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Looking at the Basics of Flower Design

By Leslie Ginnes April 16, 2023 Lifestyle

This is the second of a 2-part series on flower care and design. You can find the previous article here: How Do I Make My Market Flowers Last? Please refresh or read for the first time as the information is foundational.

Before You Begin

When you are ready to begin designing a floral arrangement, it is good to consider these points:

Reason for Buying

Have you already bought your flowers just because you saw them, and they were pretty?


Are there specific spots you want to have flowers placed? Is there a reason other than being surrounded by beauty and participating in the joy that results?

  • If you’re planning a dinner and the dining table is one place you know you want flowers and décor, consider the number of people seated.
  • Consider the shape of the table and style of food service (family, plated).
  • How many other items will be on the table? It is considerate to sit in one chair and look at where the opposite person will be.
  • The primary 1-3-5 design rule exists because there is a design balance for creating visual curiosity in odd numbers. You can make one arrangement, or you can do multiples depending upon your mind’s eye vision, the number of flowers you have, and the amount of time you wish to spend creating.
  • One rule of thumb for dinner centerpieces is to check the flowers’ height. To do this, bend your arm as if you are going to arm wrestle, then put your elbow on the table. The height of your hand is the highest the flowers should go. If you want a taller centerpiece, be sure it is the height of your entire arm’s length so it’s not in the way of the guests’ visual contact with each other.
  • If you have multiple arrangements, consider variety, height, and clustering of vases using different elevations to keep it interesting. Manicured designs can be wonderful, but that’s in another how-to.
  • You can break the 1-3-5 rule through other materials, such as candles, glass door knobs, broken granite pieces, etc. Please consider that the scent of food and the smell of flowers should work together.

As you have probably realized, getting your flowers after you know what you will be doing may be the better option.

Don’t feel frustrated if you don’t have enough flowers; go out and get more to help you respond to the evolving creation.

Designing for Events

When designing flower pieces for events, knowing the mood and tone of the event, as well as something about the attendees, often is the best place to start. Over the years, I’ve come to discover that there are many clues available to help me create a great flower design that pleases me and my guests.  

A gathering of friends has a lot going on. Has it been a hard week? Has someone found a new partner? Is this the 10th time you are entertaining these folks?

When I was hired to design a dinner celebration for a couple, I inquired a little about them. I learned that one was an MD and the other a Ph.D., and they were also admirers of art, books, and silly fun. That was enough inspiration.

You can create flower pieces for celebration of abundance or for simple joy.

Using Different Elements of Design

In the above photos you may have noticed the use of unusual containers. Classic vases are beautiful, but the creative mind can expand to find all kinds of ways to hold beauty.

When I create flower designs, I always recall my mentor’s words to make sure there is always enough room for a ladybug to fly through or a butterfly to land.

The flowers often dictate against our intentions. In fact, they rule the design, we need to listen to them. This requires paying attention and letting go of our initial vision. It means stepping outside what we know and seeing what else might happen.

I am a huge believer in not letting anyone see the architecture that holds the piece together, whether it is the stems of the flowers or the floral foam used to put the design together. So, it’s my personal rule to put the greenery first.

Here are some design shape ideas that may be of some inspiration.

Final Thoughts

The parsley or the artichoke in your refrigerator, the overgrowing rosemary bush or creeping ­­­­­­­­­ivy, or the stems you have cut off to lower the flowers are all elements you can incorporate. Your house plants can offer a leaf or be a little pot in the corner of the container you design around.

When you are frustrated, step away, walk away, and then come back. You might be surprised by how lovely your design actually looks.

When you finish a piece that you won’t use right away, putting it in a cool place.

Finally, enjoy the process. The discovery. The fun.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you designed a flower piece for your dinner table? What flowers did you incorporate? What other elements did you use in your design?

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Elaine Preston

I always love incorporating a flower arrangement for my special dinners. I’ve learned through the years to buy more flowers than I think I need. You can never have too many flowers around the house. The extras can be used in your guest bath or on the patio.


I was looking forward to part 2 and Leslie didn’t disappoint. I now know how to measure the height of a centerpiece. And I love the tip about using produce from the fridge. I’m going to create a whimsical centerpiece that is totally me.

Shaggy Maggie

Your drawings have charmed me!

The Author

Leslie Ginnes’ goal is to freely share the expertise and care given to her, which nurtures her creativity. She is 65, looking back and looking forward and wondering how we can lift what is too heavy to carry. Finally, accepting everything will change, and it does in a split second.

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