Floral arranging is one of those things that makes me feel inspired and googly eyed, but I have no real experience in. Maybe I feel that some day my house and parties will be magically filled with beautiful, overflowing arrangements, and yet I am usually just cutting off the ends of a grocery-store bouquet and haphazardly placing the stems into a vase, hoping that the whole thing’s not lopsided 🙄.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love these little bouquets. Once my birthday comes around and peonies start showing up at every store, I get pretty giddy. However, I still had a lot of questions and dreamed of expanding my very limited knowledge of flower arranging. Where else can you find flowers besides the grocery store? If I am hosting a party and want something a little more special, where do I even start?
I thought I might not be the only one.
Wonderfully, Carla of Idlewild Floral Studio jumped in to offer her pro advice. Read below to get her insider tips on floral arranging and, hopefully, get inspired to try something new!
I always have a hard time finding specific flowers (like peonies, monstera leaves, etc.). Where would you suggest a non-florist go to buy flowers?
Farmers markets are always a great place to find pretty, seasonal blooms. I also love finding greenery, branches, and big interesting leaves like monstera in my garden or off of my house plants, or even out on hikes if local rules allow for foraging. Sometimes flower markets have special hours for the public, and you can shop at the same place the professionals do too; just call ahead to find out 🙂
Sometimes flower markets have special hours for the public, and you can shop at the same place the professionals do too; just call ahead to find out.
You make the most gorgeous overflowing, organic bouquets. How do you create these so that the bouquet holds its shape?
It’s a lot more complicated than it looks to make something look natural & organic—counter intuitive, I know! It just takes a lot of practice and a willingness to let the flowers dictate the form they want to take, rather than forcing them into a shape you have in your mind. Having a good base is also super important.
How do you go about choosing what flowers to arrange together?
I start with a texture and color palette in mind, and then choose whatever foliages and flowers fit that vibe at the market that week. This is usually inspired by my wedding couple’s personal style, the location, and the occasion the flowers should reflect. I’m very loose and flexible when choosing my materials; it’s really whatever speaks to me, and one element leads to another.
What is your best insider tip for creating a beautiful bouquet?
Keep it simple! Choose three elements in three different textures and shapes, and then let them be free to do what they want in the container you’re using.
How do you decide how long to cut the stems on a floral arrangement?
It depends on the container and where the arrangement will be going (on a table, entry table, on the ground, etc.). It’s also important to give your arrangement layers, so that the flower aren’t crowding each other.
Any special supplies that you can’t live without? How do you like to use these?
I love using floral frogs in low shallow bowls; they’re so fun and feel so old fashioned! They also allow for really simple, ikebana-style arrangements, which are my favorite.
(I had to look up floral frogs 😉.)
What type of vases do you prefer to use on your arrangements? Any recommendations on places to buy them?
I personally love organic, handmade ceramics, and I source these from local artists. I’ve made connections with a few I especially love, but you can find them at makers markets or even on Etsy.
Any tips for finding out what flowers are in season?
Farmers markets are the best place to get a feel for the season, and nature hikes. In contrast, the flowers at flower markets are shipped from all over the world and grown in greenhouses, so they don’t necessarily reflect the season.
How do you create flower crowns or garlands in advance? I have issues with flowers wilting. Do you refrigerate them? How far in advance can you do this?
I make flower crowns the day of and garland up to two days before if I’m only using greens. I also teach flower crown workshops because this is definitely a learned art!
(Carla teaches workshops pretty often for private parties or at local venues for fun. In fact, she’s got a flower crown workshop coming up on March 18th! And if you are curious about any of her other workshops, stay posted at idlewildfloral.com 😊.)
Any more insider tips/secrets?
Like anything, floral design can only be learned by doing, so don’t be afraid to experiment and just use whatever speaks to you! Foraging is such a great way to do this, and bring a little touch of nature into your home for no cost at all.
A little about Carla Wingett
Combining her history as a garden designer with her love of painting, Carla’s arrangements are both wild and artistically composed. With 10 years experience in events, interior design, and floral design—she has perfected the art of setting a table. You’ll find her work featured in The New York Times, Sunset, 805 Living, Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, Santa Barbara Magazine, Coyote & Oak Magazine, Edible, Ruffled, and The Wedding Standard.
Know someone that needs a florist, or just want to check out Carla’s work? Visit Idlewild’s website here!
Interested in insider tips from other professionals? Check out this post on how to take the perfect party photos!