays with different textures and flower sizes. | Source

Getting Started.

Western arrangements tend to use more blooms and at a basic level need little more than a vase and some flowers, usually available in the local supermarket.

Take your flowers home and soak them well in a tall bucket. Each flower will benefit from being treated in a specific way, learning this is part of a florists training, but at the most basic level the important point is to keep the flowers hydrated and cool. The best way to do so is to cut the stems at and angle and keep them in water for at least four hours before arranging them. Add flower food to the water, or some professionals prefer to add a drop of bleach, these stops bacteria from developing in the water.

Flower Arrangements: The Proportions

Traditional flower arrangements are roughly fan shaped. The tallest stem should be one and a half times the height of the vase, or taller. If you are working on a long, low arrangement, such as a tablecenter, the same rule applies, the longest branches should be at least one and a half times the longest dimension of the container. These rules will help you build a tall or long arrangement, but many modern floral designs ignore these proportions and create groupings of flower heads just above the surface of the vase.

Flower Arranging Tools

You don't need anything complicated to make a flower arrangement, but, at least to begin with, you will need something to keep your flowers in place.

  • Use crushed chicken wire (reusable - can adapt to any shape) You can use any type of wire, including the wire sold as bouquet collars. This looks good used with a transparent vase.
  • Florists foam (soak thoroughly in water plus flower food - don’t force it, use dry foam for silk flowers) Most people are familiar with the green floral foam, but you can by foam in a wide variety of colors. If you want to arrange flowers in a tall narrow container, use a bouquet holder. The foam will hold the flowers and the handle can be pushed into the neck of the vase.
  • Pin holders or frogs (usually used for shallow containers) Some florists use these to keep foam in place, or alone in Japanese style minimalist arrangements.
  • Scissors or secateurs can be used to cut the stems and you may find a knife useful to strip the leaves etc from the stems.

Other tools you may find useful are

  • florists wire
  • Tall florists buckets.
  • florists tape
  • a water spray
  • floral food
  • embellishments, such as decorative wire or ribbon.

Flower arranging cab be messy. I start each project by spreading some newspaper or a cloth on my worktable, then I can gather all my discarded leaves and stems together easily at the end.

Unusual Containers Can Be Very Effective

Flower Arranging Rules

There are no rules when it comes to flower arranging for yourself. If you like the result, your arrangement is good. The things you need to think about are

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Scent.

Don't think you need a lot of expensive flowers to create an arrangement. The best designs incorporate a mixture of the more expensive flowers (focal flowers) filler flowers (usually smaller and cheaper) and foliage. Many modern arrangements forget foliage, but in my view this is a mistake. Flowers always look better when surrounded by greenery, and there are many types of foliage with interesting textures, colors and scents. Think of fall leaves, holly with berries, rose hips and seeded eucalyptus and you'll see what I mean.

A Very Simple Cube Arrangement.

Any one of these three bowls would make a lovely centerpiece for your dining table. Calla lilies, mixed with protea and other smithers oasis products
Any one of these three bowls would make a lovely centerpiece for your dining table. Calla lilies, mixed with protea and other smithers oasis products | Source

Other Ways to Put Flowers in a Vase

Some flowers have very flexible stems which can be bent around the inside of a dish, showing a different way to put flowers in a vase. Call lilies are especially effective when used this way. To be sure of bending the stems, rather than breaking them, take the flowers out of water for a while and let them dehydrate, then bend them slowly and carefully using the heat of your hands. This picture shows what you can achieve with this sort of design, it's effective and economical. The video (below) shows how it's done.

Flowers in a Vase, Bending Stems.

What's In It For Me?

Many people enjoy flower arranging for its own sake, but even if you're not one of them, there are good reason to learn how to create floral designs.

If you entertain, fresh flowers are the 'icing on the cake' and will complete a beautiful table setting, outdoors or in.

Interior Designers use flower arrangement to set the mood for a room and to add splashes of color. Add orchids and lilies to sophisticated modern schemes, roses and hydrangeas to traditional interiors. A beach house looks even better with blue and white flowers on display (try agapanthus) and frilled peonies look wonderful in shabby chic rooms.

Add a splash of color to a modern kitchen with bright gerbera daisies, and add warmth to a cool blue bathroom with pink roses or carnations.

If you plan to sell your home, flowers become a necessary expense. Never let buyers see dead or dying flowers or plants, but the addition of fresh flowers, or the right silk flower arrangement can cheer up a dull room and make the colors sing.

It has never been easier to learn how to make flowers a part of your world, so pick up a book, or click on a youtube video, beautify your life, and feed your soul.


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    • Amaryllis profile imageAUTHOR

      Lesley Charalambides 

      7 years ago from New Hampshire

      I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for commenting.

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 

      7 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      Some great ideas here. Thanks

    • Amaryllis profile imageAUTHOR

      Lesley Charalambides 

      8 years ago from New Hampshire

      Then. I've achieved my objective. I love arranging flowers I hope everyone who reads this hub will have a go and get the same pleasure from it. Thanks for taking the time to comment .

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I used to do a lot of flower arranging and have done a few weddings. This makes me want to get some flowers and go to town.

    • Amaryllis profile imageAUTHOR

      Lesley Charalambides 

      8 years ago from New Hampshire

      Delighted you think so, it's really not difficult to have flowers brighten your life (or someone else's)! Thanks for commenting.

    • CZCZCZ profile image


      8 years ago from Oregon

      I love the fishbowl idea it is great. Time to put a few of these to work and impress my wife with some flowers when she gets home from work.

    • Amaryllis profile imageAUTHOR

      Lesley Charalambides 

      8 years ago from New Hampshire

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think everyone needs more flowers in their lives!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a great look at the basics of flower arranging and I'm glad for new tips--thanks!


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