How to Make Simple, Yet Gorgeous, Floral Arrangements For Any Occasion.
Is there a wedding in your future, and you’re looking to save a buck? Maybe your best friend is having a baby, and you committed to hosting the shower. OR, like me, you volunteer as a hospitality hostess for a major service organization, and they need centerpieces for the banquet tables. Whatever the case may be, silk floral arrangements are quick, easy, and beautiful. You just need to know a few basics about design. This isn’t a definitive guide, but a simple way to ensure you have a basic understanding of floral arranging.
In this project, I will be guiding you through selecting tools and materials, how to use them, and common rules of designing silk arrangements. Note that most of these instructions will work for live flowers as well; however, there are special steps to take when fresh flowers are involved. I choose high quality silk flowers because they are less expensive and WAY easier to deal with. On with the show…
The first step to any project is selecting materials.
As for the common tools needed for making faux floral arrangements, the most basic items you will need are a good pair of wire cutters, scissors, floral foam, floral stem tape, and a serrated knife. We will talk about selecting flowers in a bit.
1. A good pair of wire cutters will be your best friend in this kind of project as silk flowers’ stems are composed of wires coated in plastic. Mine are a little rusty, but when your man has overtaken your tools, you take what you can find!
2. Scissors are always good to have just in case something needs to be trimmed up. Here, I am using them to cut pieces of bandana as shown in the above picture. These are my best Fiskars brand scissors, so they ONLY cut fabric! They range anywhere from $9 to $25 depending on where you buy them.
3. Floral foam helps anchor your project in or on whatever it may be attached. There are three types of foam: regular styrofoam that is coarse and porous, wet foam for fresh flowers, and dry foam that is more dense and fine. I like the dry foam as pictured above because of the density. It seems to hold onto the stems of the flowers better and does not break away as easily when pushing the wire stems through it. You can purchase this at any craft department or store, and even Dollar Tree. Psst… that’s where I got mine. It’s ok to skimp on some things. Foam can be expensive, so $1 for a pack of four squares was right up my alley.
4. Floral tape is essential in holding things together as most tapes do. Floral tape is different in that it is a lot like some medical tapes. It stretches a bit, sticky on both sides, adheres to itself, and tears easily. While this sounds like a bunch of trouble, learning to put the right amount of pressure on it is key. We will be using this to hold the floral stems together for the arrangements. You can get floral tape, again, at any craft department or store. This particular package came from Hobby Lobby. It seems to be more sticky than the Floracraft brand I am used to, but it still works well. I paid $3 for two nice sized rolls. You won’t need all of it, but it is nice to have around.
5. A serrated knife is the second most important tool you will need. Serrated knives have the toothed edge to cut through foam like a champ. A butter knife from the silverware drawer will just make a bigger mess. I have random steak knives laying around, so I stole one from the drawer for this project. If that makes you cringe, then go to a thrift store (Goodwill, Women’s Shelter Thrift Store, DAV Thrift Store, etc.) and pick one up for cheap.
Before I go into the project…
Let me tell you a bit about what I have been asked to do. I volunteer for the Disabled American Veterans organization as an Auxiliary member and hospitality hostess. You can learn a little bit about it in my post Volunteer Project. I am close to the State of Texas Adjutant in my volunteer efforts, so I get directives from her. With the upcoming state convention, I was asked to make centerpieces for the banquet tables. She purchased vases, set the theme as western, and gave me ideas of what she expected. We have a good relationship, so she trusts my judgement which is a blessing to her. She is extremely busy this time of year. AND… I get a bit of creative freedoms as well. WIN WIN!! Here is one of the vases she purchased for me to work with. It’s Texas Y’all!!
On to the flowers…
Selecting flowers might be the hardest part of the whole process. I’m sure this is where most people give up and go spend major $$$ on real flowers. Let me ease your anxiety. There are 2 principles/elements of design for picking flowers for an arrangement: Scale and Color. While all other elements and principles of design can be incorporated, scale and color are the two simplest, in my opinion, for newbie crafters to use.
Scale is the size of an item against other elements. When choosing flowers for your arrangement, you want flowers of different sizes, shapes, and color. For the purpose of this project, I wanted an asymmetrical look by using varied sizes and colors of flowers. As shown in the picture above, I have a large yellow rose, a medium red geranium, a medium blue bonnet, and a small yellow daisy. There is also some other elements thrown in like the small cotton boll and the twigs to add a rustic feel. I also selected bushes instead of just stems. This is more cost-effective for making multiple arrangements as stems generally cost more per piece overall than cutting a bush into several stems. I also caught Hobby Lobby’s 50% off bushes sale which made it less expensive. The rose bush was $10 and had 8 stems. That makes each stem $1.25 a piece whereas one individual stem alone can be $3-$10 depending on the size and quality.
