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Spring flowers from Martha's garden, arranged by Kevin, provide a refresher course in the elements of design: color, structure, and texture.
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Just Add Water
By mixing supermarket flowers with unexpected containers, Kevin Sharkey explains how he fills his apartment with affordable elegance.
Having fresh flowers in my home is one of my guilty pleasures. But the truth is, they're just as important a design element as a perfectly scaled sofa. And I've never believed that price makes a flower prettier. In fact, my favorite is the ubiquitous, inexpensive carnation. Other budget-friendly "filler" flowers -- waxflowers, alstroemeria, lady's mantle, and even the much-derided baby's breath -- are also right up there on my list. They may not look like much in the grocery store, but take them out of that context and any one of these prosaic blooms can be transformed into a stunning focal point.
Photography: SIMON WATSON3 of 8
More Is More
The trick is to put only a single variety or color of flower in a container. Picking the "vase" is half the fun: Eggcups, water pitchers, Champagne glasses, teacups, and umbrella stands are all fair game. And with a little help from floral foam, I can use unconventional vessels like an oversize white bowl. With this simple strategy, you can enjoy the pleasure of flowers every day -- no guilt necessary.
For this arrangement, I took my color inspiration from a beautiful box of French macarons, grouping lots of small bunches of pistachio, petal-pink, and peach carnations.
Photography: SIMON WATSON4 of 8
Carnation Arrangement How-To
I lined the widemouthed bowl with water-soaked floral foam and then pushed the stems (each cut to size) into the foam, beginning in the center. Turning the bowl as you work helps to keep the dome symmetrical.
Photography: SIMON WATSON5 of 8
Single Blooms, Multiple Vases
Grocery-store roses look gorgeous when you snip off the stems and float them in glass votive candleholders, the perfect vessels for solitary blossoms. These line my bathroom sink, so I get to enjoy them first thing in the morning and then again right before I go to bed.
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Photography: SIMON WATSON6 of 8
Mixed Flowers, Same Colors
I picked up these tulips, lisianthus, waxflowers, and ranunculus at my corner store. I grasped the stems as if making a nosegay and then cut them to the same length, adding and subtracting blooms until I got each bouquet right. Then I tucked them into Champagne flutes.
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Same Flowers, Mixed Colors
Make one color the star, the other the costar. Gerbera daisies are top-heavy, so I used floral tape to make a grid across the top of the vase to keep them in place. Each opening holds a few stems. I worked from the center out, ringing the vase with the exuberant orange daisies.
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Tools of the Trade
Here are Kevin's must-haves for beautiful bouquets.
For crushing woody stem ends after cutting diagonally, to encourage water uptake.
These are key for cutting woody-stemmed flowers and branches.
3. Clear floral tape
Great for making a grid on clear-glass vases to keep stems where you want them.
4. Floral knife
This triple-duty tool can trim stems, remove thorns, and size floral foam.
5. Floral shears
For clipping stem ends (regular shears have thicker blades that tend to compress stems).
6. Floral foam
Essential for holding flowers in place in widemouthed containers.