Carol O’Callaghan gets expert advice on DIY flower arranging using everything from a gift bouquet to garden offerings, and learns how they can be deployed to enhance the home interior
Have you ever taken delivery of a spectacular bouquet of flowers, or picked up an eye-catching bunch at the supermarket, only to have it slump against the sides of the vase?
Floral designer Megan Buckley of Cork Flower Studio, which has recently finished planting up the new People’s Parklet on Douglas Street, says, “It just takes practice, like anything.”
That makes sense, but who would have thought different approaches are needed for florist, supermarket and garden flowers?
“Anything from the supermarket will be cheaper and perfect for home for a few days, but they’re lower grade so they’ll die a little faster,” she says. “I look at the stems and make sure they’re green and shiny and solid, with nice fresh leaves and tight flowers which will last longer.”
Then it’s on to the fun stuff of creating a masterpiece with her formula.
“Get rid of all the leaves which might be below water level or these will create bacteria and make the flowers die quicker. Separate flowers from the greenery, cut the stems at an angle to make more surface area to take up more water.
For those of us who like the simplicity of a single type of bloom rather than a mixed bunch, she recommends sunflowers, hydrangea and dahlias. “Or add a filler flower - wax, gypsophila or astilbe to complement the look,” she suggests.
“I keep milk bottles and jam jars and fill them. I like to group a few together on a table with candles in between, or use cube containers and create a grid with sellotape — three strips across and three in the other direction. I also keep ribbons and twine from parcels and like to group three jars together and tie with string to make a triangle rather than a row.” Now that gardens are lush with flowers and greenery from the essential combination of heat and rain, Megan has specific tips on how best to work with them as they’re different to cultivated flowers. “It’s hard to make a full vase because of the different lengths,” she says.
“Try short stems like sweet pea and lavender in small vases, and fill the table with these. Make big groups of hydrangeas and monbretia, and use the Sellotape grid arrangement to look professional.
“It’s important to pick garden flowers first thing in the morning when they’re full of dew. Have a bucket of water to hand to put the flowers straight into. Change the water every day and add sugar as a pick-me-up. Also start drying hydrangeas to make Christmas wreaths. Just let the water in the vase dry out without topping it up.”
Then it’s onto the fancy category of the professionally designed bouquet. But who hasn’t had a glorious arrangement arrive and no vase big enough to accommodate it? Megan’s tip is, “take three of the same flowers out, choosing bigger ones, things that are solid, like gerbera, and put in another vase. If you don’t want to ruin the variety in the bouquet, take three different ones which means there will be a running a theme throughout the house. But make sure you measure the bouquet to your vase before cutting the stems to fit. Leave the tie on until they are in the vase and then snip it so it falls better.”
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For a novice who is used to just landing a bunch of flowers in whatever container is handy but would love to make a statement with a few flowers, Megan sums what needs to be done in five top tips.
- Keep it simple.
- Look in the garden and what your eye is drawn to
- Start with greenery and then what appeals to you.
- Cut your flowers and keep the water fresh every day for garden flowers, every two to three days for supermarket or florist flowers
- Replace flowers as they die if the rest look fine, using the same size as before, but maybe a different colour to change the look and make it pop