Build the Perfect Bouquet | Midwest Living

Build the Perfect Bouquet

Turn garden cuttings or store-bought blooms into showy summer centerpieces. Michael Gaffney, founder of the Chicago School of Flower Design, shares his floral-fashioning tricks.
Use floral foam for a base.
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Bind a bunch

To fill vessels that have narrow openings, loosely hold stems together with floral wire or raffia. Arrange blooms in your hand or on a flat surface before securing. “This technique is great for tall vases,” Michael Gaffney says. Red and yellow zinnias and feathery celosias build this bounty of color.

Cross stems

A no-fail way to arrange flowers in a standard clear vase: Crisscross the stems. “Most people aim straight for the bottom,” Michael says. Angling stems will fan flowers to form a casual display. Here, spiky globe thistle and northern sea oats add texture among cheery black-eyed Susans.

Design a dome

When using a wide container, add water-soaked floral foam to keep blooms in place. Michael recommends leaving about an inch of foam above the container’s rim. Snip stems short. Insert them into the sides and then the top of foam. “This will let you create a full dome of flowers,” he says. Giant red zinnias pop against pale chartreuse zinnias, wispy celosias and lemon basil leaves in this low ceramic bowl for a sweet summer blend.

Make arrangements last

Drench displays Give stems a fresh cut, and soak the bouquet underwater for a half hour; a sink or bucket will do. “You need to hydrate the stems, leaves and blossoms,” Michael says. When blossoms start to droop, repeat the soak. “They’ll literally stand up.”

Seal in moisture Spray blooms and leaves with Floralife Crowning Glory, a nontoxic wax sold at flower shops. “I use it on everything,” he says.

Keep it fresh A few drops of bleach in water prevent bacteria growth.

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