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Flowers by the numbers: How to make a small, medium and large arrangement

A guide for getting it right every time — whether you’re using dried or fresh blooms.

A guide for getting it right every time — whether you’re using dried or fresh blooms

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

For every table, there's a floral piece that could make it that much more beautiful. Using this guide, you will be able to design a dried vase arrangement in three different sizes and learn each flower's purpose within your design. 

I tend to start my design with a base flower, which creates the rough shape of your arrangement and will guide you throughout the design process. Focal flowers are your superstars! They attract the most attention; the rest of the piece centres around them. In this case, you will need three main focal flowers and three secondary focal flowers. Line flowers are used for height and will also help highlight the shape you're trying to achieve. I personally love using a few different types of line flowers because of the dramatic effect that creates. Detailing flowers are small blooms that add flair and personality to your piece. I suggest having two different kinds of detailing flowers (roughly three to five stems of each). Finally, my favourite part of most arrangements is the dance flower. This is what lends your piece a sense of movement and energy.  

My Paraluman Flora arrangements tend to focus a lot on colour. I like to believe that there are no rules when it comes to colour. If you like it, then include it in your arrangement! That being said, it also depends on the mood you're going for. I use pastel colours for softer arrangements, bright and saturated colours to embody happiness and cool tones for sympathies and apologies, for example. Considering that we'll be creating a 100 per cent dried arrangement, you will be able to switch things around according to the energy you want your arrangement to radiate. 

Here's what you'll need

Tools:

  • A 4- by 4-inch square of chicken wire
  • A short vase of your choice with a 3- to 4-inch mouth diameter (I used an EM Esquivel custom made vase)
  • Clear floral tape
  • Scissors
  • Gardening shears

Flowers (feel free to use alternatives available to you):

  • 5 base flowers (bleached ruscus)
  • 3 main focal flowers (preserved roses)
  • 3 secondary focal flowers (strawflowers)
  • 3 main line flowers (dried silver strelitzia)
  • 5 secondary line flowers (dried larkspur)
  • 2 third line flowers (feathers)
  • 5 fourth line flowers (mini pampas grass)
  • 5 detailing flowers (bunny tails)
  • 3 secondary detailing flowers (dried thistle)
  • 1 main dance flower (billy balls)
  • 5 secondary dance flowers (silver curly ting)

Preparation

1. Take the chicken wire and crumple it into a ball. This will give your stems the support they need to stay in place. Carefully put it in the bottom of your vase.

2. Using the clear floral tape, create a grid on the mouth of the vase. This will also help keep your stems in place once you're designing and will prevent the chicken wire from falling out. For a vase with a 4-inch opening, I suggest four horizontal lines and four vertical lines. Make sure to tape around the rim of the vase to secure your grid.

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

For a small arrangement

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

This small arrangement will be your base. By starting with this size, you'll be able to build it up to a more elaborate piece. You can also stick with these proportions for a mini but mighty arrangement that will add a pop of colour and personality in any room. It would fit perfectly on a side table, the corner of a shelf or your nightstand. 

1. Start by creating the rough shape of your arrangement using bleached ruscus. Cut one stem into two to avoid waste. Create a V shape by keeping taller stems on the sides, resting them on the vase's rim, while placing shorter stems within the inner squares of your grid. 

2. Next up is your button, a rose. It's the shortest-stemmed flower in the arrangement and sits right in the middle, helping to create volume. Place a rose right in the middle of your vase.

3. By grouping your focus flowers, you accentuate them, giving them the attention they deserve. Place one rose in front of the first, and another beside it, forming a triangle. Quick tip: make them slightly different in heights to help with levels.

4. Your secondary focus flower, the strawflower, can sit close to the first. I suggest choosing a different colour so they're easier to see. 

5. Add two curly tings to give your piece movement.

6. Take your longest line flower — a feather in this case — and put it on the top-right corner of the grid. This will solidify your V shape and it will most likely be the tallest stem in your arrangement.

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

7. Add three bunny tails on the opposite side of the feather.

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

For a medium arrangement

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

Using the small arrangement you've just created, you can now easily create a medium-sized one by adding more flowers. The main goal here is to emphasize the shape you've already developed using more blooms.

1. Take two stems of dried blue larkspur and place them on one side of your arrangement to add more height. The shorter stem can sit right by the rim of the vase to give the arrangement greater width. 

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

2. Add three mini pampas grass stems between the bunny tails. Make sure the grass stems are each in a different square of the grid to create dimension and that they're taller than the bunny tails from your small arrangement.

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

3. Take one stem of bleached ruscus and add it to the very back of your arrangement, behind the pampas grass, bunny tails and larkspur.

4. To add more details to your arrangement, use stems of dried thistle and sprinkle them throughout. Remember to trim the thistle stems to different lengths to create multiple levels. 

5. My favourite detail about any piece I create is the one single bloom that is almost out of place, but doesn't disrupt the arrangement. In this case, it's the one yellow billy ball. Feel free to add one to yours if it feels right!

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

For a large arrangement

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

This is where you can let go of the rules and amp up the shape of your arrangement with the leftover stems. From here on out, the goal is to make your arrangement as grand as possible. So even if it's the only decorative object in the room, it exudes enough beauty to fill the whole space. 

1. Add more bunny tails. I prefer grouping them, but you can put them anywhere that needs extra detail. 

2. Place two more pampas grass stems into the vase, keeping them shorter than the other grass stems. This will add to its fullness.

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

3. Take three stems of silver dried strelitzia and situate them so they are the tallest stems in your vase. This gives your arrangement the "wow factor" it deserves!

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

4. Add another feather, preferably right beside the first one — because in this case, more is more.

5. Last but not least, if you have more bleached ruscus, add them around the arrangement in varying heights to highlight the shape of your piece even further.

(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)
(Photo: Mariah Hamilton; styling: Abigail Ballanger)

Kim Jasmin Monsalud Francisco is a floral artist based in Toronto. Her creative practice Paraluman Flora specializes in installations, editorials, weddings, and other events. Keep in touch via Instagram @paraluman.flora.

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