Now it’s time to find a good place to spread out and make a mess!! I am lucky to have a space dedicated to crafts and mess-making… BWAH HA HA!! Ok for real though. I spread out on the dining table and set to work. Now that all the supplies and materials are gathered, let’s start with the first step.
FIRST: Insert the foam into the vase.
This will take a bit of cutting with the serrated knife to get the foam securely in the vase. DO NOT FORCE THE FOAM IN THE VASE ESPECIALLY IF IT IS GLASS OR CERAMIC. You may break the vase and injure yourself. In the case of the boot-shaped vase, it is a bit of an awkward shape, so I have the literal square peg, round hole thing going on. Because the hole in the vase is an oval shape, I need the square to become an oval cylinder. No problem! I trimmed off the corners just a bit and rechecked the fit. DO NOT over cut in the beginning. You can always trim more off, but you cannot add more foam on. I wound up cutting another sliver off each corner, and the foam fit in nice and tight. Some pressure must be applied to have a nice, tight fit.
NEXT: Cut the bushes into individual stems. Using the wire cutters, separate each bush into stems by cutting as low to the “handle” as possible. There are usually little notches along the stem for easy cutting. See the picture below. Also, you may have to cut the extra leaves from the stems close to the bottom of the stems so that they can be gathered neatly and taped. Notice the stems in the picture below have no leaves close to the bottom of the stems. NOTE: Save the trimmed leaves as fillers in case the foam is showing below the arrangement.
Now that you have each bush cut into stems, you will gather up a few stems of each kind of flower and play with the aesthetic of the arrangement until it looks good to you. Remember that the wire in the stem gives you a bit of freedom when it comes to gathering your stems together. If you find that you don’t like what you have done by the final step, there are several options for you to repair or rearrange. Don’t fret. We will talk about that later.
In my arrangement, I used two of each of the rose, geranium, blue bonnet, and daisy. Some I kept high and some low. This is where a third design principle, balance, comes into play. Balance is the equality, or inequality, of a feature. While I am using an even number of flowers for the main arrangement, I am adding the twigs, cotton boll, and a piece of bandana to offset things a bit. This asymmetrical balance makes the arrangement more appealing to the eye by moving the viewer’s eye from one part of the arrangement to another.
In this picture, I have all pieces gathered in my hand with the exception of the cotton boll and bandana. (I added a piece of the twig stem in the bunch for added height.) I held the bunch behind the vase to make sure I had the right height within the arrangement. Notice that the flowers are pretty tight. Again, do not worry about this at the moment. You want to get a general idea of how the flowers will look together.
Now it’s time to tape the stems together. Using the floral tape, start about 4 inches up from the bottom of the stems, and wrap the floral tape around the stems stretching it tight as you work your way around. (If your vase/arrangement is shorter or taller, then adjustments must be made in the length of the stems.) You will learn how tight to pull when the tape breaks. Again, don’t fret. Just stick the tape down again and keep going around the stems , keeping the tape tight, and overlapping each round quite a bit. Trust me when I say you will have enough tape. I used half a roll of tape for 14 arrangements, and that was overlapping and doubling up on tape. If you have excess stem pieces left over, then cut them off after taping. Notice that the piece of bandana is taped in with the bunch. I cut a bandana into four squares, gathered up one of those squares in the middle, and taped it in with the stems. Again, it adds interest and helps cover up the foam beneath the flowers.
FINAL PRODUCT: After taping and trimming the stems, go ahead and poke them down into the foam until the flowers are the right height for the vase. Again, this has everything to do with balance. The Golden Mean, Golden Ratio, Golden Section, Rule of Thirds applies here. In art, philosophy, and math, this is a happy medium between two variables. Here, the flowers can be as tall as the boot and be balanced. The flowers can also be two-thirds and the boot one-third, and all will be well. Have you ever seen a short lamp with an unusually tall shade? It was a bit awkward looking I bet. Someone needs to be a friend and offer up the Golden Mean to that person. I also added the cotton boll to the bottom, opposite the bandana, to balance the lower portion out.
Now comes the time where you can spread and fluff the stems as needed to create the most eye-appealing arrangement. Play with the stems by bending them and tucking them behind one another. See!! I told you not to worry.
This is a very forgiving project, and once you have it down, you’ll be making other arrangements for Lord knows who! Your friends will become your new bestie once they know you can design floral arrangements like a Martha! Stewart that is… Happy Crafting Y’all!!