Receiving a bouquet wrapped prettily on Valentine’s Day makes people bloom — just like trying to arrange it in a vase without botching it all up makes people wilt. Why? Because it’s never as quick ’n’ easy as Martha Stewart’s guests make it look, and that stresses us out. However, with a few simple, delicate steps and these tips from Society of American Florists floral-design expert Carol Caggiano, a perfect arrangement is just a bloom away.1. Choose the perfect vase — or, better yet, several.
Instead of stuffing the whole bouquet into one receptacle, why not spread the love? “If I get a dozen roses, I often start by dividing them up,” says Caggiano, who suggests using a collection of smaller vases (or even improvised ones — “beer or soda bottles can be a hoot”) to enjoy the flowers in several places or as a creative tabletop assemblage.
2. Carefully prep — and remove “bull’s-eyes.”
Arranging flowers monochromatically (one color) or monobotanically (one flower type) is always a safe bet, notes Caggiano. But with mixed bouquets, start by setting aside any bull’s-eyes — i.e., that mandatory single red rose sitting self-consciously in the mix — for a bedside bud vase. Cut stem bottoms at an angle using a sharp knife or scissors to prevent crimping the stem, which can prevent water flow to the flower. Clip any leaves that will otherwise decompose in vase water.
3. “Lace” your base.
Line the edges of the vase with greenery filler to provide a foundation. “Doing some initial ‘lacing’ or ‘webwork’ with this material helps the flowers stay where you want them to,” Caggiano says.
4. Move around the rim — like clockwork — and toward the center.
Start around the edge with the sturdier, principal flowers, working two stems opposite each other. One at noon, interlocked with another at 6 o’clock. Do the same with 3 and 9 o’clock. “Now you’ve divided your arrangement into four manageable sections,” Caggiano says. Add the more delicate-stemmed flowers like tulips, freesia or daisies while working inward and toward the middle of the vase, creating an even distribution of color and flower shapes.
5. Go tight — or loose.
Two trends in flower arranging are a tighter, compact look or a loose and airy one that shows off more stem. The former works well with rounder, denser flowers (roses, hydrangeas) and the latter with more open flowers (snapdragons, larkspurs, lilies), says Caggiano. But you’re the artist. “There are no hard and fast rules — except to have fun with it.”
6. Feed — and find the perfect spot.
“Don’t be a mad scientist by adding aspirin or 7-Up to the water,” Caggiano adds. The packet of commercial floral food with preservative you get at the florist works best. Set your flower arrangement where it will last — sunny windowsills and radiators shorten the life of the flowers — and can be enjoyed to the fullest by everyone.