Are you a new cut flower grower struggling with putting bouquets and arrangements together? Betsy Busche, a talented cut-flower grower from Spongetta's Garden, shares her foundational floral design principles, so you can be putting together professional bouquets in no time.
Let's talk about getting creative with floral design. Design isn’t a talent; it’s really a set of skills. Here is a set of design principles that guides the choices we make. We must condition ourselves to ask a series of questions about the materials we are working with and where they will ultimately be used. As designers, the decisions we make when placing the flowers control where people will look.
- Proportion is the relationship between the elements. Is that hydrangea overpowering the ageratum? Is the vase too tall for the bouquet to sit right?
- Scale defines the relationship to the setting. Will this sit on a large table or a bathroom vanity?
- Harmony is a combination of material, color, and texture. Are there too many competing colors? Is that handful of mixed spikes complementing one another or competing for attention?
- Unity brings all the elements together in a well-executed manner. Did we create a mood? Does that sunflower really work in an elegant setting?
- Rhythm is the visual flow and movement. Is there enough repetition of texture and pattern to move your eye around the bouquet? What do you notice first, second, and third?
- Balance is both the visual and physical distribution of weight. Is the bouquet safe? Will it tip the vase over? Even if the bouquet is not symmetrical, is there enough flower or foliage mass for an equal distribution of visual weight? When there is a hole, many times it is best to fill it with something light and airy, like a grass, rather than another dense flower.
- Emphasis is simply the focal point, which is what you notice first. This does not have to be a traditional focal flower, but it is always what the viewer notices first.
This questioning process is especially helpful when something isn’t working. Our local elementary art teacher tells her students that “You will know when your eyes are happy.” Sometimes it means cutting an inch off a stem to settle it in better or adding an airy element to tie the color scheme together. A bouquet does not have to be perfectly symmetrical nor all the stems exactly the same height. In the physical process of twirling and placing stems, things shift, especially when one flower is heavier than the others. I’ve learned to let that be a natural part of the process, and the bouquets still look beautiful in the sleeve.
Good Floral Design Breaks Rules
When it comes to floral design rules you've heard, throw them out the window and experiment with what works. This year, I’ve discovered the use of gladiola as spikes in late summer bouquets because they are so grand and beautiful. This has been quite a journey for me and transformed my thinking. In college, I occasionally helped in a local flower shop to prep for weddings, mainly unpacking and conditioning roses. Even though the work was repetitive I liked it, but I hated the flowers. It was always roses, perennial baby’s breath, and leather leaf fern for weddings and sprays of gladiola for funerals. I questioned it once and was told, “That’s what sells.” I walked away thinking I would I never be a florist because flowers are boring.
Fast forward many years to when I spent a summer helping at a vegetable farm stand. They had a field of zinnia, snapdragons, and delphinium, and this is where I unlearned many of my flower stereotypes, but I still only cut the glads full stem and sold them as singles or in bunches.
This year has been challenging weather wise. The summer perennials all bloomed in July, so these were my spikes for August. I had ordered 500 mixed glad bulbs because I thought I should have them available as singles at the market, and I split them into a couple of planting successions. The first week they bloomed I sold two stems and I brought the rest home. It was my friend’s birthday, so I bunched together some brown-eyed susans nestled in some sunflowers and added yellow glads for spikes. The bouquet was huge and dramatic, and everyone loved it. The next week I made a bucketful for market and they sold out. When my 14-year-old helper said glads look like giant orchids, I realized that there is a generation out there that speaks a different flower language. Since then, I have been cutting them down and using them in all sorts of combinations. Customers under 40 are drawn to them in bouquets in ways I never expected.