Indoors or out, flowers can make a statement.
Jennifer “Jo” Oliver, co-founder of Highway to Hill Flowers, offered plenty of expert advice for displaying blooms outside in this week’s Local Living cover story on outdoor entertaining. She also shared some more insight on making your own arrangements during our Home Front chat.
Here are her steps to putting together a flower arrangement, wherever you decide to display it:
1) Get the right tools.
Get yourself a good, sharp pair of clippers, Oliver said. She uses Felco pruners.
“If you feel comfortable using a floral knife, this is the standard tool, but clippers and pruners are good as you’re getting started,” she said.
2) Pick a container and base.
“Picking the right container for your space is a great way to start, and this will help you decide how many flowers you’ll need to make the arrangement,” Oliver said.
What you need to secure your flowers will depend on the vase, she said. For glass vases, she uses a clear tape grid.
“You can find waterproof tape at a floral supply store in varying widths,” she said.
For other vases (ceramic, wood or metal containers), try floral foam, which keeps flowers in place, hydrated and fed.
“It is important to let the foam soak completely before you use it, and keep it hydrated as the arrangement ages,” she said.
An alternative to floral foam is something called a floral frog, which Oliver said looks like a pin cushion, or chicken wire. These work well in water, Oliver said, but be sure to secure them to the vase, “especially if you are using heavy branches in your arrangement.”
Keep an eye out for unusual containers, she added — everything from tea tins to cigar boxes.
3) Choose your flowers and treat them well.
“When I first started, I often underestimated how many stems I would need to create a lush look,” Oliver said. “It’s always more than you think!”
Common varieties at the grocery store, such as mums, peruvian lilies and carnations, will last a long time, Oliver said, which is why they are usually stocked. She likes to combine them with more delicate flowers, such as peonies, garden roses and sweet peas.
“As the arrangement ages, you can remove any flowers that are not looking great and make a new, smaller piece with what’s left over,” she said. Keep the water cool, and be sure to change it regularly, and keep your finished piece in a cool spot out of direct sun.
Oliver also said she likes carnations because they come in a variety of colors.
If you live in or near the District, Oliver suggests visiting wholesale florist McCallum Sauber, at 1619 Eckington Pl. NE, for quality, fresh flowers. She said she’s also had luck at grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Safeway.
And don’t forget farmers markets, she says.
“They are a great place to find wonderful, locally grown varieties.”