center of attention 2
Image: Owen Carey

Sculpt the arrangement

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect marriage of containers and blooms, it’s time to start arranging. First, add water to your vessels. Kelly recommends including a teaspoon of bleach, plus a splash of sugary soft drink (like Sprite) per one gallon of regular tap water. The bleach cleanses the water; the sugar water makes the plants last longer. However, don’t use regular table sugar, it can clog the stems.

Begin arranging the flowers in your hand, holding the stems just below the blooms. Start with your greenery, adding colored blooms as needed. When satisfied with your initial arrangement (you’ll add more later), wrap a rubber band around the stems. Next, determine the best height of the arrangement. Remember, centerpieces should be situated so your guests can see and talk to each other from across the table. “The flowers should be enjoyed, but they should be part of the background,” Kelly says. To be sure the arrangements are not too tall, place your elbow on the table, extending the lower part of your arm vertically. Do not let the blooms go higher than your fingertips. (If you use twigs that can be seen through, they can extend higher than denser blooms.) Place your initial stems in the container to determine the correct height, then remove them and snip the ends at an angle. (Cut them under water if you have a bucket at hand.)

After your first stems are cut to fit, place them back in the container and snip the rubber band. This allows the blooms to fall into place organically. Fill out the remaining arrangement by adding more greenery and blooms, keeping in mind some of the basic principles of any piece of art: line, shape, space, value, color and texture. The arrangement shouldn’t overpower your container. You can create a striking, modern display with just a few blooms in multiple vases. “To a large degree, flower arranging is very intuitive,” Kelly says. “I tend to gloss over the rules; it’s more fun that way.”