Grow for it! Flower arrangement provides a garden inside your home


Laurel Rady and Ada Brehmer
El Dorado County UCCE Master Gardeners

Few things are more beautiful than a fresh, well-balanced flower arrangement. Here are some tips to help you create your own. With a little practice, using the elements found in your own surroundings, you can enjoy beautiful arrangements in any season.

Pick the right components by selecting flowers and sturdy accents that have interesting and complementary colors. Add texture with berries, foliage, branches, branches, leaves or pine cones. Place your initial selections on a table and eliminate anything that looks out of place. But do not hesitate to use surprising or unexpected elements, as long as they contribute to a harmonious combination. Cut the stems to a variety of lengths making clean diagonal cuts to improve water absorption. Use odd numbers for the most natural look. To create your arrangement, you’ll start by building a frame, providing a base and creating a focal point, then filling in with floats.

Bacteria are the enemy of cut flowers. Disinfect your vases and tools first to extend the life of your arrangement. Fill your container with lukewarm water. Reduce rot by removing any leaves, thorns and flowers that will be below the waterline in your container and avoid overcrowding.

Rinse the newly cut stems under lukewarm water to remove any residual debris. Soft flowers do not absorb enough water – they should be cut back immediately. Check the water level daily and replace it regularly to keep it clean and clear. Throw away any flowers or faded leaves immediately. Keep your arrangement away from drafts, direct sunlight, and ripe fruit. The ethylene gas that fruits give off can cause the buds to stay closed and shorten the life of the plant.

Unless the bouquet is against a wall, arrange it so that it looks good from all angles. Insert a few tall stems into the heart of the arrangement and place more in the middle or front. Formal arrangements are generally symmetrical; more casual designs are not. Take a step back from time to time to review your work and remove any discrepancies as you work. Sometimes less is more.

Build a frame by crisscrossing the sturdiest stems or branches, cut at different heights, to create a frame that will shape and support your arrangement and provide texture. Fill in the empty spaces with branches or smaller leaves. Pick five interesting medium-sized flowers with larger blooms. Cut their stems a little shorter and use them to fill in any empty spaces.

Now is the time to use your most remarkable flowers as accents and focal points. Pick three spectacular flowers and cut their stems a little longer to make the flowers stand out. Place them in your container one at a time, changing the location of each until you create the effect you want. Choose nine or 11 delicate flowers, branches or seed heads as floats to fill in the remaining spaces and complete your arrangement.

Separating the flowers from the original plant deprives them of essential substances. Cut flowers need three things to survive: carbohydrates (to support cell metabolism); biocides (to control bacterial growth); and acidifiers (to adjust the pH of the water and facilitate water absorption).

Ready-to-use commercial preservatives contain sugar, bleach, and citric acid. You can prepare your own preservative solution by filling your vase with a liter of lukewarm water, then adding 1 teaspoon of sugar to provide carbohydrates; 1 teaspoon of bleach to provide biocides; and 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice to add acidifiers. Pour into your vase and mix the three ingredients well then add your flowers. Refresh your flowers by replacing this solution every other day or so. To extend the life of your arrangement even more, place it in the refrigerator for about eight hours a night.

Register for the free virtual course led by a master gardener, Bouquets de fleurs, on June 9, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., at

Due to the pandemic, Master Gardener events will continue to be limited for the foreseeable future. Find the new class schedule online at: and recorded lessons on many gardening topics at

The Sherwood Demonstration Garden is open from 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays and Saturdays through October. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the number of people allowed in the garden at a time is limited to 10; masks and distancing are required. Check the website for details at

A question about gardening? Master gardeners work hard remotely and can always answer questions. Leave a message on the office phone at (530) 621-5512, or use the “Ask a Master Gardener” option on the website, Sign up to receive notices and newsletters about gardener e-news. The Master Gardeners are also on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.


Rosalie M. Dehner