Stacie usually spends her days arranging flowers in the homes of the stars, but she met me outside a bodega to show me what could be done with the most pedestrian blossoms. With skill and style, she transformed these unremarkable bunches into high-end designs. Here are her tips for selecting and arranging corner store flowers.
Check For Freshness: Look for flowers that still have some unopened buds. Softly pinch the base of a carnation to feel that it’s firm (good), or gently shake a bunch of daisies upside down to see if any petals fall off (bad). Look for new deliveries that are still in The box, and if you shop at the same place often, ask them what day new flowers come. In the winter, watch out for ice. Frozen flowers will look fresh, but fall apart the moment they warm up. If there is ice in the water bucket, say no thanks.
Stop to Smell the Roses and Then Move On: Roses are ubiquitous. Other kinds of flowers make a more interesting arrangement, and are often better priced and fresher. (Stacie makes an exception for spray roses, the kind with multiple small blossoms on a stem.)
Monotone Is Not Monotonous: Whether or not you’re confident in your color sense, sticking to a limited palette is a great strategy. It amazes me how vibrant and varied a bunch of white blossoms can look. My favorite arrangement Stacie made with me was all greens, without a single flower. If only one thing looks fresh when you’re shopping, just use several stems — or bunches — of that one thing alone (this is a good opportunity to use a statement vase).
Big Mouths Win: What’s up with giant vases that have tiny openings? For a lush bouquet, choose a vessel with plenty of room for stems. Jars and cans work as well as fancy ceramics.
Play with Your Food: There might be something sitting in your fridge that could enhance a bouquet: try working in artichokes, kale, grapes, or stalks of herbs. (Use bamboo skewers to make stems for artichokes.)
Trim Up: Trim a few inches off each stem before placing them in your vase; this allows the flowers to better soak up water. For woody stems, like hydrangea, smash the bottom 2 inches with a hammer or stone. The splintered stems absorb water better.
Moisturize: Daisies and hydrangeas love a shower. Mist them with a spray bottle to keep them fresh. If they look a little sad when you bring them home, submerge the flowers in a sinkfull of lukewarm water and soak for a few minutes to perk them up.
Start with Structure: Place big, multibranched stems first to create the structure of your arrangement. If you want an assist holding things in place, Stacie suggests a piece of chicken wire bent to fit inside the top of the vase — it’s a more ecological option than the traditional green floral foam.
Context Matters: Where will you place your vase? Don’t waste flowers on the back of an arrangement that you’ll set on the mantle; but if this will be seen from all angles, work in the round. Place your elbow on the table and make a fist: a centerpiece should go no higher than that.
Asymmetry Is King: Use groups of flowers in multiples of 3 or 5. Create a shape that’s higher in the middle (longer stems) and lower at the edges (shorter stems). Make groupings of a particular leaf or blossom.
Stay Clean: The best thing you can do for your flowers is change their water regularly. Otherwise, bacteria will make them decay faster (and make an unpleasant smell).