Petal Passion: Say It With Flowers—Your Way!
In today’s economy many women are learning the joy of imaginative flower arranging without hiring an expensive professional.
Is there a more loving gesture than giving flowers? Actually, there is: giving flowers that you have arranged yourself. And, in the current economy, more and more New Yorkers are looking for ways to create lovely arrangements without spending hundreds of dollars on professionally arranged blooms. Try your hand at it and you’ll be hooked—few pastimes are more soothing and fun to do. If you can’t get to a flower-arranging class (see box), try these tips for chic designs:
Where to find flowers: Head to your local florist shop if you want special or imported flowers, or some beautiful filler flowers to complement an arrangement. But if you are looking for less-expensive blooms, try your local bodega. But be wary: Flowers purchased at the wrong time may keel over by the next morning. “Ask managers when they get their flower deliveries and buy that day. That’s when flowers will be at their freshest,” says Trish O’Sullivan, coordinating director of the Floral Design Program at The New York Botanical Garden.
If you can’t wait for delivery day, head to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. “They have great fresh flowers that have been well-kept and well-watered,” says O’Sullivan. Word to the wise: Wait to select your flowers until you are about to check out. Don’t travel around the store with your flowers. Pick them up last so they don’t get bruised or too warm.
Buy seasonally: Beautiful, fresh daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips are available this time of year, while “peonies are going to look amazing in June,” says Lewis Miller (see slideshow), a leading floral and event designer and owner of LMD New York. If you’ve bought great looking tulips that last only a few days, avert this by buying tulips that aren’t quite open, showing only some color at the top and are still green at the base. But don’t buy tulips with buds that are too tightly and all green; they probably won’t open.
Arranging your flowers: Opt for a just-picked, unstructured look. Instead of creating a tight group of flowers, “the new trend is for looser, more natural looking arrangements that look like they’ve come out of a garden,” says Eileen Johnson, director and founder of the Flower School New York. “Mix the flowers with a variety of beautiful leaves for color and texture.”
Think green (or purple). Green flowers have been popular for a while, says Susan Holt, owner of Posies, an Upper West Side bouquet shop. Among the flowers she recommends are the green “limbo rose,” the “super green rose,” and green calla lillies. Also popular are lavender flowers, says celebrity florist Michael Gaffney, founder of New York School of Flower Design. Try anemones, lavender roses, and variegated carnations.
Mix similar colors. “Artistically, you can’t go wrong if you go monochromatic,” says Johnson. You can mix in different flowers in a similar color for an interesting look. Or buy lots of the same kind of flower—in the same color—like 30 tulips or 30 carnations. Color mixing is hard, but if you do prefer more than one color, buy two that will work together, like green and white or blue and green.”
Create a foundation with foliage. When you start arranging your flowers, use leaves as a foundation, loosely extending them over the vase’s rim. “You don’t ever want to see the edge of a container,” says Miller.
Make the vase part of the statement. Vintage pots, pitchers—even mint julep cups—are great. “Containers make the design,” says Kimberly Perrone, owner of Eastside’s Bloom Flowers. However, it’s still possible to arrange your flowers with great style in a $3 glass vase. Just make sure that you have clear, clean water and can see the stems.
Flower care is key. Many cut flowers may last about a week, particularly if you cut about an inch off the stems before placing them in cool—not cold—water and add bleach to control the growth of stem-plugging bacteria. (O’Sullivan, an eco-florist, suggests a pinch of powdered eco color-safe bleach when first putting the flowers in water). Also be sure to add some fresh cool water each day and keep the flowers out of direct sunlight. “If I have a small arrangement, I put the flowers in the refrigerator at night—it’s like they are in a cooler,” says O’Sullivan. “Flowers are gifts to others or ourselves. If you take the right steps, you can enjoy their beauty far longer.”
Rona Cherry has written about health and wellness for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Ladies’ Home Journal, Vegetarian Times, and many other publications. She was the editor-in-chief of several national magazines, including Fitness and Longevity. She is currently an editorial consultant with regional publications and nonprofits.