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Main Content

THE ART OF FRESH FLOWERS

Arrange blooms into pretty bouquets

By Hollie Deese

Photography by Scott Galvin

Melody Smith, of Randolph, Ohio, still remembers what it was like to work out in the garden alongside her mom, Cherie Mumma, who was quite well-known in the area for her floral creations. Melody was always watching and learning from her mother’s designs, attempting her first floral arrangement at about age 14. “We had a vacant lot next door to our house when I was growing up,” Melody says. “It was full of violets, violas, and lily of the valley. I would pick handfuls of them and give them to my mom. She had small vases of every color in the rainbow on the kitchen window ledge, and there she would arrange my tokens of affection.”

Anyone can make arrangements as pretty as her mother’s if they follow a few simple rules that can take you from stuffing stems into a vase to creating a display that is worthy of your table’s centerpiece, Melody says. Home flower arranging may be a lost art form for many, and even if you can’t grow your own flowers you can still learn to create beautiful bouquets and floral arrangements with flowers from a florist with these tips from Melody: 

CHOOSE HEARTY BLOOMS

“There is a reason florists sell the kinds of flowers they do,” she says. Roses, daisies, and carnations are considered long-lasting and easy to arrange. Some flowers are more temperamental. For instance, lilies have pollen stamens that if you don’t remove will drip pollen everywhere, possibly leaving stains, and daylilies last just that, a day.

MIX SHAPES AND SIZES

A bouquet of a dozen roses can look a bit boring if attention isn’t paid to the height of the flowers when putting it all together. “Your size difference actually gives you the framework,” Melody says. “If you can get a variety of flowers, that adds interest, variety, and color.” That goes for fillers, too. “When you can combine more than one shape it makes it a lot more interesting,” she says. When cutting the stems you can even make sure to create varied heights, taking an inch off one, then two inches off the next one.

CUT CORRECTLY 

Make sure your scissors are sharp before you cut your stems. And to make sure they get optimum water absorption, Melody will usually cut an “x” the very bottom of the stem, especially if it’s woody. “Then, just put a little bit of sugar in the water or flower preservative to make them last a little longer,” she notes. Accidentally cut too much? Just go with a Japanese floating bud style of arrangement. 

DON’T OVERSTUFF

If you put too many flowers in a vase, they can’t breathe, which will cause them to wilt quickly. Keep things airy, then use greenery like ferns or baby’s breath as filler that gives oomph to a design without taking up too much space. “It is art that just frames your flowers gorgeously,” Melody says. 

DRESS UP A VASE

Melody’s mother had rows and rows of vases in basement cabinets, all different sizes, shapes, and colors. But if you have little to work with, you can still make a pretty arrangement. “If you have an ugly vase, or just a jar, try adding hosta or some other type of leaf down low to hide the rim of the container,” Melody says. If your flowers need support in the vase, a block of floral foam, available at crafts stores and florists, will keep them in place.

AVOID DIRECT SUNLIGHT

Extend the life of a bouquet by keeping them out of direct sunlight once they’re cut, Melody advises. That’s because the buds will have a tendency to want to turn toward it. “Plus, it’ll dry them out faster,” she says.

REVIVE WILTED BUDS

If your bouquet starts to wilt or if the flowers start to droop, they are most likely not drawing water, Melody says. “A lot of times you can revive them,” she says. “Just cut them off pretty close to the flower itself and stick them in what they call ‘floater vases’ that are low and flat. A bowl will work also.” ★ 

Hollie Deese is a Gallatin, Tenn., writer.