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Anatomy of an Arrangement

Spring flowers from Martha's garden provide a refresher course in the elements of design: color, structure, and texture.

Color

Even a master of subtlety can be seduced by the exuberant colors of flowers. "Martha loves 'Flaming Parrot' and red Darwin tulips together," says Martha Stewart Living's Kevin Sharkey, who arranged the flowers on these pages using blooms from Martha's Bedford garden. "It's not a combination that most people would guess she'd like." When arranging boldly hued flowers, simplicity often makes the strongest statement. Here, Kevin placed a large cluster of solid and striped tulips in a vase, its gold stripes echoing, but not competing with, the flowers.

We also like ...
pink and orange tulips.

Structure

"Sometimes you don't want to just isolate a special flower, such as a tree peony floating in a bowl," says Kevin. "You want it to have some friends, but it helps to have a plan or structure." In this display, large leaves from a variegated hosta plant -- commonly found in gardens but not often used in arrangements -- build a strong foundation (as well as color palette) for voluminous tree peonies and a smattering of lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis). Spilling onto the table, the hostas create a beautiful "undulating architecture," says Kevin.

We also like ...
coleus or ferns and large English roses.

Texture

While bright flowers may scream out at you in the garden or the flower shop, mixing textured elements can also result in a dramatic arrangement. For this delicately colored display, Kevin combined silky tulips; green snowball viburnums; large, single-petaled peonies; and the velvety foliage of scented geraniums. Even the vessel -- in this case, an antique silver ice bucket from Martha's cupboard -- can provide an additional layer of texture.

"I used tulips as the base here -- not peonies, which, I find, can get buried," says Kevin. "Instead, I place peonies in at the end."

We also like...
lamb's ears, alliums, and clematis.