FLOWERS were once reserved for special occasions. Now, they’re considered just as much an essential accessory as cushions, throws or bric-a-brac, and certainly aren’t confined to a show-off bouquet in the living room.
Floral artists have shown us the magical power of blooms to instantly transform rooms. Whether it’s a single flower in a simple container or an array of exotic buds in a statement vase, these touches have helped foster our ever-growing passion.
“I love the fact people are realising every room in the house can benefit from flowers, and are aware they literally bring spaces alive,” says Jane Packer, renowned floral artist whose new book, At Home With Flowers, bursts with inspiring ideas and easy-to-follow display tips.
“Flower arranging doesn’t have to be complicated, so don’t worry about following rules or needing special skills,” she urges. “All you really need is imagination, an eagerness to experiment and an ability to see beyond the norm.”
Flowers, she demonstrates, can be a welcoming touch in a hall, bring colour to bedrooms and bathrooms, enhance a kitchen and dress a living room. “At home I turn to the same old favourites time and time again. Dramatic, luxurious red blooms, such as roses or amaryllis, perfectly offset the moody grey shade of my sitting room walls,” she reveals.
“It’s essential to select flowers that co-ordinate with the other colours in the room. Matching the colour of a bouquet with the dominating decor shade in a space can look stunning.” Her display suggestions include: positioning a bold, floor-standing display by a large fireplace or feature, such as a statement chair; enhancing a dramatic arrangement by standing it in front of a mirror; and using viewing surfaces, from bookshelves to coffee tables, as opportunities to showcase plants.
The scent of flowers shouldn’t be underestimated either, points out Karen Watson at The Real Flower Company, specialists in bouquets and arrangements. “Flowers don’t just have visual beauty; scent can be as essential to the experience and impact of a floral display, and evoke memories.
“The addition of a few sprigs of rosemary, lavender or garden mint, often in abundance in many a garden, can make a remarkable difference to an arrangement. This time of year brings the wonderful aromas of garden roses and the sweetest smell of sweet peas.”
:: Vivid vases
Don’t restrict yourself to traditional vases, advises Karen Watson. “Think outside of the box - or vase! If a container can hold water, it can hold your blooms! Think old tins, glass bottles, jam jars and decorative crockery. “Consider what you want to achieve with your display, whether it’s a ‘fresh from the garden’ natural and wild arrangement, or a more controlled, simple yet dramatic feature.”
:: Start smart
Choosing the right container for the right arrangement is vital, says Packer. “Both should be sympathetic to each other to create a harmonious whole. Simple flowers work well in decorative vases and vice versa. “A clever choice of containers can result in some fantastic effects and allow you to use fewer flowers.” Tall cylindrical vases suit long-stemmed blooms such as an amaryllis or lilies, she advises, while low, tank-shaped receptacles suit short-stemmed flowers.
Classic flared-shape vases hold a large quantity of flowers, while dainty little bud varieties are ideal for single blooms. “I love to cluster a number of small vases together, each holding just one or two stems. This looks fresh and modern, and gives great value for money, since you don’t need as many flowers.”
:: Bloom on
In order to prolong the life of a flower arrangement, Jane Packer suggests making sure all the flowers have their stems in water when you’re buying them. “Avoid those with soft, floppy heads or petals that are starting to brown at the edges,” she says. “Look for flowers with pert heads and some stems that are still in bud. Leaves should be firm and a fresh green colour - not yellowing.”
As soon as you get them home, remove any foliage from the lower part of the stem and re-cut the stems at an angle to improve their ability to take in water. Then plunge them into a deep container. If they come with a sachet of flower food, use it, as it provides the nutrients that encourage buds to open and helps keep the vase bacteria-free, which will also help them last longer.
:: Faking it
The days of naff artificial flowers are long gone - now they look so real even florists can be fooled, especially if blooms displayed are in tune with the season. “Summer is all about colour. Capture a traditional feel with pink, cream
or white roses which have a ‘fresh from the garden’ look,” suggests Tiffany Davies, creative director at Bloom, specialists in silk flowers and artificial arrangements.
“They can instantly transform a country kitchen table or window sill. Or turn up the heat and conjure a more Mediterranean theme with vibrant colours such as purples, reds, yellows and oranges in exotic blooms.”
:: Pretty plants
Plants can be just as appealing as cut flowers and are an ideal way to keep ‘living colour’ in rooms, especially if regularly buying bouquets is beyond the budget. “Decorative succulents only need a little water every now and then to keep them going,” says Packer, who’s planted an array of them to great effect in antique silver sports trophy cups displayed on a mantel.
Bathrooms, she points out, are a particularly ideal environment for plants and suggests crassula, sempervivium, or echeveria. Alternatively, she advises opting for orchids or gardenias, the latter of which has a lingering scent.