With branches that splay and a valley of pretty blooms in the center, this asymmetrical mix (high on one side, cascading on the other) makes a sweeping statement.
Start with a low, wide vessel, like a Champagne bucket or a soup tureen. To secure the blooms, you'll need a standard block of floral foam. Cut it with a serrated knife so it fits inside the vessel and soak it for a few minutes or until saturated. Then create the arrangement's silhouette: Use leaves and bigger blooms (sunflowers, protea) to form a wavy arc. Cut the stems at different lengths to create the undulating outline. Next, fill the inner section with softer flowers (dahlias, amaranthus) that are cut shortish, keeping one side dense and the other airy. Fill in the edges with cascading stems.
This (seemingly) well-curated quartet arranges itself. Just sort a supermarket bouquet by color and cut the stems short. Store-Bought Bunch, Deconstructed
Use a set of matching cylindrical vessels that are opaque (neater-looking than containers that show stems). Buy one or two premade bouquets at the grocery store, then regroup the flowers by color, discarding all greenery. Any blooms will do; this assortment includes salvia, zinnia, celosia, and black-eyed Susans. Hold a grouping in one hand and pull feathery items up and blooms down. Trim the stems so that most blooms sit just above the vessel's rim. If the flowers are flopping because the vase isn't full enough, gather them loosely with a secret rubber band or a piece of twine below "see" level.
Tip: Tuck these tiny treasures in wherever you can. They're ideal for a crowded table where there's no space for a big arrangement.
In dark, moody hues, a handful of blooms, berries, and buds set loosely in a striking vase brings effortless charm to the table.
At the flower shop, buy textured, organic-looking varieties, like scabiosa and rudbeckia seed heads (shown mostly on the right side of this vase), and a mix of grasses and waxy branches, such as red sorghum and agapanthus seed heads (on the left). You might even find some nice spent branches in your garden. Stick with dark reds and faded greens and browns, and use your most sculptural, rounded vase. Cut stems to various lengths and spread them out, going for an airy, minimalist effect.
For a twist, go flowerless with a lush, leafy display. In a footed urn, there's nothing more sophisticated. Bonus: The soft herbal fragrance is food-friendly.
Buy a mix of greens at a farmers' market, a gourmet grocer, or a flower shop, choosing some varieties with fine leaves and others with broader ones, plus a half-dozen or so seeded branches. This arrangement uses geranium (large, round scalloped leaves), sage (fuzzy light green leaves), crocosmia seed heads (poking out the top), and ivy seed heads (hanging out below). Place water-saturated floral foam in a vase, then insert bundles of leaves into the foam, working from the outside in; we alternated handfuls of sage with handfuls of geranium, adding the seed heads to one side at the end. Fill in holes with short-cut greenery—density counts here.
A study in purples: Flowers, foliage, and a special guest (cabbage) make this mix shockingly easy to pull off.
Use a pair of pitchers (one tall, one short) made of the same metal. (These are pewter.) Buy a mix of large and small flowers in various shades of purple—some stiff, some viny, and a few big and full (like hydrangea). Working with the hardiest blooms first and then the delicate ones, pack the tall pitcher pretty densely with flowers clustered by type: (from left) heuchera, clematis, ornamental cabbage, hydrangea, and salvia. Finish with delicate vines peeking out up top and cascading flowers spilling out of the spout. Keep the smaller pitcher spare: say, two fat blooms and a couple of cascaders. Rest a head of cabbage or some other purple produce very close by, as a painterly touch.
Tip: Pitchers are great for flower novices because they start off an arrangement with a graceful, curvy shape.