Photo courtesy of The New York Botanical Garden
At WestHouse we are constantly inspired by the ever-changing blossoms in our lobby, and never more so than in the spring. Walk around the city and you’ll see that every farmer’s market, flower shop, and outdoor cafe is bursting with vibrant hydrangeas and blush-colored peonies. We asked experts who teach floral classes at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the New York Botanical Garden for tips on creating your own arrangements.
Teacups, buckets, milk bottles—nothing is off limits. Note that the narrower the mouth, the fewer flowers you’ll be able to fit. Suzanna Cameron, the owner of Stems in Brooklyn and an instructor at the
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, recommends mason jars because they hold about the same amount of flowers you can grip in your hand. (And they’re very on trend.) Trisha O’Sullivan, who teaches at the New York Botanical Garden and runs the blog flowermarket28ny.com, likes to order online from Jamali Floral & Garden Supplies, which sells hundreds of vases in different shapes, materials, and sizes. Want to use a wicker basket? Make sure to line it with a sturdy plastic bag to catch the water.
Before you purchase any bouquets, look at the stems and make sure they’re not brown. “If you grab flowers with any brownness or mush on the bottom, it means the stems are already oxidizing and they will die a little quicker,” Cameron says. Generally speaking, a flower boutique sells the highest quality blooms—but for the freshest, nothing beats a farmer’s market. “Local flowers are cut and transported in water, which helps keep them fresh longer,” adds Cameron.
All great floral arrangements have three things: a foliage base, focal flowers, and texture. The foliage creates the structure, and Cameron recommends working your way around the vessel in a circle, webbing the stems. (If you go with a smaller vase, you can skip the foliage.) Focal flowers should generally have a fuller face, like pincushions, peonies, and roses. Other top picks for spring: hydrangeas, hyacinth, and tulips. Texture is going to come from things like berries, thistles, and curling willow, which you should work in among the flowers. Both O’Sullivan and Cameron encourage using simple, everyday items—twigs, moss, branches, even herbs like rosemary. “Everything is a weed until somebody calls it a flower,” Suzanna says. Texture is also a way to create higher points in the arrangement.
Blush colors like pale pink and dusty peach are popular for spring, like peonies with cherry blossoms. If you are using a foliage base, decide if you want the focal flowers and foliage to be high contrast or if you prefer something softer. For example, if you go with light-colored flowers, a dark hunter green will provide more contrast than sage green.
Always cut the stems on a hard diagonal two inches from the bottom, “almost like dancing toes at the bottom of the vase,” says Cameron. The flowers themselves should sit snugly into the container—what O’Sullivan calls a “domed effect”—so they’re not falling out. “Most people don’t cut their stems short enough,” she says. And Cameron recommends putting some sugar in the water, which will help flowers bloom quicker. Other important tips: add cool tap water and trip stems every day, and don’t put them in direct sunlight—even if you think they look pretty by the window.