I love having fresh flowers around the house and I put them everywhere – they make me so happy and brighten things up. While I try my best to make the perfect flower arrangement, I always feel like there’s something I’m missing. To solve this problem, I recently hired Maurice Harris, the owner of Bloom and Plume, to give a few friends and me lessons on how to make the perfect arrangement. My friend Ambre has the most amazing greenhouse at her home that Laurie from Edible Gardens LA helped her with, and was kind enough to let us borrow it for the class.
Maurice got our flowers from the Flower Mart in Downtown LA. His favorite spots are Mayesh for flowers and GM Floral for supplies, but he encourages walking around the whole mart, taking your time to find good product and comparing your options.
The most important part of creating a great arrangement happens before you even cut your flowers. Maurice calls it processing the flowers.
Processing the Flowers
Remove the flowers from plastic, cut off any rubber bands, and let the flowers breathe for a little while. This will also give you time to really take stock of what you have. It’s also important to manicure the flowers before you start- take off any dead leaves, broken petals, or anything else that isn’t pleasing to the eye. Maurice gave us all these great floral knives to help with this process and we also used my favorite scissors for trimming stems.
Single Stem Arrangement
Our first lesson was on single stem arrangements, or as Maurice calls them – “Chop and Drops”. He got the most beautiful peonies and taught us how to arrange them in a leaf lined mason jar. Often times, peonies are closed pretty tightly to start - putting them in warm water helps give them the push they need to start opening. We started by manicuring the flowers and lining the jars with leaves.
Maurice recommended Hosta leaves to line the jar. To begin, lay the leaf flat and cut a straight line along the bottom. Hosta leaves typically have a spine, so to better help the leaf wrap seamlessly along the inside of the vase, you can shave down the spine a bit. Insert the cut leaves in the jar, straight side down and use as many as you have to in order to completely line it. Next, using scissors, trim down the excess leaf so that it is flush with the mouth of the jar. You can also secure the leaves in the vase using a very small amount of clear floral tape. Wait to fill the jar with water until after the leaves are in and secure.
We then took the peonies and cut them down just enough so that the bloom was at the same level as the mouth of jar. We used around 5 peonies each. When you try this at home, make sure you use enough to fill the jar completely, which typically will be five to seven stems. The center of single stem arrangements tend be a bit taller, and Maurice recommends using the shortest stem in the middle to give it some depth. The arrangements all turned out amazing and smelled so good!
Our next lesson was creating a mixed arrangement using different types of flowers -Viburnum, Peonies, Dahlias, Stars of Bethlehem, Thistle, Geranium Leaves, and Scabiosa. Again, we started by manicuring the flowers and we filled a short cylinder shaped vase with water. We then created a grid on the top of the vase using floral tape. Before beginning the grid, wipe down the edge of the vase to make sure there’s no water from when you filled the vase. We used three pieces of tape in each direction, about 1 inch apart, (but spacing depends on the vase size) and then used one big piece of tape and wrapped it around the edge of the vase to ensure the grid stays in place. Before we started, Maurice reminded us that when working on a mixed arrangement, it’s essential to constantly turn the vase so you can see how all of the blooms look together and see if there are any holes that you may have missed while working in the grid.
We started with our greens – Geranium leaves – to create the foundation for the arrangement and to help hold up the other stems. We inserted the leaves within the grid, focusing on one quadrant of the vase. Not only are they pretty leaves, but they also smell amazing.
Next, we worked with the Viburnum, which has a woody stem. When working with branches like this, it’s important to cut them at a 45-degree angle and then use a knife or scissors to create small lines in the area that you cut – this helps the branch get more water. We put these in the grid at a 45-degree angle next to the Geranium leaves and made sure that the bottom of the branches touched the bottom of the vase.
For the next quadrant, we used the thistle. Maurice likes using thistle in mixed arrangements because it tends to really hold its shape. It’s important to trim down the thistle so that it doesn’t take over the vase.
Next, we worked with Dahlias. Since their bloom has a “face”, we alternated their direction as we put them into the grid – some facing up and some facing down. We then used the Star of Bethlehem to fill the smaller parts of the grid. These should be condensed and clustered so that they look like one bloom. Maurice likes using this particular flower because they can last up to three weeks if you trim them and refresh their water every couple of days.
We used a few Peony blooms to fill in the last part of the grid. Maurice was lucky enough to find big blooms of yellow Peonies and they gave the arrangement some volume and a nice pop of color. Last but not least, we used the Scabiosa to fill in any holes. These arrangements turned out to be so chic and would make great centerpieces for a table.
After class, I went home and tried arranging on my own, using all of the tricks of the trade from Maurice, and my arrangements turned out quite well! I’m going to start creating arrangements for our dinner parties and give them as hostess gifts. XXJKE