Add this expert advice to your floral design tool kit.
Credit: Gabriela Herman

As lovely and therapeutic as flower-arranging can be, it's not without its share of challenges. Say, for instance, you've brought home a couple dozen stems from your local farmers market, only to find that it isn't enough to fill the vase you had in mind. Maybe the problem is that your perfect fluff of hydrangeas are wilted by the time you bring them home. Professional floral designers, like New York-based pro Lewis Miller, have seen it all.

Here are his tips-along with some sage advice from the Martha archives-for handling the inevitable flower-arranging dilemmas.

The Problem: Your flowers arrive home wilted or limp.

Whether you picked them up at the local market, cut them from your own garden, or had them delivered from a florist, always give your flowers a fresh cut at a sharp 45-degree angle and instantly put the stems in a vase filled with clean water. In this case, you'll want to make sure they're fully submerged in a bath of tepid water for 20 minutes, which will help the blooms fluff back up. Make sure your vase is always completely full and then remove spent blooms from the arrangement as they die.

The Problem: You've misplaced the packet of flower food, or your bouquet didn't come with one.

Use a mixture of one part water to one-part lemon-lime soda, instead. (Just be sure it isn't a diet version.) The citric acid is beneficial for your blooms. A crushed aspirin will do the trick, too.

The Problem: You don't have enough flowers to fill your vase.

Vessels with a wide opening at the top can be particularly tricky to fill, but you can fudge the look of a full vase by creating a grid out of clear cellophane tape, which will help support top-heavy flowers and keep them from drooping over the sides of your vase. Cut the stems short, and insert one or two flowers into each opening in the grid. Fill in any gaps with greenery or even a few stems of fruit on the vine, like colorful kumquats.

The Problem: Your flowers aren't pet-friendly.

There are many flower varieties that won't pose a health risk to your cat or dog-tulips, roses, and alstroemeria, to name a few-but if you bring home a bouquet that happens to have something potentially hazardous in it, err on the side of caution and cover it with a cloche. A flower frog will allow your blooms to stand upright in a shallow vessel and watering the arrangement daily will ensure it lasts about a week.

The Problem: You've cut the stems too short.

A series of mini-bouquets can be just as striking as a singular oversized one. Cluster each in an egg cup or other small vessels-use a small round metal floral frog inside of each to help shape and weight the arrangements, and fill each cup three-quarters of the way with water. Then, give them some height by arranging the grouping on a set of stacked cake stands.


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