Pink roses, calla lilies and alstroemeria

Flowers can add a lot to your tablescape and decor, but ordering several arrangements from a florist can add up quickly. Learning to make your own DIY arrangements is a skill that can be used over and over, which is why I took a few classes over the years to learn some techniques from the pros. Most recently, I took a class with Lisa of Studio Sweet Pea, who taught flower arranging for Martha Stewart Living.  I learned so much in the class, and came home with a pretty arrangement that lasted for a week, thanks to some of the techniques Lisa taught. Although I can’t share everything I learned, I though it would be useful to give you a few of the highlights so you can use some of the tips for your own arrangements.


1.  Choose a good vessel.  You can arrange flowers in a vase, jar, cup or box, but some vessels are easier to work with than others. Round vases are the simplest for symmetrical arrangements; square vases tend to be a little harder to work with. Vases that are tapered with a wider opening tend to work best for flowers that look good spread out. For a compact, modern arrangement like the one shown above, a round vase with straight sides is the easiest to work with.

2. Keep blooms fresh. Cut flowers need to drink water in order to stay fresh. Cut the stems at a 45 degree angle (not straight across) to give your flowers the most surface area possible to drink as much water as they can. Immediately plunge cut stems into water. No need to add anything to the water to keep them fresh, just be sure to change the water every few days and recut the stems at an angle to allow the flowers to drink more water. You want your flowers to last for more than a few days after you’ve taken time and effort to put together a pretty flower arrangement. Cutting of the stems at a deep angle and promptly placing them in water is the best way to keep flowers fresh.

3. Clean stems. Remove any leaves and/or prickers that will fall below the water line from the stem of each flower. Not only will it make the stems look neater in the bottom of the vase, but it will also keep the water cleaner and make your flowers last longer.

4. Arrange flowers at eye level. If your arrangement will be the centerpiece for your dinner table you will be looking at the flowers from the side, at eye level. The best way to know how your flowers look from that angle is to arrange them while seated at the table. You don’t have to stay at eye level the whole time (it can be impractical if you don’t have the right set-up, as florists do), but periodically crouch down or standup, whichever the case may be, and take a look at your arrangement from the view you will be seeing them at most often, and adjust from there.

5.  Always put flowers in the vase at an angle. This is a new tip that I picked up during the flower arranging class with Lisa. In the past, I typically arranged flowers in my hand, then cut the stems down to size and placed them in a vase. During the class, I learned that placing flowers into an arrangement at an angle, rather than putting them in straight (i.e. vertical) creates structure for your flowers and allows you to see the center of each bloom. Even when arranging bouquets made up of one type of flower, I still use this tip and it makes the arrangement both structurally stable and prettier because you can see the center of each flower, which is often the pretties part.

Keep in mind that flower arranging takes some time and as a host, your time is limited.  I like to put flower arrangements together the night before a party, so they’re on the table and ready to go.  But to be honest, when I have a lot to do, I often order flowers in advance from my local flower shop. It takes some of the stress out of my party prep. I drop off my vase(s) the day before a party, pick out my flowers with the florist, then have the flowers delivered in my vase(s). All I have to do is plunk the vase on the table, which I definitely appreciate while I am, say, tending to more important tasks, like mixing up a big batch of sangria. Do you have any flower arranging tips to share? Link in the comments.