How to Style Roses So They Feel Less Generic

Think beyond the traditional twelve-stem arrangement this Valentine's Day.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a flower more universally loved and timeless than the rose—especially come Valentine's Day. "The first known paintings of roses were discovered in 1600 BC," says floral designer Martha DeFlorio, founder of Made Floral. Roses are a staple in almost all of DeFlorio's arrangements: Varieties with 100 petals per bloom are perfect to use for weddings and garden parties, she says, while those with 20 petals per bud are ideal for creating large-scale topiaries or flower walls. Perhaps the only downside to roses? If you aren't careful, their classicism can veer towards the generic. All it takes, however, is a little styling ingenuity to make them feel updated. "I love how roses can portray a wide range of emotion and style—they're versatile," DeFlorio explains, who has created arrangements for brands like Shinola and Gucci. Here, she shares how she always makes roses look fresh, and what you can do this Valentine's Day to upgrade the arrangement you're giving your significant other.

woman making fashion modern bouquet of different flowers
Getty / Malkovstock

Use unexpected vases.

"Ceramic vases in neutral or fun colors and patterns can always liven up a traditional rose arrangement," DeFlorio explains. "I also like colored glass or antique urns, depending upon the overall style of an event or space."

Go for asymmetry.

DeFlorio prefers floral arrangements that mimic nature—"and nature is perfectly asymmetrical," she says. "I love how roses look in a garden or on a sidewalk: They are wild, they rebel against straight rows and lines, like tulips. Some blooms reach tall for the sun, some droop low to the ground during a heavy rain, and all of them create their own space away from the lush greenery and thorns. They're wild, yet somehow balanced—and it's what I strive for in each of my arrangements: a wild balance."

Contrast shapes.

DeFlorio often pairs roses and ranunculus together, as they both fan out into a circular spiral shape. But then she'll add linear, spire-shaped flowers into the mix (think delphiniums, snapdragons, veronica, and astilbe.) "It helps to create an arrangement with lots of depth," she says.

Choose an offbeat color palette...

"There are so many color variations of roses," she says. "Some are really unique and unexpected, which give roses an updated look. Right now, my favorite color is a reddish-brown rose, called 'Matilda.'" This rose "pairs beautifully with coral tones and antique red eucalyptus," she notes, but works just as well with deep jewel hues of burgundy, green, and plum. "And there's a lavender-gray rose called 'Amnesia' that's gorgeous, too," she adds. Another one of her favorites? She enjoys using 'Honey Dijon' varieties, a mustard-yellow rose, and 'Toffee,' a caramel-brown bud, in monochromatic palettes.

...especially during the holiday months.

While colors like red, white, and green are wintry favorites, DeFlorio also finds holiday floral inspiration in golden yellow and purple ornaments, bright lemon cypress trees, and even antique pink amaryllis flowers. "Growing up, my mom's Christmas tree was decorated in mainly antique pink and wine-colored bulbs to match our Victorian farmhouse," she recalls. "And my grandmother used silk pink peonies on her tree. For the holidays, I like my arrangements to feel bright, warm, and celebratory, so I include colors like pink, purple, and even orange." And don't forget to integrate some pine or cedar for good measure—they will add the perfect winter aroma to your creation.

Don't overlook grocery-store roses.

Having a last-minute dinner party or looking to give a gift in a pinch? Roses from the corner store can look high-end with a few tricks. "Reflex the petals, carefully folding back a couple layers of the outer petals to open up each bloom," DeFlorio says. "And stack the roses in layers when you arrange them, placing each rose in the vase slightly higher than the last. You'll have a super dramatic arrangement."

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