10 Ways to Make a Designer Flower Centerpiece at Home

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Picture this…You’re standing frozen in your kitchen, a giant bouquet of supermarket flowers in your hand. Maybe you bought them yourself, with hopes of crafting a centerpiece for tonight’s dinner party, or perhaps a thoughtful guest gifted them to you as they entered your home. Either way, here you are, and you know you really should “do something” with them. But their mish mash of blooms, unwieldy stems, and sheer numbers seem to defy artful arranging.

We’ve all been there, staring one of those big bouquets down, and—let’s be honest—more often than not, we cave to the intimidation and resort to a quick snip of the ends and an artless plop into the tall vase that lives at the center of our dining room table.

In the end, we walk away feeling like we’ve somehow let the flowers (and ourselves!) down, a suspicion which is only confirmed when we finally sit down to dinner and are treated to the uninspiring sight of tangled stems, while the flowers hover out of sight overhead, offering their best view to that pesky spider picking its way across the dining room ceiling.

You’re probably thinking “Never again!” to the whole thing—the grocery store flowers, the centerpiece, the spider…and I get it! But take heart—there are ways to wrestle one of those confounding bouquets into a sophisticated centerpiece that brings you joy.

I have worked for many years as a floral designer, and I’ve faced those very same frustrations. Over time, I’ve crafted a step by step approach to making centerpieces that I still use to this day.  We are going walk through this process together, all the way from shopping to arranging. And just to show it can be done, I’m only using one large supermarket bouquet, and a couple additional bunches purchased right alongside it at the store.

10 Steps to the Perfect Bouquet

1. Choose your direction. Decide on the color palette and “feel” for your centerpiece before you go shopping.  Are you planning to feature your Grandmother’s vintage china at a dinner party for friends, or are you simply hoping to brighten your breakfast table and make next Monday morning a little cheerier?  Whatever the case, having a color and style direction in mind will help you focus as you shop.

2. Shop smart. Do consider one of the large mixed bouquets as the base for your design. These usually feature large premium flowers coordinated with smaller blooms and fillers at a price much lower than you’d pay to buy them separately. Be choosy—pick the nicest flowers you can afford, and be sure to keep your desired palette & feel in mind.

3. Add a little more. Look carefully at that big bouquet & ask yourself if it needs something else added to underscore your color palette or to vary the textures & shapes.  If your garden is in good shape, these additional pieces can come right out of your yard.
flower centerpiece 1I chose to work with this “Farmer’s Market Bouquet” because I was looking for something that hinted at Fall, and this fit the bill with its big sunflowers and great assortment of textured cockscomb, celosia, and gomphrena. I especially loved the unconventional fall color scheme—bright golds & rich magenta, which work perfectly with the late summer tablescape I’ve got in mind.

I picked up a bunch of yellow tulips to reinforce the golds of the sunflowers, and to add another floral shape to the collection. This particular bouquet didn’t include any pieces of greenery, so I also grabbed a bunch of seeded eucalyptus, whose gray green contrasts nicely with the lime greens of the foliage in the original bouquet. Now that we’ve got our flowers, here’s how to tame them.

4. Go low. My favorite centerpiece container is a 5×5 glass cube. It virtually disappears beneath the flowers, and blends into both modern and traditional settings with ease. Remember, the goal is for you and your guests to be able to see the faces of the flowers when you sit down at the table.

flower centerpiece 25. Take it apart. The flowers are in your house now, and you’re in charge! Separate all the elements into piles by color and type, and take a critical look at all your stems. Make sure to toss out anything that is rotten, set aside broken pieces, and weed out the random bits that you don’t like or that don’t really fit your color scheme or style.

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6. Make a market.  Now that you’ve got all the stems sorted, set up a display just like you’d find at a high end flower seller’s stall.  Gather glasses, pitchers, jars—whatever you’ve got—and fill each about halfway with cool water. Then, snip off about an inch from the base of each stem and drop them into the various containers, keeping the flowers sorted by color and type.

7. Build your base. Fill your low centerpiece vase two-thirds full with cool water, adding in a packet of flower food if one came with your bouquet. Grab your container of greens, and begin by cutting 3-4 stems down to lengths that will both touch the bottom of the vase and extend a few inches out over the sides. If you’re using a square vase, it’s easy to place greens in each corner first and then fill in along the sides, so that they are evenly distributed. The greenery begins to define the overall shape of the arrangement to come, and its stems provide an anchor for the flowers that will be added next. It’s great if you have a few stems left over; these can be added in later to fill in holes.

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8. Place your features. Take your large feature flowers next and cut them down as you did the greens. If these stems are too long, the flowers will be top heavy and can flip out of the vase. Let your eye lead you as you find places in the greenery to nestle these beauties in.

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9. Extend the lines. Starting with your next largest flowers and working your way down to your smallest fillers, begin placing stems to extend the shape of your arrangement up and out from the base you’ve created.  Work with one type of flower at a time, building dynamic lines of color and texture throughout. You’ll still be cutting down those long stems in this step, and often one big piece of filler will produce multiple small pieces to tuck in.

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10. Finish with a flourish. Turn your vase so you can see how the arrangement looks from all sides, and keep adding those last bits of greens and filler.  Let the curves and curls of these smaller flowers guide the emerging shape of your design into something lively and expressive.

After the Arrangement

Have fun with scraps. Do not feel guilty if every stem you purchased doesn’t make it into your final centerpiece!  In fact, if you’ve got a few pieces left over, that’s probably a good sign that you did a good job of sticking to your original vision.  But now that you have those few leftovers, have fun finding ways to tuck them into small and maybe unexpected containers. Tea cups, old sugar & creamer sets, & empty votive holders all make great mini vases, and once filled can brighten up a spot by your sink, freshen your bedside table, or even serve as a little favor for each of your dinner guests.

Sigh & step back.  Admire what you’ve made! And no matter if it’s just for curing the Monday morning blues, pull out some colorful dishes and a set pretty table to show off your creation.  

About the Author

Lisa Enoch is the founder and artistic director of Gatherings, a floral and special event design firm in the Chicagoland area specializing in artfully curated arrangements & occasions.

To see more, follow Gatherings on Instagram @Gatheringsdesign, and on Facebook! You can contact Gatherings directly at gatheringsdesign@gmail.com.

Categories: Design Ideas