Looking for Regional Information?

Flower Arranging

By Charles Hopkins Published 12/8/2013 | Crafts

One or two tall roses with leaves in a bud vase is about as pretty and simple as a flower arrangement can be. But a centerpiece for a dinner party requires a little more time and attention to detail.

Flower arranging is fun, but it can be frustrating if you can’t find just the right vase or if your flowers wilt before party time.

People who arrange flowers regularly keep on hand an assortment of bowls and vases in different sizes as well as supplies such as crumpled chicken wire (to stuff into a tall container) or pinholders (to anchor stems in place).

Through practice, they learn that any sort of container can be used for flower arrangements. They also learn how to condition plant materials for longer life.

There is no limit to the variety of flowers and foliage and ways to arrange them.

You can buy cut flowers or use cut flowers from a bed of annuals that you have grown. Remember that it's usually best to cut flowers early in the morning when they are fresh or late in the evening, not in midday sun.

Flowering shrubs and trees also can be sources of flowers for arranging. Prune whenever you need a bouquet. The pruning also will help to make the shrub or tree more compact. A few experiments will tell you which of your cuttings last longest.

Designing arrangements requires more than just sticking a few flowers in a vase. The right container for an arrangement is important. So are basic rules of proportion, which make designs more pleasing to the eye.

An arrangement must be in scale for the space it occupies. The same rules apply to full-size arrangements and miniatures, which usually do not exceed five inches in height.

Further, containers should not be more than one-third the size of the arrangement, she said, except when foliage or flowers come down over the lip of a vase that might otherwise appear too tall.

Every flower has its own little quirk and you learn as you go, by sad experience sometimes.

Here are some guidelines from flower show participants that you can use in arranging flowers in your home:

• If you are arranging flowers in a low bowl, measure the length and depth of the container and make your arrangement at least one and a half times that tall. The same measurements and proportion apply also to the height of taller vases.

• If foliage or flowers are fine-textured, you can make the arrangement taller than the guideline advises. If using bold foliage or flowers, don't make the arrangement taller than one and a half times the size of container.

• With a large, heavy container, you can make the arrangement three times the container's height. But don't make it too tall or it might look as though it will tip over.

• Place flowers at different levels and not all facing forward to give depth, to lend interest to the design and to better show the beauty of the flowers.

• An arrangement that uses three flowers of one type with taller foliage tends to be pleasing to the eye. This is the principal followed in Ikebana, classical Japanese flower arranging.

• One or two leaves of bolder, heavy foliage can be used at the base of an arrangement, with the leaves coming over the edge of the container to give the arrangement a finished look.

• Condition live materials immediately after cutting the stems to prevent wilting so that flowers and foliage will stay fresh longer.

• Most woody plants stay fresh longer if the lower stems are split and crushed so that they absorb water better. Keep them in deep, slightly warm water.

• Roses like conditioning in deep water or in water that contains a little 7-Up or ginger ale. The bubbles from the soda will force water up into the stems.

• Tulips and daffodils (which can be purchased from florist shops) prefer shallow water.

• Some flowers, such as dahlias, poppies and poinsettias, survive in arrangements only if the stems are seared with flame from a candle or match immediately after cutting to seal juices.