How to Arrange Flowers The Prudent Homemaker

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I took a floral arranging class as a university student. I often say that that class and my public speaking class are the two most practical classes I attended.

Floral arrangement styles have changed over the years. I follow several florists on Instagram (who have styles I love but that are very different from what I learned), many of whom are also the growers of those flowers, and they have inspired me to grow flowers I have never grown before. I find myself really drawn to very full arrangements, and in order to achieve those, I need to be able to cut more flowers at once from the garden. In the past, my arrangements have been smaller, because I had fewer flowers in bloom at the same time. Changing the layout in my garden beds has allowed me to plant more flowers.

Want to grow more flowers in your garden without spending a ton? Check out my article on Growing Flowers for Less.

Earth Angel Roses The Prudent Homemaker

When cutting flowers from your garden, it’s important to cut them early in the morning to reduce wilting. I find that the closer to dawn I cut, the longer my flowers last. This is even more important in summer when dawn temperatures are quite warm.

Cut your flowers at an angle with sharp shears, and remove any leaves that will be below the water line to keep the flowers lasting longer.

Floral Arrangement 1 The Prudent Homemaker

I like to use chicken wire balled up inside a wide-mouthed urn to hold my flowers in place. Chicken wire will rust after a few uses, but it’s still useable. I prefer to use it inside a container where it won’t show for that reason. In a clear vase, I’ll use a flower frog.

You can use floral preservative, but you can also use an aspirin in the water, or just change out the water each day to keep disease from taking hold in your vase. At the very least, add water to your arrangement each day (which is usually what I end up doing). Fresh water each day is best, as it gives your flowers needed oxygen.

 Floral Arrangement 2 The Prudent HomemakerI started my arrangement with any long greenery that I want to use on both sides. Here I’m using Bells of Ireland, which I grew from seed. These are a long flower that usually grows tall, but mine grew more sideways with our constant wind, so I decided to use them this way instead. Often I’ll use vines here, such as honeysuckle.

Floral Arrangement 3 The Prudent Homemaker

I use the chicken wire to hold the stems in place. I prefer chicken wire over floral foam for many reasons: it’s less expensive, it can be reused, and you can move your stems if you don’t love where you first put them.

Floral Arrangement 4 The Prudent Homemaker

The next thing I added is a large Cafe au Lait dahlia on each side. A large flower or three are easy to add at the beginning. If you have several large blooms, the general rule for flower arranging is to have an odd number of them. In this case, I only had two dahlias in bloom, but on each side of the table, only one will be visible.

Floral Arrangement 5 The Prudent Homemaker

 Next, I added in several roses from the garden. These are a combination of David Austin and Kordes roses.

Floral Arrangement 6a The Prudent Homemaker

 Lastly, I added short bits of honeysuckle in bloom. 

Floral Arrangement Tutorial 6 The Prudent Homemaker

In my garden, I try to always have something ripe to eat throughout the year. I am now working to also always have flowers in bloom to be able to cut flowers each week for the house. It means doing a lot of succession planting and also seeking out flowers for each season of the year. Erin at Floret has a great article on succession planting; it’s designed for flower farmers, but you can apply the same technique in your own garden.

June Floral Arrangement The Prudent Homemaker

This is the other side of the arrangement. Having enough flowers in bloom in the garden at the same time  for this full of an arrangement is a challenge for me, but I am planting more flowers each year so that I can make arrangements this large more often for our home.

Looking to learn more? Here are two great floral arranging books from two of my favorites:

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  1. I am also crazy about flowers! Are you familiar with Debi Lilly? She is a celebrity entertaining expert that I got to meet last October through a blogger event. I asked for Hanukkah ideas and she was gracious enough to help me make a beautiful white bouquet with a silver vase from her collection. I learned that a smaller size arrangement can be perfect for a centerpiece (previously, I only made huge ones that were too much). Here’s a link if anyone wants to see it:

  2. GORGEOUS!!! Thanks for the tutorial! I’ve been considering trying to grow flowers for cutting on my balcony garden and this is a great incentive! I currently use a floral frog when arranging small arrangements , thanks to reading about it on this blog, and it’s definitely taken my arrangements up a notch!

  3. Your bouquet is lovely, as always.

    My mom was pretty good at flower arranging, and taught me the basics when I was a girl. Then, with most of my girls going through the 4H flower project, there were many, many bouquets made over the years, many times the day or night before the fair, accompanied by lots of groans of frustration, because they had to do it themselves with no help from me, other than advice if asked for. Now, I just make an occasional casual bouquet from my flowers. Truthfully, there are very few places in this house to put a bouquet where there is not a risk of it getting knocked over, but I do love to put out flowers when I can.

