Floral Arrangements #ProPlantTips

It’s not just bouquets anymore! Basic floral design elements extend themselves into container plant design and landscaping as well! Whether you’re designing a window box, a pretty arrangement for your dining table, or a porch planter, all use the same techniques to have your end result looking stylish!

The elements of design are the style, thrillers and/or focal points, spillers, fillers, proportion, colors, textures and feel, each have their own place in everything. 

Design Basics

There are so many styles to choose from! Formal styles like methodical Ikebana, Chic, Asymmetrical, Modern and clean Minimalist. Or informal, Cottage, Shabby Chic, Wildflower, Romantic, and Botanical. And everything in between!

It can become overwhelming but remember - form determines function. See what you have available and choose what looks best to you.

Keep in mind:

  • The container or landscape plot size you have to work in
  • The material you have to work with
  • The texture or feel you are going for
  • The vantage point from which the observer will be viewing the design

Using the ‘Rules of 3’ is another design principle that keep things organized:

  • 3 types/shades of greenery or foliage plants
  • 3 colors (complimentary, contrary and/or background) unless you are going something monochromatic
  • 3 sizes of flowers or plants (Tall, mid-range and short for landscaping) or (small, medium and large for the vase)
  • 3 textures (fine, medium and coarse)
  • Dividing your design into 3 main sections (front, middle, back) or (center, middle, edges)

This gives you a good starting point! Read more on planting in Threes in our Garden Blog!

Standing Tall

Thrillers are vertical accents that draw the eye upwards and lends height. Often pulling double duty as focal points. Tall, upright growing plants, Ornamental Grasses, graceful Liatris, Iris, Delphinium, Foxglove, Perennial Salvia or a showy Red Hot Poker add height. 

Existing trees or shrubs, or trellis/obelisk with a climbing vine, also provide vertical drama.

For vases, twisting Curly Willow stems, colorful Dogwood stems, tree branches or tall seed heads of dried grasses add height. Usually the center of your design, on an end, as a frame, or the back of a one-sided design, these are the tallest elements. 

Catch the Eye

Focal point flowers are your standouts, usually the brightest, boldest colors, or largest elements that catch your eye. You can create an entire design with these for a monochromatic or high-impact effect, or choose 1-3 for a dramatic accent. 

Large Roses, Oriental Lily, Peony, Bearded Iris, Sunflowers, Coneflowers or showy Allium, are all fantastic focal points! If you don’t have large flowers, choose large groupings of smaller flowers for a cluster of color that provides just as much impact. 

Lilacs, Shrub Roses, Hydrangea, Viburnums, Astilbe, or Russian Sage have bunches of tiny flowers that provide the same visual effect as one large bloom!

The focal point can even be a blown glass bauble, garden art, a stake, flag, or water feature work as well! 

Set the Stage

Greenery act as structure and the background color that sets everything else off, often pulling double duty as fillers and spillers. 

For the vase, this can be foliage from Hosta, dramatic leaves of Coral Bells or Fern fronds and Grasses. Even branches from shrubs, trees or evergreens. These also literally support all other elements when arranging a vase.

Foliage weaving throughout the garden like groundcover, mounding Grasses, or a backdrop of large shrubs set the stage in garden plots. Evergreens are great at providing all-season greenery and come in all shapes and sizes!

Shop Coral Bells

Let it Flow

Spillers cascade over edges and add downwards motion while fringing and framing and providing a polished, finished look. 

Landscaping examples are Creeping Thyme, groundcovers, Ivy, Creeping Jenny, Sweet Potato vines or weeping plants. In the vase, spillers hide stems and frame the flowers as they support. 

Vines work incredibly as both vertical elements, greenery and spillers when allowed to clamber over your edges while other tendrils climb high, both in the landscape and vase. Clematis are great examples of a focal point that also acts as both thriller and spiller! These are fantastic in both the vase and landscape design. 

Shop Clematis

Filling In

Fillers, often a mixture of small to medium textures, tie everything together. Blending, filling spaces, complementing colors, or providing contrast, they act as supporting cast. 

Daisies, Creeping Phlox, Tea or Shrub Roses, Coreopsis and Salvias, Columbines, Yarrow and Cosmos, all fill in the gaps. Tiny traditional Baby’s Breath, Astilbe, Queen Anne’s Lace, Asters or flowers from your herb garden work to add dainty, fairy tale elements. 

Shop Phlox

All the Colors!

While the debate on color combination can be argued until the end of days, one thing seems to always hold true -- all flowers seem to go fantastically together! 

The more varied your color selection, the more informal and freeform your design becomes! Similar colors or hues on the color wheel provide a more formal and monochromatic effect. 

Mixtures of complementing hues always lend a country, cottage feel, especially with softer pastels. A wide range of colors provides a wonderful botanical or wild look. While bold colors work everywhere. Negative and white spaces are essential to your design as well! 

So really, color is up to you and the feel you’re going for!

A Clean Start

Starting with clean tools, beds and sanitized containers reduces bacteria and contamination which shortens your flower’s lifespan and introduces fungus or disease. Diluted bleach, soap and water, or diluted white vinegar are all-purpose cleaners. Just be sure to rinse well after too!

Flower arrangements:

  • Remove dried debris or leftover soil
  • Fresh cut flowers should be plunged into a bucket of water immediately after harvesting
  • Trimming stems ends at an angle
  • Remove any leaves, large thorns and excess stems that are below the water level (potentially rotting or introducing bacteria) 
  • A drop or two of bleach in the water kills bacteria
  • Water that is changed daily

Flower Gardening: 

  • An area or container cleaned of rotting debris and old leaf matter
  • Enriched soil that’s well watered
  • Plants should be inspected, cleaned of damaged or broken stems, deadheaded, and any yellowed or dead leaves removed
  • Given a good soaking

Once the site or vase is prepared, you’re ready!

Putting it into Action

For floral arrangements, start with the base material, which is greenery or a well-branched stem from a bush or tree. Special ‘frogs’, floral tape, and floral foam are available also add a framework for other flowers and hold them in place. 

Give all your stems a clean, fresh cut just above the bottom of your container. Then immediately placed in the container. 

Where you start is up to you, but we find this works great:

  • Start with the base structure/greenery
  • Evenly disperse mid-range flowers
  • Place your thrillers, focal points and larger elements
  • Tucking the smallest, finest textured flowers in the gaps
  • Frame with more greenery
  • Add accents!

Get creative! Dried botanicals, seed heads, seed pods, pinecones, stems and twigs add so much! Adding fruit and vegetables, miniature pumpkins or gourds, Holly berries, Viburnum berries, Beautyberry, or White Snowberry add unique character! Lending a romantic feel and makes your design look like a still life from an Old Master! 

Window boxes, containers or garden design:

  • Install hardscapes, trellis, obelisk, sculpture, etc.
  • Installing backdrop plants and thrillers
  • Work your way forward with mid-range plants and fillers
  • Interspersing groundcovers and edging

Working back to front means you won’t worry about accidentally stepping on a plant or compacting roots. 

Water everything well as you go and then finish off with a layer of mulch. Not only for a clean, polished look but also adds insulation from heat and cold, and retains soil moisture.

No Right or Wrong!

Don’t forget to incorporate fragrance into your design! Lilacs, Herbs, Roses, scented Peony and Lavenders all smell as divine as they look! 

Ultimately it comes down to what’s available and where your imagination takes you. Practice makes perfect and nature’s wardrobe always seems to match! If you like it, you go with it! 

So get out there and start today!

Head over to our Garden Blog to learn more about creating your own Cutting Garden today! 

Follow along with Celena as she builds a floral arrangement: