Looking Good: Pro Tips for Better Floral Design

When you’re a planner, you have to wear a variety of hats, and speak any number of vendor languages. For many of us though, when it comes to flowers and floral design, it’s easy to come up a little short. With so many flowers, colors, and styles to choose from, the idea of a ordering few ‘simple arrangements’ to dress up an executive dinner or dozens more to fill a ballroom can a challenge for the non-floral speaker. While fluency may be a bit more than the average planner is likely to achieve, here are a few pointers to help you navigate the landscape without getting lost in the weeds:

Um, what’s an alstroemeria?
Don’t know a daffodil from a dahlia? An alstroemeria from an amaryllis? You’re not alone – most planners (and civilians) don’t have an extensive floral vocabulary. If your head starts to spin when the florist starts talking floral names, have an illustrated cheat sheet at the ready to help you follow along. One of our favorites is this incredibly useful illustrated list of just about every flower your florist is likely to use. Think of it as your personal floral translator.

Get schooled.
While most planners don’t need a four-year degree in floral design, a little education never hurts. You can check out local botanical gardens for inspiration, or sign up for classes, like the ones offered by well-known floral designer and author Michael Gaffney whose American School of Floral Design (ASFD) offers classes in 14 U.S. cities as well as in London, Paris and Rome. ASFD’s hands-on educational experiences range from one-day and three-day introductory courses to one-week intensives and master classes, so planners can go as deep as time permits.

What’s your pleasure?
One often-overlooked element is simple but critical one: the personal likes and dislikes of your client. Some may have very strong opinions – Nothing orange-colored! No calla lilies! – and some won’t care at all, but be sure to get their preferences up front to avoid a floral crisis when the delivery van rolls up. As clients may not be fluent in the language of flowers either, visual aids are a huge help here as well. Pull a few images of floral arrangements from Pinterest or Google Images and share the images with your client to get an idea of what the client likes (or loathes), before you meet with the florist.

Go for droop-proof.
For outdoor events in spring and summer, temperatures will impact the look of your flowers, with some faring better than others. For an outdoor event during the day, look for flowers that can take the heat. Says BloomNation.com’s Nicole Madonia at Joseph Richard Florals in Armonk, NY, three flowers that stand up well to heat are sunflowers, dahlias and fragrant Virginia stock flowers. For outdoor events at night, roses, hydrangea and lilies do fine in summer temps.

Boost their lifespan.
To make flowers last when conditions are warm, choose ones with heartier blooms, then pick a container that will hold a sufficient amount of water for the arrangement. Another tip? When placing your order, ask your florist not to use an ‘oasis’ which is that little foam block many florists place in the center of the vase to make flowers stand up. In warm weather an oasis can suck much of the water away from the flowers, drying them out faster —which is exactly what you don’t want.

Do more for less.
Need to fill a room with flowers but the budget’s too tight for a Kim and Kanye-style wall of roses? Think big, as in physically big, and consider more sophisticated blooms that look lush and take up a fair amount of physical space. Madonia likes lilies, hydrangea and sunflowers, as they do a nice job of covering all the bases without breaking the bank.

Mist it up – with secret sauce.
With the mission being to keep your flowers looking fresh as long as possible, the secret weapon is Crowning Glory, a slightly waxy liquid, which, when sprayed on blooms, helps prevent moisture loss and keeps them looking vibrant. So ask your florist to spritz your arrangements with it, says Madonia, particularly if they’ll be sitting outside for any length of time.

A pro tip for do-it-yourselfers.
For more formal or large-scale events, without a doubt, professional arrangements are the way to go. However, if your event is small and casual, or you need to quickly add a few last-minute DIY bud vases to your venue, then you can extend the life of the flowers using this trick from floral designer Michael Gaffney: Submerge the blooms under water for a half an hour to 45 minutes, allowing them to ‘drink in’ moisture through the blooms, stalks, petals and leaves. After they’ve had their drink, add two or three drops of bleach to the vase water to help kill the bacteria that can destroy the stems and hasten wilting. This TLC technique should help your flowers last and look great for a week or more.

Here’s to Spring!

Photo credits: Shutterstock.com









Kate Doyle Hooper

Kate Doyle Hooper

Since establishing her own company over a decade ago, Kate has produced just about every kind of event imaginable, from executive meetings and conferences to live music performances, mobile tours, fashion shows, celebrity gifting suites, and retail events for companies such as American Media, Bloomingdale’s, Conde Nast, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Hearst, Macy’s, Perry Ellis, Time Inc., Wilhelmina Models and Rodale, to name a few. Kate's editorial and advertising work has been published in Budget Living, ELLE, Fit, Civilization, Conde Nast Traveler, Esquire, Essence, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Men's Fitness, Men's Health and Shape, as well as on blog.cvent.com and weekendwalk.com.

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