How to Make Flower Arrangements

If you're looking for an excuse to learn how to make flower arrangements, according to the Harvard Medical School's Home Ecology of Flowers study, flowers have a measurable effect on mood. The study found that people experience lower levels of worry and anxiety when flowers are present in the home than not.

Getting Started
Chances are you've given or received flower arrangements in the past, so you may already have a good sense of how important balance is to creating an arrangement. For this reason, it's not uncommon to see lots of symmetry in traditional designs. More complex designs that play with symmetry or innovative shapes are beautiful too, so how do you know where to start?

Start by determining what you want your arrangement to inspire. Traditional arrangements are designed to promote feelings of peace and relaxation and the fresh flowers used may be selected for both visual and aromatic reasons.

Innovative arrangements capture the eye with lavish sweeps of cascading flowers and interesting angles, and, as a result, may be designed to stimulate the sense rather than calm them. Regardless, no arrangement you choose to make can truly be called a mistake-someone will appreciate its beauty.

Choosing a Container
Don't fall in the trap of thinking that a vase is a vase is a vase. Vases come in all shapes and sizes, made out of a variety of materials and don't always conform to common shapes. Although the vase isn't the focal point of the arrangement, you still want to take care that what you choose complements the arrangement you're making.

When you're making flower arrangements at home, don't overlook container-like objects you already have. Items like antique creamers, novelty cookie jars, an heirloom baked bean pot and even martini shakers are creative choices to hold your arrangements.

If you choose an item other than a traditional vase to work with, take care to protect it by inserting smaller containers inside to hold the water and/or flower foam if you'll be using that to support the stems.

Working with Flower Foam
Green flower foam helps flowers stay put once you've arranged them. This spongy material contains preservatives that help extend the life of fresh cut flowers.Simply place the foam in a bowl of water, then, when it's saturated, cut a piece to fit the vase or container you're using. Use florist's tape to secure the foam by wrapping it over the foam and down the sides of the container. Finally, place the tape across the other edges to form an X shape with the tape to secure it to the container.

Selecting Flowers and Shaping Arrangements
It's a good idea to let either the shape of the arrangement dictate the flowers you choose, or let the flowers you want to use dictate the shape of the arrangement. Use the following arrangement shape guidelines below to help you get a sense of what you'd like to create.

Triangular arrangements. These arrangements are typically taller in the center than they are wide at the base, just like a triangle. To arrange flowers in this fashion, you'll want to choose flowers with long stems, often referred to as line flowers. Line flowers help define the height and width of the arrangement and have sturdy stalks, like gladiolas and lilies. Choose three line flowers that you like, each a bit taller than the next, which is the standard for this shape arrangement, then work with your focal flowers and filler flowers to refine the shape.

Oval arrangements. Generally high and built around a line of focal flowers in the center, oval arrangements make use of similar-type flowers to make up the middle or body of the arrangement. Use more focal flowers in the middle for greater, concentrated effect or, to keep it simple, choose only one or two large focal flowers, like sunflowers. Small blooms don't do well in oval arrangements except as filler.

Round or circular arrangements. These arrangements are incredibly easy to make and are best presented in shallow, round vases reminiscent of goldfish bowls. The height of the arrangement is key here-line flowers that are too tall can make the arrangement look top-heavy and too large for the container. It's best to keep line flowers to a minimum here and experiment with using focal flowers that are all the same type (all lilies) or all the same color (yellow, for example).

Vase arrangements. When it comes to vase arrangements, arrange flowers as though you were making a bouquet. Experiment with tight bunches or looser, airier arrangements. Work toward an overall flower height of double the vase. Trim flower stalks so that the tallest flower is at the center and the rest gradually get shorter. Use filler flowers or foliage to fill any holes in the bouquet. Filler flowers that work well are feverfew, baby's breath and other flowers with an abundance of tiny blossoms on each stalk.

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