Design Inspirations: Flower Power

No longer the exclusive province of luxury hotels and high-end restaurants, big, beautiful bouquets are sprouting up everywhere, from residential lobbies to public spaces to private homes. Feeling inspired to re-create these striking looks? We sought advice from Lewis Miller, the New York City–based floral designer behind the lavish creations in the Whitby and Crosby Street hotels as well as guerrilla-style floral installations all over the city (trademarked Flower Flash). Miller, who was tapped to lead the flower-arranging class at Meghan Markle’s baby shower, is also the author of Styling Nature: A Masterful Approach to Floral Arrangements (Rizzoli, 2016) and teaches popular flower-arranging master classes.

A tall cylindrical vase works well to balance the long stems of nigella and corylus.

Tools of the trade

Invest in a sharp pair of garden secateurs (pruning shears). It’s also helpful to have bleach, 7 Up, a sharp paring knife, floral tape, and chicken wire on hand.

Big, beautiful bouquets are sprouting up in residential lobbies and private homes.

Choosing a container

Choose a vase or other receptacle that looks great in your home, regardless of the flowers you’re going to use. Whether a bronzed bowl or a pretty piece of china or porcelain, it should look just as good empty as it does with flowers in it. Flowers are heavy drinkers, so look for a vessel with a large reservoir. The bigger the basin, the fewer times you’ll have to refill it to refresh the water.

Choosing flowers and foliage

Buy what’s in season. Choose colors and flowers you love, and keep it simple and uncomplicated. Cherry blossom, quince, and dogwood are brilliant spring choices. For something fun and long-lasting, tropical foliage like elephant ears, palm fronds, and banana leaves feel very fresh in the summer and provide big drama.

Strategize scale and color

Birds of paradise and pink ginger evoke the lushness of the tropics.

For a New York City apartment, tall, blooming branches are excellent choices. Spikes of foxtail lily or giant globe allium are also beautiful. These options are in the four-tosix-foot range and can add drama to a side table or even a large coffee table. A few choice branches that arch and stretch to the ceiling are simple but make a bold floral statement.  Since flowers usually share space with art, furniture, rugs, coffee-table books, and other objects in your rooms, it’s wise to avoid overly busy-looking floral displays. One effective approach is to keep the color palette monochromatic or to create a subtle, gradual gradation of a color. Another is to use just one type of flower. Cluster small containers of these flowers in multiple heights around a larger container.

Assemble the arrangement

Think of the elements of your arrangement as ingredients to be added one at a time. Start with foliage, then mix in larger floral elements. If you’re working with peonies, roses, and ranunculus, arrange all the peonies first, then add the roses, and finally incorporate the more delicate, wispy ranunculus. Use the paring knife to cut stems to the length you want and the floral tape or chicken wire to secure stems as needed.

Caring for arrangements

Sumptuous yet simple: Using only chrysanthemums keeps this bouquet from looking fussy.

Keep your arrangement out of direct sun and away from heaters and vents. They are death to flowers, unless you have tight branches or blossoms you’re coaxing to open up. If you start with clean water and a sparkling clean vessel, all you need to do is top it off daily with fresh water. Add a couple of drops of bleach or 7 Up to keep water clean and clear, especially for flowering branches.

—by Rima Suqi

Photgraphy by Don Freeman

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