flowers with lisa przystup of james’s daughter.

April 13, 2016

flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

It’s a handy thing to know a talented floral designer or two. Last week, my friend Lisa Przystup of James’s Daughter Flowers came over to play with some spring flowers. The day happened to be unseasonably blustery and cold and a hit of springtime was exactly what we needed. flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

While I tend to be a stick-a-branch-in-a-bottle-and-call-it-a-day kind of woman, I like to occasionally dabble in the more complex art of flower arranging and I really love watching a floral designer at work. One minute you’re chatting away, the next minute there’s a mini masterpiece sitting in front of you.

In case any of you have a hankering for a bit of sunshine and flowers, I asked Lisa to share a few of her best tips for those of us interested in dabbling in the fine art of floral arranging.
flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leavesOn choosing a vessel:

Lisa implores us: “Guys: you don’t need fancy vases to make a pretty arrangement. There are a plethora of vessels kicking around in your home just waiting to be repurposed: mugs (yes, mugs), old jam jars/mason jars/honey jars (basically, any jar you’re about to toss into the recycle bin), small deep bowls, pitchers…the list goes on an on.”

The key to a great flower arranging vessel is this: “the wider the mouth of the vessel the larger you can build out your arrangement—a smaller mouth will limit the number of stems you can fit.”

When Lisa first began arranging, she thought she had to buy a huge vase to build a larger arrangement, but she explains that “the reality is that you can actually build out a pretty decent size arrangement using smaller vessels.”

For reference, the mug in this post is tankard mug from Bennington Potters. Its mouth is three inches wide and it stands four inches tall.
flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leavesOn keeping flowers in place:

Successful flower arranging takes a little bit of smoke and mirrors in the form of hidden support. The armature is a term florists use to describe the solid base that fits inside your vase and provides structure for your arrangement. It’s a key element in these kind of arrangements and happily the supplies needed to make one are relatively humble. Lisa suggests two ways to make an armature, depending on the type of vessel you’re using. flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

+ Solid vessel?
Chicken wire to the rescue. Lisa suggests ducking into your local floral/garden supply store (or placing an order online) to get yourself some coated chicken wire and a pair of wire cutters. Next step? “Cut a small square of the chicken wire and fashion it into a loose ball. You want it to be small enough to fit into the bottom of the vessel of your choice but large enough that it won’t be knocking around loose at the bottom.” She says not to worry if the chicken wire ball is too big: “You can squish the wire to make it fit. The idea is to have a snug fit so the flowers don’t shift.”

+ Clear vessel? Lisa suggests making a tape grid. “You can use Scotch tape to create a grid pattern across the top of the vase that will help give your flowers structure and a place to live.”flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

Lisa used a pair of wire cutters to trim a square of coated wire and shape it into a ball.
flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

On making an arrangement budget friendly:

Flowers are expensive. But Lisa explains that there’s no need to spend an enormous amount in order to make a pretty arrangement: “When I first started learning about flowers I didn’t have the budget (or the gigs) to justify heading to the flower market to buy wholesale. But I still wanted to learn and play with pretty blooms. My solution was this: head to the bodega (or grocery store) and buy some affordable flowers and then head to my local speciality flower shop and buy 5-6 stems of some special, more obscure blooms. That way I could satisfy my yearning to work with those top-drawer stunners while learning how to maximize the beauty of regular everyday flowers. You can also use your own backyard as a source—springtime brings all sorts of flowering branches that add a lot of drama and impact to an arrangement. (Hint: you’ll need a pair of clippers.)”flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

We stopped into a neighborhood flower shop to pick up a few special stems: pale pink sweet peas, the most gorgeous sherbet-colored garden roses, and a spray of spirea to give the arrangement some with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

Then we found a variety of more affordable flowers from a neighborhood bodega: pink hyacinths, traditional white roses, and yellow with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

Lisa ended up using ferns that the bodega included with the white roses to fill out the arrangement.
flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

On choosing a color palette: 

