How to Shop and Arrange Deli Flowers Like a Professional

One thing I’ve come to realize about myself is that I’m terrible at arranging bouquets. I never know where to start, and I never know when to end. But I love the idea of arranging your own bouquet, versus buying the pre-arranged ones, which always seem so perfect and matchy, especially at delis or grocery stores.

The other day, I was standing in front of the flowers at my local grocery store, eyeballing the peonies. I was completely lost, so I took out my phone and pulled up a photo from my friend’s Instagram for inspiration. Olivia works as a freelance floral designer in New York, and always has the best flower shots. I was tempted to text her and ask for her guidance right then and there, but I went home and emailed her instead, enlisting her help. (I can’t be the only one struggling with flower arrangement!) She enthusiastically took on the challenge, and I’m so glad she did. See her tips and tricks, below!

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How to Decide What to Buy
Buying flowers can often be overwhelming and intimidating. Here are the guidelines I live by when arranging a bouquet:

Only consider buying flowers that looks healthy. Flowers are a luxury good after all; if you are going to treat yourself- make sure they are of good quality. If you spot any bunches that are too open, have brown or missing petals, feel slimy stems or see any critters moving about –put them down.
Choose a color palate. I like finding one flower that catches my eye and then selecting all my other flowers around that color. For example, if I picked up dark purple tulips, then I might focus on finding lavender, fuchsia, silver, and white flowers. You can hold all your bouquets together and see if they colors blend well.

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Quantity wise, you want 3-4 different varieties of flowers, 1 filler flowers (think puffy, big or abundant varieties) and 1-2 types of greenery. Keep in mind that selecting different textured and sized flowers can add depth and movement to your arrangement. If you are lucky to have a backyard or brave enough to pick some foliage from the public park – do it!

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Preparing your Supplies
First, clean your flowers. Remove all the leaves from the stems. (The leaves will drink up or contaminate the water, which will ultimately lead to a shorter lifespan of the arrangement).
Cut each steam about 1 inch on a diagonal slant.
Find a cool vase, jar, bottle or tin to arrange in. If the deli or grocery store gives you a packet of powder plant feed- put it the vase and then add water.

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Arranging your Flowers
I like to think of flower arranging as a layering process. With each new flower or element you add in, you are creating a new layer. No two “layers” should be at the same height or position because they won’t be seen. You want to create a lush full arrangement, so keep each new type of flower slightly taller than the previous layer.

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Build a base by adding the filler and greenery. Make a nice big full foundation so when you add the flowers in, they will have sturdy support.
After you have a base, add your flowers one variety at a time. Save you’re A-list, or most expensive, blooms for last. Make sure they are seen!
While arranging; frequently turn your vase to insure it looks good from all angels. Take a step back and examine it from afar. Look for holes or empty spaces and fill them in and of course take time to smell the flowers!
Cut carefully. There has been so many times where I cut my flower too short and a beautiful flower ended up lost in a sea of filler or greenery. Measure your flower up with your vase and see what length you want, then cut.
Know when to stop. Don’t use all your flowers if there isn’t enough room. Put any extras in a jar and place in an area of your house that needs some cheer.

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Grocery and deli flowers seem to always get a bad rep for looking cheap or tacky, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Remember that floral design is one of the world’s oldest art forms and learning to arrange takes practice and lots of patience. I will spend hours stalking awesome florists on Pinterest for inspiration (take a look at Amy MerrickSaipua, and Jo flowers for ideas!)

Thank you so much, Olivia, for your flower wisdom! I can’t wait to create a bouquet– it makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it? You can follow Olivia on Instagram, and see more of her flower arrangements here

photos shot by Brianna Wernz

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