Happy almost spring, everybody! Yesterday the sun was shining in Portland and little bulb leaves were popping out of the ground in my front yard. Of course, as I write this, freezing rain is coming down in sheets and the wind is whipping. What!? No matter what the weather says, the months are moving along and February is here, which makes me happy because P’s birthday is next week and we’ll be celebrating our wedding anniversary toward the end of the month. Notice I didn’t mention Valentine’s Day? We’ve never celebrated it, but not for any particular reason. Maybe because I eat enough chocolate as it is? Things just might change this year now that I can confidently arrange my own flowers, thanks to a morning spent with the lovely Saria Dy of Rue Anafel.
Saria specializes in old world florals that wouldn’t look out of place in a Dutch oil painting and are uniquely beautiful in the modern world. The arrangement she crafted for this post utilizes fresh and dried flowers, as well as foraged bits from around town. I’ve always thought of big, lush florals as something only for special occasions because they tend to be expensive to put together. It turns out they don’t have to be; by using foraged greenery and branches, and inexpensive flowers that are still show stoppers (these carnations!), you can make a gorgeous arrangement on any budget. Before I hand the reins over the Saria for the how-to, I want to mention she’s taken 20% off her shop through Valentine’s Day (the code is BELOVEDCOMMUNITY), and will also be giving 20% of proceeds to a worthy cause. If you’re not local, you can order one of her everlasting bouquets and she’ll send it your way. Go have a look!
Designing an arrangement is a playful activity for me. When making one for myself, I don’t put too much thought into it or follow too many rules, a lot of it is feeling out what looks right. It’s pretty simple, really, and it starts with a color story inspiration. I’ll look out my window at a certain time of day, eat a certain dish, stumble upon an old image, or see a dress at a vintage store. I tend to pick color inspirations from nature or past times.
Once that’s down, I head to the market. I tend to lean towards variegated colors or colors with tone variation, I’m not too big on color blocking in my arrangements. If I were to get a dark plum and a white, I would make sure to have something that goes in between those two or has a tone in the same school. When I pick colors, I like to be more tonal than colorful. I try to get a mix of focal blooms and accent fillers. I typically buy one or two more wispy greens at the market and forage the rest.
After going to the market and having my bought flora and foliage, I go to foraging spots that I’ve been eyeing. I’m constantly searching for foraging spots, and I love watching them change over the seasons. Since it’s winter, I’ve been loving adding branches and wispy twigs. And of course, I always try to incorporate a dried element to my arrangements. I love making an arrangement tell a full story, with the different stages of nature, as a landscape would.
A vase has an important role in an arrangement, almost just as much as the flora and foliage. And not only the vase, but what you put in the vase to hold stems, be it a flower frog, foam, chicken wire, or tape. Together, they’ll help make the shape. I have found that when designing with flowers, one must be flexible with not only the season but all factors of an environment. A design is a collaboration of sort, with the weather, what is growing out of the ground, the vase one is using, the means in which one decides to stick stems into the vase, among other things.
And now, the actual process of designing. I always start with the foliage. I use to start with a couple focal flowers, which a florist mentor I had thought was strange. Anyway, now I typically start with foliage. Cutting each stem I put in, I typically put at least three and begin building a shape. I usually do a high-low effect, each stem extending out, like a ballet dancer. I add focal flowers, fillers, more foliage, and keep doing that rotation (not in that exact order necessarily) until it looks right to me. I tend to design in triangles and threes. For me, it’s important to make sure there’s a lot of depth. I usually have a belly button of an arrangement, where everything seems to be growing from. I also like to pick a spot in an arrangement where I’d imagine I’d build my little home, as arrangements are much like building tiny landscapes to me, as I’ve touched on already
To keep a flower arrangement around longer, flower food is helpful, as well as adding and changing the water once it looks murky. Some flowers also love to be misted. Have fun creating your own arrangement! If you’ve read this and decide to make one, be sure to tag me on Instagram or Facebook (@rueanafel)! I would love to see it.