Lisa suggests keeping the schemes simple, especially as you get started. She suggests sticking to one or two color families and taking a look around the internet at floral arrangements that you like. Paying attention to the color schemes used in arrangements that you like can help give you a sense of what works well. flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

For this arrangement Lisa stuck with spring-y pastels: pale pinks and peaches with a pop of yellow and some white.
flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

On Longevity + Life Expectancy:

To prepare stems for maximum longevity, Lisa suggests cutting them at an angle to help increase the amount of surface the stem has to take in water. To further preserve your delicate blooms, she suggests “keeping your arrangement out of direct sun and making sure the water levels are high enough that all the stems are reaching their life source.”flowers with lisa przystup of james's daughter | reading my tea leaves

Most important: “Remember that flowers are ephemeral beauties. I’ve had flowers last a full week (on the long end) and three days (on the short end). The sad reality is that these lovely things are perishable items. The moment they’re cut they are dying. Appreciate their fleeting presence in your life. If you’re making an arrangement for, say, dinner, make it the day of to enjoy the blooms at their maximum freshness then keep them around after and enjoy all the stages of their beauty.”
lisa przystup | reading my tea leaves

Lisa Przystup is a freelance writer and the sometimes-florist behind James’s Daughter Flowers.

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  • Reply Libby April 13, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Awesome! I love tips like these.
    For my bridesmaids bouquets, last year, we just went to the grocery store and bought the cheap bouquets. We disassembled them and revamped them and tied them up with black and white striped ribbon. They were lovely!
    If only I’d seen this post a year ago, I might have attempted to do some inexpensive flowers for the tables, too! 😀

  • Reply Lydia @ lupinelydia April 13, 2016 at 11:10 am

    oh my gosh this may be one of my favorite posts you’ve ever done! so beautiful! i’m definitely that guy who sneakily cuts three branches off the neighbor’s forsythia (come on, it was hanging into my yard) and sticks them in a whiskey bottle for two or three weeks, haha. can’t wait for my tulips to bloom though! i really want to get into bigger arrangements someday soon, when time and funds allow. 🙂

  • Reply Gemma April 13, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Now this is my kind of blog post! I can’t wait to implement some of your tips into my very own vase full of happiness!

    If you need me, I’ll be waiting outside our local flower market until opening time Friday morning! ; )


  • Reply Kari.M April 13, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    OK, there is no way I’m ever attempting this. But, I do sometimes get my hands on a glorious arrangement like this. Now, I’ve heard that one is supposed to change the water every day or two and trim the ends of the stems frequently. How does one do this without destroying the arrangement? Or is it not really necessary to do?

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 13, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Ha! I think you do your best! In the case of an arrangement like this, trying to dump water and refill it would likely be more harmful than helpful—better to top off water as your stems drink it up to make sure that they’re staying hydrated! But mostly, as Lisa suggests, you enjoy the arrangement while it lasts—it won’t last long—but it will be beautiful while it’s around!

  • Reply Linda April 13, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    This is such a great post! I always love a fresh bouquet of flowers and kinda spoiled by the fact that I live so close to the market to grab some. Do you have photos of how the chicken wire is balled? I’m trying to imagine it but can’t. Thanks!

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 13, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks! I didn’t get a good shot of the ball, but you really just take a square of chicken wire and scrunch it into a ball. It’s not a precise science—just a way to give you something to stick stems into!

  • Reply Karina April 13, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Another idea we use at my flower shop is to create the grid with Curly Willow stems in your vase. You just wrap a few stems around your hand and put the ball in the water. It creates a lovely natural base to hold your flowers. Another tip to keeping the flowers around longer, besides keep the water level up, is too make sure your vessel is clean. Bacteria can severely shorten the life of cut flowers. Have a hard to clean vase? A couple of denture tabs will make it fresh and clean. Hope this helps!

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 13, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Love the idea of curly willow and yes to clean vessel!

  • Reply Mun April 15, 2016 at 8:31 am

    So gorgeous, and such wonderful tips!

  • Reply Cussot April 17, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing your flowers with us – they’re just stunning. I can smell the peppery freesia from here. And, oh the roses!

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