Ah, spring is (nearly!) sprung. If you’re like us, you’re itching to get your hands on some seasonal blossoms to brighten up your space. That’s why we recently caught up with Executive Design Director and floral expert, Kevin Sharkey, as he was creating centerpieces for a book event for “Martha’s Flowers." In the book, Sharkey and Martha share the ultimate guide to everything floral from must-have flowers for any occasion to gardening how-to's that everyone should know. Between snipping stems, Sharkey shared a few of his tips for picking, prepping, and arranging a beautiful bouquet.
1. Know how much greenery to trim off
When cutting your stems, always avoid leaving on any leaves that will end up submerged in water. “You never want greenery under water because it will rot,” says Sharkey. As for how much stem to cut off? “It depends on the purpose of your bouquet.” If it’s for a dinner party, for instance, you may want your flowers short enough so your guests can still see each other across the table (“Or not!”).
2. ...And how much water to include
Depending on what kinds of cut flowers you have, some may require more water than others. A rule of thumb: Woodier stems, like roses, will need to stay extra hydrated, while more porous stems, like tulips, should be placed in shallower water.
3. Be sure to change the water often
To keep your bouquets looking fresh for as long as possible try and change out the water frequently, Sharkey suggests every day, if you can. “Generally, I like to wash the stems under cold running water before adding in new water.” (Martha likes to add a few ice cubes to her bouquets, as they melt overtime to keep stems extra hydrated)
4. Always shop for what’s in season
If you’re looking to stock up on prime petals, Sharkey says, “The best flowers are the ones in season as they will be the freshest.” Some of his favorites include: lily of the valley, tulips, lilacs, and grape hyacinth in spring, plus peonies and lilies for the summer.
5. Have separate scissors just for your flowers
If you don’t already have designated stem-snippers, he recommends keeping separate shears and pruners on hand when handling your blooms. Check out some of his other favorite flowers tools here.
6. When in doubt, go for the greens
One simple way to upgrade any bouquet or quickly fill out an arrangement: add greenery. “Martha and I both love hasta leaves,” he shares. “Eucalyptus is good, too.”
7. Remember, sometimes simpler is better
While he loves to frequent the The Dutch Flower Line in New York City for his blooms, you don’t always need to go all out to source a beautiful bouquet. One of his favorite (and underrated!) flowers? “Carnations. Not a lot of people find them appealing because they’re so available,” he says. “But they’re my favorite. I like to use them simply as is.”
Try this trick:
To help give your arrangement a bit of extra support (and create a fuller look with fewer flowers), make a grid across the mouth of your vase with florist tape before you begin arranging. Florist tape will be stickier and more water resistant than using Scotch tape. "This is especially helpful when you need a foundation of some sort, especially with a wide container," says Sharkey. After making your grid, secure the edges by wrapping a piece of tape around the mouth.