I was brought up in what my mother calls the "cut and thrust" school of flower arranging (she is the headmistress of this school). As I much prefer bouquets that look natural, rather than those that have been strictly structured, this approach has served me pretty well for many years. But of late I've become increasingly critical about my arrangements (which tend to poke vertically out of badly-shaped vases), and started to wonder why my Waitrose blooms bite the dust after not-that-many days.
So when I was recently invited to attend a flower arranging workshop organised by Bloomon (who deliver fresh, seasonal flowers from the growers direct to your door) in Anthropologie Edinburgh, full of hints and tips on both arranging and caring for your cut flowers, I set aside all that cutting and thrusting and jumped on the 41 bus to discover some fresh shoots of floral wisdom.
The workshop was run by Bloomon's Stuart Fenwick, who has worked with flowers for an impressive list of companies, including Selfridges and uber-cool London florist Rebel Rebel, and who is clearly super-passionate about what he does. The fact he has now chosen to work for Bloomon is a big tick in the company's box - if you're looking for regular, fresh deliveries of beautiful flowers, I'd definitely give them a a try. And no, I'm not being paid for this post!
Each workshop-goer was given a bundle of fresh flowers and, after hints on how to care for your blooms at home, Stuart gave us some advice on creating an arrangement that was to our liking - these were practical tips we could use to create a bouquet that was to our individual tastes - nothing prescriptive. By the end I'd constructed an arrangement that felt natural but still with some structure - and without any of those round-the-edges or drooping-over-the-sides pitfalls that thrusting without a clue often results in (fnar).
Whether you like your arrangements hedgerow or high fashion, here are some of Stuart's top tips to help create an bouquet that's perfect for you, while keeping your flowers healthy for as long as possible...
Stuart's rules of cut flower care
- Don't buy flowers out of a fridge - the cold stunts their growth then when they hit the warmth they open - and die - twice as fast
- Keep the water shallow - with the vase about a quarter full; this helps prevent your flowers from dying prematurely as too much water kills the stems, especially those of soft-stemmed flowers
- Cut flowers in an angle to increase surface area for water to get in
- Add a little flower food, which consists of chloride and sugar: the chloride kills bacteria, while the sugar helps flowers open
- After 2 or 3 days give your flowers fresh water, and cut them at an angle again a little further up the stem
- Add a drop of bleach to the fresh water - this acts like the flower food chloride and kills bacteria, keeping your flowers alive for longer
- Keep flowers away from fruit as the fruit gives off a gas that makes flowers deteriorate faster
Stuart's rules of flower arranging
- All flowers work together, just they do in nature, so don't worry about getting it wrong
- Start with the foliage, building a teepee shape with the stems in the centre so flowers are supported by stems and not the vase
- Soft stems especially should be supported in the centre by other flowers with more robust stems - the vase can damage the stems them
- Strip foliage from below lip of vase
- When changing the water rearrange flowers to show off the ones that are blooming
- Carnations are back in fashion - they're big in the US - which is great as they're so vibrant and they last so long
- Use an unraveled paperclip to support softer stemmed flowers such as gerberas
- Tulips continue to grow in water - to prevent this raid your purse for coppers and add them to the water
- If a flower head falls off while you're arranging, don't worry - just pin it to your lapel and people will talk to you on the tube!