Sometimes, it’s best to trust the experts when it comes to big, showy bouquets for events or a dramatic, romantic gesture. Other times, your dining room, nightstand, side table, or kitchen island calls to bring you joy and the stimulating energy that only a hand-selected, personally arranged gift from Mother Nature can convey. Welcome to floral arranging 101.
We chatted with Jamie Lee McCormick, an expert at The Flower Daddy—a boutique, full-service floral design studio—to learn some of his genius vision. He kindly divulged a few secrets and tips on how to express your own floral fantasy, so you can gift a friend or yourself these dimensional treats for a special occasion, or just because.
His first bud of advice? “Always start with greens.” They give a wild, verdant feel to your bouquet, so that your end result doesn’t look too sterile or plucked from nature, but rather as though nature has bloomed right inside your vase. He loves using fresh mints and herbs in his creations, which also lend purity and a fresh scent to your space.
Because McCormick is a creative, he doesn’t subscribe to any specific formula and won’t dictate a strict code for selecting your blooms. “Flowers are meant to be celebratory,” he said. “Don’t overthink it.” It’s always a good idea to combine pieces that play off each other instead of matching uniformly.
Your desired fullness and range of color depends on the occasion (or non-occasion), so roll with your intuition. You want to give your arrangement a touch of dynamic unruliness, so that it has a wild beauty that creates a force field of interest.
However, he does have some advice in terms of looking for freshness. Pay attention to obvious signs of age and steer clear of anything that is limp or browning. McCormick always looks for closed or partially open flowers, especially with peonies. “There are some florals that have a more dependable life expectancy. Roses and hydrangeas can last for a while, unlike tulips, which can die quickly.” But hey. Life is short. If you’re in the mood for tulips, we aren’t stopping ya.
If the florist doesn’t trim them for you at the shop, give them a fresh trim of a few inches or whatever your desired vase/bouquet height needs so that the ends are ready to drink up. You can extend the life of your arrangements by trimming every few days and replacing the water with a fresh splash. You can even spritz the petals to keep them cool—in fact, McCormick suggests doing this as soon as you get them home to kick off longevity.
You may have heard of taping a vase. According to McCormick, it’s not really a necessity, unless you need help constructing a very precise vision and it needs to travel without shifting. In this case, you can use floral tape and place it over the vase opening in a grid pattern.
When selecting the vase, you have some room to get creative here as well. You can cut the stems to fit nearly any vessel, so long as there is enough of a base to support the blooms when they reach their full expression. Simply line up your selections outside the vase first to measure where you want to cut, and snip at an angle of at least 45 degrees. Cutting at an angle is crucial, McCormick says, because the flowers can absorb the water better than if they were given a straight cut.
Last note from McCormick? Experiment and express yourself. Floral arrangements are such a beautiful expression of love, the generous gifts from nature herself, and a reminder of how fleeting everything is. Happy arranging.