Adventures in Flower Arranging

– Posted in: Flowers on the Brain

Anyone can plunk a handful of flowers into a vase and call it an arrangement, and in the past, this is what I have done. True, I had made some attempt to arrange the flowers attractively, but the results could at best be described as rustic or primitive. I wanted something a little more polished for my grown daughter’s birthday, and none of the arrangements on display at the grocery store really lit a fire under me. I remembered Debra Prinzing’s book Slow Flowers and the inspiring arrangements she had created. I thought it was time to break out of my comfort zone and take my arranging skills to the next level. Or attempt to, at least.

After perusing the bundled stems I chose a bunch of Dutch iris and a bunch of pale yellow carnations to set off the yellow in the iris. I knew I would need some filler and in absence of baby’s breath I settled on a bunch of solidago. (“That looks like goldenrod,” my husband said, glancing at my choices. “It is,” I replied. “Solidago is botanical Latin for goldenrod.” Many of my menfolk were astonished that a mere weed was selling in the florist’s department.) Now to do something with them!

To figure out what container to choose, I referred back to the q&a I had done with Debra, where she advised that you should use six to ten stems per inch of the container’s diameter. With my thirty stems that meant a container with a maximum diameter of five inches. I had a pretty bowl of that size that I had picked up on clearance at HomeGoods. I had a single two-inch floral pin frog that I had found at a craft store, similar to the one pictured. (In helping my mom pack up breakables in 2013, I had come across a cache of various pin and dome frogs that she let me have. But can I find them now? Nooo.) Fortunately, the frog seemed to be the perfect size for the bottom of the bowl. Ready or not, here I go!

first try flower arranging

Hmm. This was not quite what I had in mind

Starting with the iris, I carefully cut stems and inserted them into the frog, alternating with the carnations. After a while, I stepped back from my work and squinted, trying to evaluate it objectively. It looked like flowers on stilts, but maybe it would look better after I added more flowers. However, after inserting more stems, it became clear the proportion was not improving. I considered taking all the stems out and starting over, but, I reasoned, I liked them all where they were, they were just all too tall. So I got out my kitchen scissors and cut them all at the same time.
chopped off flower arrangement

No turning back now!

I started to panic a little as I realized there was no turning back. I kept telling myself that the worst that would happen is twenty bucks’ worth of flowers would be wasted, but that really didn’t help my heart beat slower. Do or not do, that’s where I was at. I had hoped that once the flowers were cut, I could put them back into the frog exactly as they had been before, but, alas, they rolled around each other and got mixed up, and of course I didn’t think the new arrangement was as good as the old one.
reassembled flower arrangement

The “do-over” with shorter stems didn’t look as pleasing to my eye.

But part of me realized that aspiring for perfection would slow me down and not necessarily improve things, so I soldiered on. (“Just do it!” I admonished myself.) Finally it was time to fill in the empty spaces with the frothy solidago.
completed flower arrangement 2

I added the solidago after the other stems were all inserted.

I knew the frog should have been secured in place with floral putty, but I didn’t have any, so I had to hold the frog with one hand while I inserted with the other. And I found that the frog was filling up! After a while, it wasn’t a matter of deciding where a flower would look best, but finding an empty spot in the frog and deciding which stem to insert there.
completed flower arrangement 1

All done!

I inserted the final stem of solidago into the center so that it projected beyond the overall shape of the arrangement. I liked this asymmetrical look but my husband did not. I decided to let the birthday girl have the final say, and she voted to leave it as it was. What do you think? Does it add to or detract from the overall design?

Some links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Cold Climate Gardening is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Hannah Wilkins April 2, 2015, 12:57 am

Its amazing, this asymmetric look gives it a natural beauty, I love it, great work.

Frank March 29, 2015, 7:49 am

I think it looks great! You dun good cutting them all back to get rid of the stilts look, I would have broke out in a cold sweat after doing that, and your photo of the stumps is classic!

Debra March 26, 2015, 9:43 am

Kathy!!! Love this! your design sensibilities are spot-on perfect. I love how a vase of flowers can be seen as a miniature version of the garden in terms of the forms, textures, habits and hues. Right?!!! xo debra

kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern March 26, 2015, 8:46 am

Oh, and I meant to say that I LOVE your floral choices. They work beautifully together – the colors and forms.

kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern March 26, 2015, 8:44 am

I think it’s beautiful! I like asymmetrical. I like even better that you worked through your fear! That’s what I am going to do this season – work through my fear and dig a pond! I’ve contemplated it long enough – time to just do it.

Matt March 25, 2015, 11:46 am

Wonderful job what a difference from the first to the last. I’ve been trying to decide if I should make my soon to be wifes wedding bouquet in Aug. I dont know if I have that touch.

Kathy Purdy March 25, 2015, 1:32 pm

If I may offer my opinion? A wedding has enough stress without saddling yourself with making the bouquet. Make her an arrangement for her birthday. Surprise her with flowers on your honeymoon. But have someone who is not in the wedding party do the wedding flowers.

Margaret March 25, 2015, 9:00 am

Very nice – and certainly much better job than I could have done. I love picking a handful of flowers from the garden for the house, but my attempts at arranging them are usually hit or miss.

Diane March 25, 2015, 3:24 am

The arrangement is perfect. I love the clusters and colors.

Charlie@Seattle Trekker March 24, 2015, 11:09 pm

The combination of rich colors is so eye catching…

Donna@Gardens Eye View March 24, 2015, 5:24 pm

I say perfection…I say let your creativity flow and not worry….I have been making vases weekly for months now and even every week in winter….it is fun and such a wonderful creative time. A lucky daughter.

gail eichelberger March 23, 2015, 4:47 pm

I love it…

Pat Webster March 23, 2015, 10:53 am

I’m a terrible flower arranger so my opinion has little to back it up. But I like the arrangement very much and think the solidago is perfect — good colour and great texture. Lucky daughter to receive such a nice gift.

Alison March 23, 2015, 10:46 am

I love it just as is. The asymmetrical Solidago works great! I am so dreadful at this kind of thing, I would have had my heart in my mouth while cutting those stems too. Well done!

Jane Rutkowski March 23, 2015, 6:58 am

Hi Kathy,
I love the dutch iris & yellow carnations together – not so much the solidago. I think it’s because the clusters are too thick. Something more slender would fit the bill. Just my opinion.