Fresh flowers, whether just cut from the garden or brought home from the florist or market, are a gift from nature that glows with good cheer. Although you can plunk them in any old vase, if you know just a few tricks -- such as the ones Martha demonstrates here -- it's easy to create much more original displays.
Martha's Basic Arranging Tips
Start by preparing the flowers so they'll last their longest.
- Cut garden flowers in the cool of early morning or after sunset. Immerse stems in cool water for about an hour before arranging them. (Add ice cubes to the water if it's a very hot day.)
- Cut stems on an angle, and remove any foliage that falls below the waterline.
- Fill the vase with fresh, room-temperature water, and add a commercial cut-flower food. (Adding a teaspoon of liquid bleach to the water will prevent bacterial bloom.)
- Cluster the flowers in a bunch in your hand, keeping stems upright, and place them in the vase.
- Every two days or so, change the water, add a sprinkle of flower food, and recut the stems if they've browned.
Gather your container and tools -- floral shears, floral tape, flower frogs, and flower food.
Select a container that will show them off best, whether you want to highlight their colors, graceful silhouettes, or ebullient blossoms. Look beyond the standard vase; consider bowls, pitchers, and even tumblers. If you want to protect your container from moisture (a good idea for any antique or porous clay), line it with a piece of plastic wrap, insert a plastic container to hold the water, and then begin arranging.
Have flower frogs and other simple supplies on hand so you can support the stems inside your vessel if you wish. This is the secret to dense, lush domes of flowers.
Try snipping stems shorter, combining different colors and textures, and incorporating elements such as foliage, buds, seedpods, and other cuttings from the garden -- and even houseplants.