Flower Power

A top Orlando designer takes the fear out of floral design.

If the idea of creating an eye-catching floral arrangement causes you stress, listen to Lee James: “People should relax when arranging flowers.” One of Orlando’s best-known floral designers, James learned from a florist friend and mentor. “He’d hand me a bucket of flowers and tell me to create something beautiful before I could leave for happy hour.” James downplays his talent, but flowers are in his DNA. Memories of his English mother’s gardens inspire his naturalistic style.   

The owner of Lee James Floral Designs doesn’t take himself too seriously and neither should you. His tips below help demystify the art of floral design.   

Stem Selection

James purchases farm-direct flowers, but doesn’t discriminate against grocery store stems. “Just buy tight buds. They last longer than blooms.” Consider user-friendly alstroemerias, carnations and daisies. Fill out florals with greenery from your yard. Before adding greenery to an arrangement, place it in water for a few hours to test its longevity.    

Creative Containers 

When choosing a container, think beyond traditional vases. “Anything from champagne buckets to watering cans works well with a liner,” James says. Match containers to the room—as big bouquets age, they can be “reprocessed” into smaller vases for intimate spaces.

A Positive Spin

Warm water hydrates budded flowers best; use cold to hydrate tropicals. Cut stems at an angle and place in water immediately. Floral foam, frogs and clear gems help stabilize stems. Or, feed stems through long ivy tendrils tucked into the bottom of a vase.  

To create a balanced design, place your container on a lazy Susan. “Think in clusters of three, starting with big things, then layering in smaller items. Add three flowers, spin, add three more, spin. Keep spinning until you’re done,” James explains.    

Lasting Impressions 

Simple additives will help extend the longevity of your flowers. To prevent algae, swirl a few drops of bleach in a vase, empty, then add water without rinsing. Roses enjoy a dash of Sprite in their water, but tulips prefer stronger stuff. “Vodka keeps tulips happy,” James adds, with a grin. +

Categories: Advice, Decorating