    I love the fact that you can grow flowers year-round so that you can have so may bouquets.

  4. I agree on having flowers to cut throughout the season – I live in the North. When I had room, I used to have a cut garden of annuals that would brighten our house without wiping out the gardens.

    Love your arrangement and instructions. Balled up chicken wire is a great idea.

  5. How beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I saved both books on my amazon wish list to ask for for Christmas.

  6. That seems easy enough, especially for this girl. Floral arranging has always eluded me and I hate paying florist prices for center pieces for the holidays that I host. I don’t grow flowers currently but we are buying our first home and I can’t wait to finally be able to have my own yard where I can do what I want! I see I will have to start checking garage sales and thrift stores for vases!

  7. What an inspiring article! I find it a challenge to get a succession of flowers in bloom.
    I have been trying to work on “succession” throughout all of my flowerbeds but it is hard.
    Many of my flowerbeds are in shade so I’m happy just to have spring flowers but it is my goal.

  8. I took the mini-course from Erin at Floret this last few weeks and have signed up for her Autumn course.
    Your books look so interesting and I’m sure will help me learn more.
    I have admired your arrangements since I started following your blog. I am so happy to see you sharing how you make such beautiful flower arrangements. Thank you.

  9. I have been a licensed florist for over a decade(required in Louisiana). I always tell my clients to add a bit of lemonade or non diet lemon lime soda to their flower water… it has enough Citric acid to keep bacteria at bay and the sugars are dissolved. Greenery that tends to shed such as plumosa or sprigeria can be hardened off by crumbling a few cigarettes into the conditioning bucket.. it hardens the cell walls
    of the plants. My favorite greenery to use from the garden is willow, magnolia, fatsia, canna and aspdistria. I have even changed the color of hydrangea from blue to pink with a few drops of bleach in the water. I hope these tips help

  10. Thank you so much. This was very helpful. I never would have thought to use chicken wire. You have inspired me to grow more flowers.

  11. So lovely! I enjoy your blog so much and appreciate that you make it so clear that being frugal doesn’t mean living a colorless and boring life! You make frugal living so gorgeous with your floral art!!

  12. Beautiful! I’ve always loved your flowers.

    Do you have any advice on how to plan out a landscape? Do you use software or how do you do it? My utility company just removed two large trees in my backyard and now I have to start the backyard completely over from scratch — there’s nothing but dirt there now. I’m at a loss as to how to plan this out except for wanting to espalier some fruit trees along the fence. I’m in zone 9b in CA.

  13. Beautiful! I do not have the ‘touch’ but I do try to bring flowers into our house when they’re available. As we’re so far north, i’m just happy to have lilacs and hydrangeas! Oh, and lavender!
    Thanks for sharing! Your photographs are always a treat!

  14. I use graph paper and a pencil 🙂 Check out the posts on my white garden under the garden header; as you go back to the first post, you can see my hand-drawn plans as well as the steps of our garden along the way.

    I have a number of garden inspiration pins over on my Pinterest boards: I suggest making pins of gardens that you like, and once you start noticing a theme, you’ll be able to see what it is that you like and plan from there. That’s how I planned my white garden. I planned my backyard (before Pinterest) using photos from old magazines.

  15. I can do that! I have waded up chicken wire waiting to go to the recyclers, but not anymore. I am pulling it out and giving this a try.
    Thanks for the instructions.

  16. Beautiful I do love flowers but with allergies can not have inside. I enjoy what we have outside and hope to plant more.

  17. Many thanks for sharing the steps for assembling your beautiful flower arrangement. I first discovered Bells of Ireland of few years ago when I purchased an arrangement for a church service. You have inspired me to look into growing them in my yard. As always, I am appreciative of the bits of lovely that you bring into our everyday living.

  18. Thank you! I’ve been hoping for a post like this from you for years. Your arrangements are always so lovely and inspiring. I would love a whole series on floral arranging…though I know your free time is scarce.

  19. This post landed right in my back yard. Literally. This spring we spent a lot of money to have our yard landscaped. Instead of pots of flowers, they are now in the ground for the first time. I have had a lovely spring planting and planting and planting. Since it is my first year I have tried a couple of dozen different plants that I thought might make it in the desert heat of southern California and have learned a lot. For some reason I expected the zinnias to be about eight inches tall, and it turns out these are three feet tall. Too tall to be in the front. I planted sweet peas to run up a fence, and they have, but only last 1-2 days after they are cut and the entire row of plants look pretty awful right now. So I’m quite disappointed in those.

