Floral Styling 101

Creating Designer-Style Centerpieces With Grocery Store Flowers

By Camille Simmons

With more time at home, a lot of us are taking up old hobbies or finding new passions.  Flowers are a wonderful way to express creativity and decorate your home during any downtime that you might have.

A bouquet on your table can bring such a sense of peace and a feeling of nature. Flowers can be especially helpful in beautifying your space while we’re all spending more time inside. An arrangement also makes a lovely gift that you can easily leave on the doorstep of a friend or neighbor.

While there are a lot of online options for ordering flowers and getting them delivered, making your own bouquet can be affordable and definitely more fun. Before I became a florist and started decorating weddings, I practiced by purchasing flowers from my local grocery store. Trader Joe’s always has a great selection of blooms for decent prices and Whole Foods is usually my back up.  Local farmer’s markets are great too and you can support local growers!

I always try to shop with a color palette in mind but it’s also important to pay attention to freshness and quality.  Sometimes grocery store flowers have traveled long distances and have been refrigerated for several weeks.  The fastest way to tell if the flowers will last longer is to check the leaves and petals. If they are bruised, brown or damaged, move on to the next bunch.  A little wilted can be okay once they are cut and given fresh water. You can choose only one type of flower and create a beautiful simple arrangement or select a variety of flowers to create a more designer look.

There’s really no wrong way to arrange flowers.  Choose colors that speak to you and any kind of vessel as a vase that fits your home’s style.  Flowers will look beautiful no matter how you cut them, just take your time and be intentional with each snip. 

What You’ll Need

One bunch of branches or leaves

One large focal flower like roses, mums, peonies, sunflowers, or dahlias

Two bunches of secondary flowers like ranunculus, tulips, carnations, etc.

Optional small flower like flower buds, chamomile, or spray roses

Of course you can use any combination you want, but when you’re starting out it helps to follow and then experiment more on your own.  For this DIY arrangement, I used these flowers from Trader Joe’s:

One bunch of French lilac branches (5 stems)

One bunch of orange roses (12 stems)

Two bunches of ranunculus (10 pink and 10 orange)

One bunch of pink tulips (20 stems)

Additional materials needed:

Vase with clean room temperature water

Flower pruners or scissors

Tape or flower frog

Gloves (optional for handling thorns)

Instructions

I love to use different types of vessels as vases. Really anything glass or ceramic will do the trick.  I wanted to create a medium arrangement for my dining table that isn’t too tall to look across the table. I used a five inch wide ceramic juice pitcher from my shop and it was the perfect size for this amount of flowers. Once you have a vase and your flowers it’s time to start!

Clean and prep all the stems.  The most important way to make a flower arrangement last as long as possible is to keep the water inside the vase clean. Cutting all the lower leaves from each stem keeps bacteria from growing inside the water. Also clean off any dead or rotting leaves so the rest of the flowers can keep blooming. For roses, remove thorns and the 2-3 of the outermost petals to help the bud open into a full flower.

Prepare the vase by making sure it’s completely clean before adding any water. Mix the water with the flower food packet that comes with the flowers, these really help blooms perk up after they’re cut.  If you’re using a shallow or bowl-style vase it’s helpful to add a little structure to keep the flowers in place. Professionals use a flower frog stuck to the bottom of the vase, but a tape grid works great too.  Try to use a waterproof tape or floral tape, but standard clear tape works too. Just add the water beforehand to keep it as dry as possible.

Add the branches or thickest stems first.  These will create a frame for all the other flowers to fit into.  Try to cross the branches in the vase so that you have a sturdy structure.  You can arrange the branches asymmetrically, one higher than the other or longer to create dimension. 

Next, add in the focal flower. In this case the orange roses.  I always try to balance the focal flower throughout the arrangement, making sure to spread the stems around. Always cut each stem one by one to create varying heights around the vase. I don’t always use the entire bunch initially, I like to come back and add more stems at the end if necessary. It’s okay if you still see gaps to fill in, that’s what the secondary flowers are for.

Secondary flowers usually add a bit of whimsy, like ranunculus with curvy stems. Follow the frame and the “movement” created by the branches.  Fill in the gaps next to the focal flower with more open blooms.  I like to have longer buds on one side and curvy stems flow outwards on the opposite side.  It creates a very organic “just cut from the garden” kind of look.  With a delicate flower like tulips, I like to create more dimension by following the original frame of the branches and cutting the tulips a little bit longer.  Some stick out at an angle while others sit close to the roses and ranunculus blooms.

Give the arrangement a good twirl and add any extra flowers where you can see down into the vase.  Use any extra flowers to make a small bouquet or centerpiece for another corner like a bathroom vanity, desk or nightstand. Be sure to replace the water in the vase every few days to keep the flowers longer. 

See the video for the full step-by-step.

Stylish Vases

The person featured in this story does not endorse the products shown. 

Camille Simmons

Camille Simmons

Entertaining and Decor Contributor

Camille Simmons is a lifestyle and decor stylist in Long Beach, California. She owns an online shop, Planning Pretty, that carries beautiful accessories for entertaining and gifts. She enjoys spending time with her son, Milo; husband, Joe, and their black cat in their vintage beachside 1930s apartment.

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