Make a Hand-Tied Bouquet
The Flower Book author Rachel Siegfried shows you how to create a gorgeous arrangement worthy of the florist's shop.
I’ll be honest: Until a few years ago, I never kept fresh flowers in my home. They intimidated me.
It wasn’t until a particularly cold and dreary winter that I brought home a dozen pink roses that cheered me up for the next week that I finally “got it.” Flower arranging and I have been like this ever since.
Rachel Siegfried, author of DK’s The Flower Book, found her passion working in the horticulture industry. After six years of working with flowers and plants, she opened Green and Gorgeous, a flower farm in Oxfordshire, U.K.
The Flower Book is a journey through the seasons in 60 cutting garden flowers and 30 breathtaking flower arrangements, with step-by-step instructions for creating each one. The book also illustrates how to make a hand-tied bouquet, arguably one of the simplest yet stunning flower displays.
It doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to create custom bouquets, centerpieces and arrangements at home. Pick up some flowers on the way home from the grocery store and you can make a beautiful decoration for your home or a gift for a loved one in minutes.
We asked Rachel for some tips to get you started:
Many of our readers will be picking up flowers from the market to create arrangements. How do you pick a “good” flower for an arrangement? Should the blooms be already open or just about to open? Can flower color tell you anything?
For longevity, blooms should not be fully open. I always handle the bunch to check for freshness, looking at the stems and leaves as well as the blooms. The bunch should feel turgid or 'perky' with no signs that the flowers have been in storage for too long.
Are there any flower combinations you can think of that absolutely would not well together?
As a flower farmer I only work with flowers when they are in season, I find they combine very naturally, almost as if they are still growing together in the garden. I do not think that using flowers from different seasons works, for example a tulip with a dahlia, it always seems to jar and look artificial. Also if a flower is out of season it will have traveled further and often be lacking in luster. If you use seasonality as a guide it also helps to narrow down the sometimes overwhelming choice at the market.
What’s the most unique flower arrangement you’ve ever created?
I enjoy installing my floral designs outdoors in natural surroundings, so I think the settings or context are more unique than the actual arrangements. For an outdoor wedding ceremony, I created a large show-stopping floral chandelier filled with blousy white peonies, blossoming branches and lots of lush foliage. And I suspended it from a tree in a woodland glade where it looked truly magical.
Our readers love offbeat containers. We’ve seen a lot – bird cages, hollowed out tree branches, even a washing machine. What’s the most unique vessel you’ve used for a flower arrangement?
I have arranged into shoes, teapots and on mannequins but offbeat is not really my style. I am more interested in bespoke, unique and handmade so I have started to make my own vessels. I now have a pottery studio on the farm where I can make vases which complement my flowers in their form and finish.
What are some of your favorite flowers to work with?
Scent and nostalgia are really important to me and I find my favorites tend to have these sensory and emotive attributes. I grow lots of garden roses, sweet peas and herbs, and they find their way into most of my summer work.
Unlike most hellebores, or Lenten roses, Gold Collection® ‘Pink Frost’ holds its blooms upright, so their white, pink and deep rose colors are easier to see in winter. The plants have attractive burgundy stems. Use these deer resistant plants as groundcovers or perennials in shady spots.
This stunning anemone, 'Black-Eyed Beauty,' has two layers of white petals around a silver-blue center. Try it in containers or in a cutting garden; the flowers last a long time in vases.
With so much mixing and matching of patterns, this is a great opportunity to make a statement with bold monochromatic arrangements. Artfully arrange dozens of bright pink ranunculus in a single gold vase to create a striking focal point in the center of the table. Courtesy of Camille Styles, editor of CamilleStyles.com
Ornamental onions fill the garden with fun spherical blossoms. ‘Globemaster’ opens its 10-inch- violet-purple orbs from late spring to early summer. The flowers stand atop 2- to 3-foot stems, like giant lollipops in the garden. They’re a favorite of bees and other pollinators. Bulbs are hardy in Zones 3 to 8.
Summer: Sweet Pea
Fragrant sweet peas are the flowers for fond farewells. This custom began in Victorian times when departing friends would leave behind a bouquet of sweet peas in gratitude for their hosts’ hospitality. This spirit of thankfulness is reflected in the sweet pea’s status as the 30th anniversary flower: think of it as a way to say thank you for time well spent.
This hydrangea centerpiece is a definite day-maker for the non-crafty bride on a budget. Hydrangeas are ultra-affordable, and this DIY is ultra-doable. Seven quick steps — which don’t require any extraordinary artistic abilities — will leave you feeling very impressed with yourself.
Discover the beauty of trailing snapdragons by filling a hanging basket or urn with difference shades of ‘Candy Showers’ snapdragon. Look for blossoms in white, yellow, purple, orange, rose and red. This basket features (left to right) red, orange and rose. Recipe for a 12-inch hanging basket: one 4-inch pot each of red, rose and orange ‘Candy Showers’ snapdragon.
Strawflowers like Sundaze® Blaze (Bracteantha or Xerochrysum) should be harvested before the centers of the flowers open, so there's enough moisture in the blooms to make them easy to handle. Cut the stems 12 to 15 inches long, and remove the leaves. Tie the stems together (a rubber band is good for this, as the stems tend to shrink when they dry), and hang them upside down in a dry, dark spot that gets good air circulation. They’ll be ready to use in 2 or 3 weeks.
Dress up your tabletop surface with an arrangement that looks just like mistletoe. Combine branches of hypericum berries with sprigs and branches of pine. The arrangement will last anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks if the water is changed regularly and the stems are cut at an angle every other day.
You mention in The Flower Book that your favorite part of creating flower arrangements is adding the finishes touches and that it’s a “painterly experience.” I think every green thumb probably has similar, cathartic experience when working with plants. What’s your favorite part of gardening in general?
I like all aspects of gardening, working outdoors in nature is hard to beat but out of all the tasks, propagation is my favorite. I never get tired of making more plants from saved seed and cuttings.
Ready to make your own arrangement? Check out the gallery below for the full instructions, and keep these things in mind:
- Most containers will need something to support the flowers – try a ball of chicken wire, floral foam or create a lattice with tape.
- Keep your shears sharp and clean.
- Cut stems at an angle so they’ll soak up more water. Cut woody stems (think hydrangea stems) flat across the bottom, then cut about an inch or so up the middle of the stem.
- Flowers and foliage will typically last longer if you leave them to rest overnight in a bucket of water.
- Add the foliage before the flowers.
- Keep the vase and water as clean as possible.