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  • Writer's pictureLauren McMullen

Getting Started in Floral Design

By: Lauren McMullen

Photo of a variety of white, green, and purple flowers on an oak table

As someone who has been working in the floral industry for over three years, I have made more flower bouquets than I can count. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to try flower arranging, and there’s no better place to start than a fresh-cut bouquet. Follow this starter guide to learn some of the basics.

(Bonus: people are usually impressed when you tell them that you made the bouquet yourself.)

Step One: The Flower Shop

The first thing you’ll need to consider is what flowers you’ll be using to make your bouquet. It’s a little hard to grow anything other than pine trees in -25 degree weather, but most local flower shops in Alberta actually import many of their flowers from British Columbia. Here are some of my favourite local flower shops:

Flowers by Merle - 12320 105th Ave NW, Edmonton AB

Flowers by Merle has been in business for 54 years and boasts a tantalizing selection of fresh florals and gifts to complement the wonderful bouquet that you are going to make.

Charmed Floral Design Inc. - 23 Akins Dr. unit 108, St. Albert AB

This family-owned and operated flower shop is located on the south side of St. Albert, making it a quick drive for anyone living in St. Albert or on the north side of Edmonton.

Klondyke Flowers - #25 - 19 Bellerose Dr, St. Albert AB

Klondyke Flowers has served the Edmonton area for 50 years and sells a selection of products from local artists in addition to florals.

Step Two: Picking the Flowers

As with many art forms, there’s no right answer when you are picking out your materials. However, here are some types of flowers you may want to include in your bouquet.

Picture of a gerbera daisy, lily, and some roses on an oak table

Feature Flowers

Feature flowers are the largest flowers in your bouquet, and they are what the eye will be drawn to first when someone looks at your work. You’ll want to either pick two stems or stems in odd increments (i.e. three, five, seven, etc.) for your bouquet. Some common feature flowers that you can choose from include roses, lilies, and gerbera daisies (pictured).

a picture of spray mums, mini carnations, and alstromeria on an oak table

Auxiliary Flowers

These flowers bulk up your bouquet, and the buds should be smaller than your feature flowers. Some common auxiliary flowers include spray mums, alstroemeria, and mini carnations (pictured). I usually aim for six to twelve stems.

A picture of baby's breath, limonium, and ginestra on an oak table

Filler Flowers

Filler flowers are the finishing touch. Adding filler flowers will round out the shape and soften the look of your bouquet. These flowers are usually clustered flowers with very small buds. Usually, I add one or two stems of filler flowers. Popular varieties include ginestra, gypsophila, and limonium (pictured).

A picture of greenery on an oak table


Greens are an important addition to your bouquet. They frame your chosen flowers while adding a colour contrast to the blooms. I find that three stems usually do the trick. Some popular greenery includes leather leaf, palm leaves, or salal (pictured).

Step Three: Assembling the Flowers

Picture of an assembled flower bouquet with tulips, roses, and mums

Remember, the more you practice the better you will get! Here are the steps I usually follow when building a flower bouquet:

  1. Be sure to remove any leaves off the bottom two-thirds of the stems. This will prevent moldy water in your vase.

  2. Form a very loose fist-like shape with your hands so that the tip of your pointer finger touches the tip of your thumb. Use this grip when building your bouquet.

  3. Start with one of your feature flowers in your hand and build around it.

  4. Add your stems around the feature flower one at a time, rotating the bouquet a quarter of a turn each time (this is to help you create a round bouquet). Note: Try to keep stems of the same flower type away from each other. This will create a more visually interesting bouquet.

  5. Once you have added all your stems, evaluate the shape of your bouquet and adjust as necessary. You will want the centre of your bouquet to be the highest, and the stems should be slightly lower as you move to the edges.

  6. Once you are happy with the flowers, add your greens around the edges to frame your bouquet and tie a ribbon of your choosing around it!

Bonus Tips

  • If your flowers are going to be out of water for more than 45 minutes, wrap a soaked paper towel and plastic bag around the base of the stems, securing the wrap with rubber bands.

  • When you put the flowers in water, use cold water with an added ~1 tsp of white vinegar.

  • Cut your stems on an angle to increase drinking surface area.

  • Keep your bouquet away from direct sunlight.

  • Change the water in your vase every 2–3 days.

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