Down here in the South things are very, very green. It's almost as if the longest winter (ever) didn't happened. Almost. I've noticed recently that some of my plants aren't quite at the stage of growth I remember from this time last year. A sign I'm taking to mean those little hibernating plants were just as cold as I was during these past long, cold months. I've started checking my garden several times throughout the day with stubborn (okay, foolish) eagerness to see if anything has changed. It has definitely become one of those, "A watched pot never boils," sort of situations. I'm being a little obsessive, but I just can't help it. The winter was way too cold for way too long, and I want warmth, sunshine, and bright, fragrant flowers, now.
I'm beginning to feel convinced that the sun and warm temperatures are here to stay, but I'm still missing the flowers. To my pleasant surprise I discovered bunches of peonies at my local grocery store (my go-to spot for convenient and affordable flowers). My excitement however was short lived as I looked more closely at the arrangements. These bouquets were mostly leaves with a few smashed, crumpled buds, all tightly wrapped in plastic and jammed into an overflowing plastic bucket. It was sad.
I carefully nudged the leaves out of the way and used my fingers to gently massage the petals apart to see just what I'd be working with if I brought a handful of these home. Despite their cramped presentation the petals weren't bruised or rotten, so I knew these flowers could be given a fresh new start with a little love and attention. The two bouquets I purchased included 6 blooms all at various opening stages, and cost a total of $8.00. Things were looking up, but the peonies still had a generic, commercial grocery store feel, and that definitely wasn't the aesthetic I wanted to bring into my home. Instead I wanted the flowers to have that casually elegant, fresh from the garden feel. The good news is there are a few easy tricks you can use to fake this look.
1) Select an interesting vase, and one that works for the look you're trying to achieve. I selected a vintage french canning jar for my arrangement. The rusted metal hinges, and the warped, bubbled glass instantly provided a charming foundation for the display. These vintage jars are pretty common at flea markets and consignment shops, or you can find them easily on etsy. Even a glass jam jar could be used for a shorter stemmed variation. Reusing or repurposing a common vessel for the vase will add to the casual look of the flowers.
2) Remove the lower leaves from each stem. The lowest leaves you'll want to keep attached are those that fall right at the rim of the jar. Set aside the removed leaf stems, some of the longer stems can be added in later to fill in empty spaces.
3) Arrange the flowers in a casual, natural manner. Flowers don't grow in perfectly rounded, domed bouquets, Nor do all the flowers grow in a tidy, organized row on the plant, with all the flowers at the same height. Many commercial arrangements disregard these natural tendencies and the resulting bouquets have a definite store bought look. By simply cutting the stems at a variety of heights the bouquet becomes more interesting, and more naturally appealing.
4) Once you've begun arranging the flowers in the vase you can begin adding the cut leaf stems back in wherever there are empty or visually flat spaces. Likewise you can remove any additional attached leaves now that may appear crowded. Play with the flowers and the leaves until you've created a display that makes you smile. You really can't go wrong with peonies, and the whole look here is one of casual elegance, so perfection shouldn't be part of your decisions. Keep it light, natural, and interesting.
**Here is a visual breakdown of a few quick tips to keep in mind for easy, effortless styling, and a few explanations about why these design tips will never fail you:
- Odd numbers: These are more visually interesting and dynamic than predictable even numbers. If you work with even numbers as I did here be sure to keep those even numbers as varied as possible. Here for example there are six flowers (even), but there are three of each color (odd). The blooms all vary in the amount they are open, which similarly adds the interest and variety of odd numbers.
- Movement: Let the leaves point in a variety of directions to create visual movement. Here the movement of the leaves supports the movement of the flowers, both allowing your eyes to move up, down, and around the entire arrangement.
- Repetition: For consistency and a look of intentionality repeat elements throughout the arrangement. Three pink flowers. Three white flowers. This tip is especially helpful when you begin working with multiple flower types.
- Triangles: This is a very powerful shape. It works with the unpredictability and interest of odd numbers in nature with its three sides. This shape reinforces all of the other properties listed above as well. The sides offer repetition, create visual movement, and rely upon odd numbers to do so.
- Layers: Adding the flowers into the jar at a variety of heights simultaneously creates a variety of depths within the arrangement. This depth makes the bouquet appear very full, and even if it has a true "front" side, it will appear as if it could be viewed from any angle. Just keep that secret "back side" facing a wall and no one will be the wiser.
I hope you enjoyed these tips! Happy flower arranging!