From picking the right colors to foliage ideas and more, florist Michael Putnam shares his advice.

By Caroline Biggs
June 09, 2021
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pink and orange flower arrangement with watermelons
Credit: Courtesy of Putnam & Putnam

Believe it or not, you can tell a lot about someone by their floral arrangements. "Whenever I walk into someone's home, I scan the space for flowers," says Michael Putnam, cofounder of Putnam & Putnam, a floral design studio based in New York City and Los Angeles. "They reveal so much about someone's personality." The ability to express oneself, through flowers or another creative medium, is a skill that Putnam has elevated to an art form. Alongside husband and cofounder, Darroch Putnam, the pair have made uniquely eloquent floral arrangements their business-and have earned a devoted following of A-list LGBTQ+ allies including Beyoncé, Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Lady Gaga's designer, Brandon Maxwell, as a result.

To better convey your personality through a distinct floral arrangement, Putnam says it's crucial to consider everything from color to movement to negative space. "The goal should be to make it look as natural as possible," he explains. "For example, I like my flowers to look like they're dancing, so I choose flowers in shapes that move, such as poppies, tulips, and Fritillaria, which all have strong gestures and look so elegant and alive in an arrangement."

Interested in learning more about how to express yourself through flowers? From picking the right colors to foliage ideas and more, Putnam shares his advice ahead.

Pick a color palette that resonates with you.

When designing a floral arrangement that conveys your unique personality, Putnam says picking the right colors of flowers is key. "Color has energy, so it's important to choose flowers in hues that truly speak to you," he explains. "For instance, energetic people often gravitate towards bright colors, while laidback personalities usually prefer toned-down colors in darker palettes, like plum and aubergine."

For a sleek neutral hue that suits a range of personality traits and aesthetic styles, Putnam says you can't go wrong integrating white blooms into your bouquet. "White provides a blank slate," he says. "It works with everything and seamlessly blends into any interior."

Take shape into account.

After you've decided what colors best communicate your personality, Putnam says the next step is to think about the shape of the flowers you might use. "Much like color, shape has energy and movement," he explains. "Lively individuals will likely look for flowers with bold shapes, like poppies and tulips, while people who are more reserved often prefer tighter arrangements with bigger blooms, such as hydrangeas and roses."

peonies and hydrangea flower arrangement with papaya
Credit: Courtesy of Putnam & Putnam

Mind the negative space.

To effectively create an arrangement that evokes emotion and feeling, Putnam says you have to give each flower room to breathe. "For a lot of people, it's all about filling in the empty gaps in an arrangement," he explains. "However, negative space can be just as impactful." To take advantage of negative space when arranging flowers, Putnam suggests leaving a bit of open space around each (or most) of the flowers, so it has room to move. "When you cram too much together, the little details, like pops of color or gestural stems, get lost in the arrangement," he explains.

Don't forget foliage and greenery.

To help build and shape out an emotive floral arrangement, Putnam recommends using greenery and foliage to fill in any unwanted visual gaps. "Foliage that plays up the colors of the flowers, such as red leaves that play up a red bloom, can be especially impactful," he explains. If you're feeling extra daring, Putnam says you can integrate an unexpected detail into the scheme, like a branch with fruit or placing fruit around the base. "Don't limit yourself to just flowers and greenery," he says. "Think outside of the box by bringing in other textural elements."

Support matters.

If you're a rookie when it comes to floral arrangements, Putnam says your best bet is to choose a vessel with an opening that's not too wide to provide your flowers support. "A water pitcher is a great size reference," he says. "If you need extra support, you can create a simple grid with clear floral tape at the top."

For shorter, wider vessels, like compotes or footed bowls, Putnam says a little chicken wire can be a big help. "Cut a square of chicken wire that's about two or three times the size of the opening," he advises. "Ball it up so that there are multiple layers of wire that you can stick the stems through, and tape an X-shape to the top to secure-you can simply cover up the tape and wire as you arrange your flowers and greenery."

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