Floral Design Tips

Autumn brightness

Well, it’s autumn in New Zealand right now, so we’re seeing colourful blooms like dahlias, coreopsis, rudbeckias and sea holly. You may even have rose hips in your garden if you didn’t get around to deadheading them. Or apples, which are useful in arrangements, like in the design one up from the bottom, found here.

I’m loving the second arrangement down by La Musa de las Flores, which features dried leaves, nasturtiums, phlox and ranunculus. It appears over at Elle Decor. As does the berry arrangement by Vervain. This plant, Celastrus orbiculatus, is actually a pest plant in New Zealand, but there are many other berry plants you can try instead.

Winter flower arrangement



There is usually a slump in the number of flowers available for picking during winter, but there are nearly always a few stragglers left over from the autumn garden. Even an unruly mishmash of flowers, berries, seed heads and foliage can make for a beautiful indoor display.


Pick a selection of flowers and foliage. Choose a pedestal bowl wide enough to hold a florist’s foam-based wreath. Soak the wreath in water. The best way to do this is to place the foam on the surface of the water and let it absorb the moisture. When the foam sits just beneath the surface, it’s ready to use. If you force the foam into the water you will get dry patches.

Place the wreath on your pedestal bowl. Drape fresh, woody prunings around the foam to disguise it. Use the prunings from grapevines, potato vines, dogwood, or any other  bendy material.


Start to add your plant material, pushing the stems into the foam wreath. If you have any delicate stems, wrap florist’s wire around the stems then insert wire and stem into the foam.


Continue inserting flowers into the wreath, rotating the pedestal bowl as you go to ensure the arrangement looks even. You do not have to pack the flowers in tightly at this stage. Keep rotating the pedestal bowl and fill in any gaps as you go.


Plant Now: Hellebores

Hellebores are a real treat in the winter garden, especially since more and more of the new varieties are arriving with beautiful pink or deep purple coats – my favourites. I love them all, though. They look dainty, but they’re hardy, and they’re easy to grow and care for.

Hellebores don’t like direct sunlight, so select a planting location that receives filtered sunlight most of the day. Under the canopy of a deciduous tree or shrub is an ideal location. Don’t give them too much shade though. While they are certainly shade lovers, most do better with some sun (not full sun).

Hellebores need well draining soil that is rich in organic matter, much like that found on a forest floor.

Sadly, hellebores don’t last very long in the vase because once cut, the stems don’t take up water. Not naturally, in any case. You can force them to do so though (do this within an hour of picking). Heat a saucepan of water with floral preservative dissolved in it to 70 degrees C (use a candy thermometer). Recut the stems and immediately dip the ends into the water. Hold them on a slant so that the flower heads are held out of the way of the steam. Keep them in the water for 20 seconds. Remove the stems and place them in a bucket of cold water. This shocks them into taking up the hot water with the preservative. You will get an extra 3-5 days vase life from your hellebores, but you can only do this once.

The image at the top comes from Love ‘n Fresh Flowers and includes bearded irises, ranunculi, tulips and hellebore seed heads. A beautiful bouquet for a spring wedding.

Boxed flowers

I have a thing for old wooden boxes at the moment. They make excellent vases – at least, they do if you put a waterproof container inside the box to hold the flowers. In this case, you need a rectangle-shaped container. Add some floral foam, or scrunched up chicken wire, and insert your flower stems. Easy.

Floral workshop in Wellington

Vase with white chrysanthemum
basket2Candelabra and flowersvase of red roses candlesvases-redWedding glasses flowers
This weekend I’m holding a workshop in Wellington at HANDMADE on Tablescapes: table flowers, centrepieces and wreaths for special occasions. I’ll be talking about some of the designs above as well as demonstrating wiring techniques and different types of displays. Check out the workshop here. I’m also running a workshop on Growing and using herbs for culinary, cosmetic and medicinal purposes. I had great fun last weekend making my own perfumes with herbs to bring to the workshop. Check out my herb class here.

Come see me at Handmade!

pink ranunculus (persian buttercup) in glasses on the wood table
wreath springFlower centrepieceRanunculus in vase
If you’re in Wellington this weekend, drop in to Handmade 2013. It’s a festival celebrating beautiful and creative things – a place for people who want to learn the skills and crafts of previous generations but in today’s context, using modern technology and style.

I’m giving two workshops: braided rugs and fabric decoupage on furniture, plus a masterclass on Backyard to Bouquets: growing your own cut flowers and herbs for year-round supply, plus some floral designing and gardening recycling tips. The Masterclass is on Sunday.

Still time to get tickets. See more here.

Neon flowers

Fluorescent flowers
Fluorescent flowers and felt leaves
Here’s a clever idea from the very talented Sania Pell. Neon flowers – or fluro flora, as she calls it. She dabbed small amounts of neon paint onto flowers, berries and seed heads and came up with this striking effect. For the sprig of berries she also glued on pink leaves cut from felt. Brilliant idea! See more of her fabulous creations here.

Summer flowers

Flower weath
Pick flowers from your garden and deliver a handcrafted bouquet to the hostess with the mostess. Or make a wreath for that special occasion. It’s simple! All you need is a floral foam wreath, which is available from florist shops or craft stores, and flowers. Wet the foam, poke holes in it with wire, then insert the flower stems into the holes. Whip it up a day or two before the big day and keep the foam moist and cool.

From Sweet Living magazine – a FREE online magazine. Check it out here.


Zinnias, berries, Queen Anne’s lace and lilacs

Zinnias and berries in flower arrangement
lilac and queen anne's lace
Are your zinnias in bloom yet? Here’s an idea for a lovely summery display. In the top photo blazing orange zinnias are mixed with berries, Queen Anne’s lace, crocosmia and greenery. Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora is actually a weed here, but there are cultivated varieties sold now that are more restrained.

The second arrangement also contains Queen Anne’s lace, mixed this time with lilacs and dark purple scabiosa. [Read more…]

Baby’s breath hanging balls

gypsophila hanging balls

This has to be the best use EVER for baby’s breath (gypsophila). Delicate hanging balls. Melanie from Cecilia Fox, who made these beautiful baubles, says they’re not too difficult to make. “It is more or less bunches of gyp wired and put into an oasis sphere. It pays to hang the oasis ball from somewhere and start at the top working your way down. Pack the bunches in as tightly as possible and mist them thoroughly.”

Fantastic! Thanks for sharing Melanie. Visit the Cecilia Fox website here for more lovely images.