Nothing uplifts a room or your spirits like a bouquet of fresh flowers. But when it comes to creating a special centerpiece, or simply decorating with a few blossoms, many of us don’t know where to begin.
“When you’re working with beautiful blooms, there’s no such thing as bad design,” says Meredith Waga Perez, owner of Belle Fleur in New York City. And the more time you spend around artful arrangements, the more your health will benefit.
A Rutgers University study linked flowers with happy emotions and increased intimacy with family and friends, and other research has found that flowers in the workplace heighten creativity and problem-solving skills.
Researchers say that many flowers have pleasing scents, shapes, and colors, which may contribute to our positive reaction to them.
To showcase flowers, Perez advises, “Keep arrangements simple, take your time to design, and follow a few basic rules of color and form.”
Rather than simply depositing a storebought bouquet of mixed blossoms in a large vase, divide it into smaller bunches, bundling the blooms you like best.
Many experts, like Pico Soriano, a floral designer in Redwood Shores, California, recommend buying bouquets of just one type of flower. “The repetition looks chic, and it helps you appreciate the beauty of an individual flower,” he says. Scatter a similar variety of arrangements around a room, or cluster a few in one area.
Choose blooms that echo the look and feel of your surroundings, says Dorothy McDaniel, a floral designer in Homewood, Alabama, and author of Simply Beautiful Flowers.
“Sunflowers, asters, and gerbera daisies have an earthy, rustic quality, while roses, calla lilies, and orchids lend themselves to a more formal setting.” Within those constraints, you can also play up the season or match the mood of a gathering.
“For a romantic dinner, consider a classic arrangement of red roses in a shiny black vase,” Soriano says. For an autumn brunch, display a bunch of yellow and orange cockscomb in a mason jar or tin can.
You can bundle the stems of taller flowers together with ribbon, raffia, or pipe cleaners for added stability, McDaniel says. “For more design flexibility, anchor flowers with florist foam or florist frogs,” she says. Both of these products are available at crafts stores and flower shops.
A single sweet-smelling flower can make a big impact. “I’ll often place a white flower, such as a lily of the valley or lilac, in the bathroom,” Perez says. “This understated detail adds a touch of elegance and an intoxicating aroma to a room that is often forgotten.” In lieu of scented candles in the bedroom, she suggests floating fragrant white gardenias in a simple shallow vase or bowl; place on the bedside table.
Choose one that accentuates the line, shape, and size of your floral composition. For example, a narrow cylindrical vase not only sets off long-stemmed blooms well, but it also provides support for more fragile flowers like tulips, Perez says.
"Cherry blossoms or Japanese dogwood make a striking display in a container that’s tall and wide.” A squat container with a wide brim is beautifully suited for packing in three or four varieties, such as peonies, roses, hyacinths, and hydrangeas. A single tea rose or a few sprigs of sweet pea or button ranunculus look at home in a bud vase.
The architecture and purpose of a room will dictate the size of the arrangement. Taller arrangements are more appropriate for mantels, as well as corner and entry tables; lower, petite ones are best suited for smaller rooms.
“Centerpieces shouldn’t exceed 10 inches in height or guests won’t be able to converse easily,” Perez says. If the arrangement is freestanding, blooms must be visible from all angles, McDaniel adds. If it’s backed by a wall, make sure that the flowers face outward and are fuller on the exposed side.
Keep the flowers proportionate to the size of the container. “A general rule of thumb is that the stem should be one and a half times the height of the vase,” McDaniel says. In other words, if the vessel is 8 inches high, the flowers should rise 4 inches above the lip of the vase. For pave arrangements, which are full and short, snip stems so that the blossoms rest just above the opening.