    The heat has been abominable for days now, on Friday it was 119 degrees and is falling only incrementally. So I am out watering extra often. Very little is blooming besides the zinnias and vincas. Even my roses have stopped. I’m not sure why as I had a lovely spring filling the house with flowers. So now I need to learn about succession planting and what else will survive in this heat and still look like it came from an English country garden.

    I do know that gardening is a lifetime of learning new things. 😀

  20. I, too, had been waiting on this post for quite some time, thank you! How long do your arrangements usually last? I will try your advice in the future, but for now I can’t keep fresh flowers alive for more than 3 days and that’s why I dread cutting them. In my garden they live a little longer so I can enjoy them longer, but in the house I would enjoy them more!

  21. When it is 119°, vincas and zinnias are practically the only flowers (for months). Roses will stop, and any that might try to bloom will be tiny and burn. Mine bloom again around October. The flowers in the arrangement were cut in June.

    You can grow Lilliput zinnias for a shorter choice.

    Check out Wildseed Farms for a larger number of zinnia varieties, so that you can grow different colors and sizes.

    Sweet peas need to be grown in early spring in a hot climate, so plant them in fall/winter and cut them in March/April.

    If you don’t have drip irrigation, it is a must in the desert. You cannot miss a day in this heat. Drip will keep your plants from dying and help them to get watered deep enough. It also saves water and will keep your bill down.

    Cosmos should do well in this heat; I grew up with a neighbor having them in Southern California. I am having an almost impossible time getting them to germinate; I tried last year and this year without success. There are some double petaled varieties that are really neat looking.

    Basil will go to flower in this heat and is another option for a flower in arrangements. Thai basil makes purple flowers will Genovese basil makes white flowers.

    Salvia is another spiky flower choice for summer. Celosia will flower all summer long, too.

    Sunflowers will bloom in the heat.

  22. It depends on the type of flowers. Three days is pretty typical. Some cut flowers will last longer; zinnias will last around a week, and the more you cut them, the more they produce, so you have more in the garden as well as in the house when you cut them.

  23. Becky, we too had plenty of flower arranging going on when the children were in 4H. They especially liked doing the place setting entry.

  24. I don’t pick many flowers to bring in beyond the tulips in spring and the irises and lilacs because they smell so good. I think I am kind of lazy about it. I do grow plenty of flowers outside though, with perennials and annuals.

    I have a cousin who lives in town in a big old house on a double city lot. She has multiple gardens full of perennials, including a white garden. She supplements their income by doing flower arrangements for weddings, anniversary parties, etc. She always gives me a nice bouquet on my birthday.

  25. Thank you for sharing! I always admire your beautiful bouquets and dream of having a flower garden for cut flowers… 🙂

  26. If it helps at all – I’m in high-altitude Quebec. Zone 3/2 if it’s in the front of the house and getting the North wind off the lake in winter. Lilacs and hydrangeas are absolutely an option, but you can look at ‘unusual’ options for arrangements – this spring, I made gorgeous arrangements with foraged apple tree branches that were in bloom, for example. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, sometimes ferns (find a country ditch) can also be lovely when put in sculptural vases! Right now, I’ve got a gorgeous arrangement on my table that’s farmer’s market sunflowers (5 for 6$), hosta leaves, unripe sumac, and random yellow flowers picked from the ditch. It’s all shades of yellow/green, and fantastic.

    If you do want to try gardening, I can link you to what’s worked in my garden specifically, if that sounds like what would survive where you are – just message. 🙂

  27. Thanks for this. I love Floret, they are one of my reliable standbys for seeds.
    I have a flower frog but never have thought of using chicken wire. That’s a great idea.

    Among the dahlias I’m growing this year are the Cafe Au Lait variety! They are so beautiful.

  28. Brandy, the arrangement is beautiful! However, what caught my attention was your comment that public speaking and flower arranging were the two most useful courses you took in college (I hope you got an A, LOL). I graduated from college, but the most useful courses I ever took were 7th and 8th grade home ec (where I learned to cook from the Betty Crocker cookbook and to sew from a Simplicity pattern) and a high school class called General Business. General Business was considered too Mickey Mouse for college-bound students, but I learned so much about personal finance and it has served me well for 55 years (and counting).

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