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The Little Flower School would like you to dispel any preconceived notions about traditional flower arranging. New York City–based floral designers Nicolette Owen and Sarah Ryhanen started the Little Flower School (LFS) in 2009 after separately receiving requests for floral design classes. Their loosely structured workshops (little-flower-school.blogspot.com) are more inspired by Etsy and DIY culture than by white-gloved afternoons with the Ladies Who Lunch. “We tell our students rules are meant to be broken,” says Ryhanen. “But just because we like a loose, wilder style doesn’t mean we don’t give a lot of tips and guidelines.”
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Both designers are on a mission to break flower arrangers away from the tight, symmetrical dome-shaped bouquets that have been so trendy for the past decade or so. LFS has one gospel: Flowers should show their natural gestures -- and maybe even appear a little messy. An arrangement might look like the lush romantic gardens that Owen and Ryhanen admired in their childhoods, or a Dutch still life, or a botanical illustration. “We hope to make flowers less aristocratic,” says Owen. After all, nobody outclasses Mother Nature.
Pictured, Little Flower School students gather around the shared worktable to practice the tricks of the floral-design trade while learning to experiment and trust their instincts about composition.
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Evaluating the Arrangements
Students evaluate an arrangement against a blackboard to analyze its silhouette more clearly.
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Wooden milk crates create a makeshift flower shop from which students select their blooms.
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The Little Flower School Owners
Nicolette Owen (left) and Sarah Ryhanen head to class.
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A Floral Kit
The first thing students discover is a floral kit with a vase, scissors, and spiked frogs.
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The Little Flower School Method: Step One
Build the Foundation
Select the four or five strongest stems to provide structure to the arrangement and establish its basic geometry. (It also helps you guess the finished size in relation to the vessel.) Generally the tallest stem should be about one-and-a-half times the height of the vase. Use a spiked floral frog for stability.
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Take a Step Back
Every few minutes, as you are adding flowers, view your arrangement as a whole; judge the composition. Nicolette Owen and Sarah Ryhanen favor an asymmetrical triangle rather than a pyramid. The off-center shape adds life and movement and prevents an old-fashioned, fussy look.
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Pick Your Heroes
Nestle your most visually dominant flowers (often peonies or larger roses) among your strong stems. Avoid placing these floral stars dead center -- position slightly to one side or another. Fill in gaps with a dainty branch, berry, or flower.
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Know When to Stop
Owen and Ryhanen report that many of their students struggle with realizing when their arrangement is “done.” When in doubt, stop before you think you’re actually finished -- because you probably are.
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