Part of the Hey Gorgeous Events floral style is lush, textural, and a bit on the unexpected side. I’ve always love my densely packed arrangements and love to mix different textures together when I design. In 2012 when I first started toying with the idea of adding floral design to my services, I took a lot of time to figure out my style. I spent hours and hours and lots of money too, trying to learn the ins and outs of arranging all while finding my aesthetic. As designers I don’t believe we are truly ever masters of our craft but instead creative souls always chasing the outlet in which to express ourselves best. In my case? Through the medium of blooms.
This post is two fold. On one hand I’ve shared commentary here about how I approach the process of designing my signature largescale arrangements. It’s funny because arranging flowers can both be tremendously difficult but also alarmingly easy! It’s my hope my words will be encouraging to anyone diving into floral design or to the seasoned designers wanting to approach their own design process in a slightly new way. If you want more information on how you can do this in person with me you can click here.
Secondly, these photos from my friend Sam are really beautiful and I’m all for sharing beautiful things. Sam’s been photographing me and my flowers for years now and as I have grown so has she. I’ve gone from designing flowers at my kitchen counter to designing flowers in a beautiful basement studio I’ve come to love so much. We have become mamas together and have had long talks about how we can best serve our families AND our appetite for running fruitful and lasting businesses. The photos Sam takes of me are so much more than photos (she also always manages to make my hair look really lovely but that’s beside the point).
If you’re a visual person, scroll through. If you’re here for the tips, scroll a bit slower.
So let’s get started.
When I design in my studio for pleasure or personal growth, I almost always pick my product based on what’s in the cooler at our market. Usually my options are pretty slim and traditional with the bulk of my options in the alstroemeria/lily/salal/mum families. I used to feel really defeated when I would walk into the cooler and fail to find all of the beautiful things I’d see in the larger city markets until I changed my attitude and used this as a chance to work with what I have and make the most of it.
For this arrangement I used:
• white mist pine
• vertical pepper berry
• eucalyptus silver pods
• white parrot tulips
• white and blush spray roses
• lime green anthurium
• pink brindisi lilies
For supplies I used:
• a vintage milk glass urn
• floral tape
• a medium floral frog
• floral clippers
I rarely use Oasis (floral foam) in my arrangements unless we are doing a large scale installation like this, and instead use a floral frog and a simple criss cross of tape over the opening of my vase. I also usually design on an upside down bucket OR in this case so it looked a little lovelier, a wood cake stand. The added height helps my 5 foot 1 self see eye level with the arrangement.
The crisscross pattern together with the frog puttied to the bottom of my vase, helps hold those first few stems in place. The grid more specifically, also helps me mentally map out the placement of my stems, ESPECIALLY when the arrangement in one sided which I talk more about later on in this post. So for example, since this arrangement in one sided, I know that the back part of my grid is going to be heavily greened out versus my two grid sides which will have longer more linear pieces stuck into them.
Once my vase is prepped, my stems are stripped down (leaves removed), and the product I want to start with is next to me, I start creating my base. The base of my arrangement is going to really dictate the shape of the finished product and help give the entire design ‘bones’. The base also helps hold in my floral stems in place once I get to that part, mostly because all of those stems create a natural sort of grid to nestle stems into.
My ‘base’ is almost always comprised of greens, branches, linear product or berries.
I like to use about 3 to 6 types of greens in any given arrangement. For this one however, I stuck with two to keep it simple and challenge myself in the process. I used to gravitate towards a lot of the trendy greens like olive, bay, and eucalyptus but these days I’m really loving some of the old school favorites like fern, lemon leaf and plumosa. Sometimes even the ugliest looking greens can be really beautiful when intentionally designed and paired up with the right product so keep that in mind!
If my base looks lovely without any flowers I know I’m on the right track. Case in point:
Then you get to add your flowers!
Many designers do things their own way and I say that because my next step is a bit different from what I’ve read in a lot of floral books. My next step after creating my base is to add in spray roses (or sweetheart/garden spray roses depending on what you like or can find). For me, spray roses are the bridge between the greens in my base and the larger more interesting types of blooms I’ll use in the arrangement like peony, dahlia, or amaryllis. Most varieties of spray roses have very flexible stems so they too help create the arrangement shape you’re after. They also come in such a beautiful selection of colors and are extremely affordable.
While some view spray roses as ‘cheap’ I view them as an essential in almost any design I make.
I also want to note that the goal of the spray roses or whatever it is you add in after your base is created, is to compliment the shape you’ve started. You never want your flowers to compete with your greens or for each stem you put in your vase to try and outperform the last. This is actually one of the reasons I love designing in water and not foam. I can insert and remove stems with ease if I happen to not like the placement of things. While it can take my about 25 to 45 minutes to make a large arrangement, I can tell you it takes that long because I am constantly standing back to assess my shape and the way my arrangement ‘reads’ from left to right.
With this particular arrangement, I had a lot less variety in the ingredients I used so I did a lot of back and forth between my greens, my bridge pieces (the spray roses), and my statement florals (the lilies and anthurium). Sometimes when I design I let the flowers guide me and I put things where it feels they best belong. That’s why you’ll see in the above photo where I am holding a few stems of lilies, I’ve already added the anthurium the the arrangement. For me it felt more natural to add the anthurium stems first because they are such a statement to the overall look. The lilies were simply a compliment to what I had already created.
I also want to note that I only used a few of the tulips in this arrangement (I think I only used about 4 or 5). I love tulips most when they are blown open which can take upwards of three to five days post pick up so in the interest of this project these stems simply served as ‘filler’ and not statement florals (which had they of been blown open, they may have taken center stage).
Also, this arrangement was one sided. Meaning it would work best on a buffet table, a mantle or in a place where only one side would be enjoyed. The nice thing about one sided arrangements is they take up less product and I think they give you a better canvas to make a fuller and more textural arrangement because you only need to worry about one part of your canvas.
I love using textural and unexpected elements as finishing touches to my designs. Sometimes these elements are foraged from the yard (your OWN or someone else’s with permission!) or the side of the road, and sometimes they come in the form of odd things found in the cooler like these silver pods in the eucalyptus family. You don’t need a lot of the unexpected but just enough to compliment what you’ve already designed.
Another bonus to designing in water and having a densely packed arrangement is you can readjust post process.
For me that means pulling some stems up a bit if they need more breathing room, and sometimes it means removing a stem to trim it so it can sink lower into the arrangement. An inch can make a world of a different when it comes to how high, low, to the left or to the right a flower may be. By the end of the design process you will have so many stems in your vase that readjusting these stems will be easy and much like working with chicken wire or even foam (more on that in a different post one day!)
And that’s that!
I hope you found this breakdown of my process behind large scale floral designs helpful! All photos in this post are property of Samantha James Photography and the styling and floral design is by yours truly. My sweater is from Dry Goods and the cake stand I am designing on is from Target. If you want to reference this post again in the future, be sure to pin the handy graphic on Pinterest. Enjoy the little last bit of 2016 left, my friends. Xoxo