Demystifying the Mixed Bouquet
DEMYSTIFYING THE MIXED BOUQUET
Let's talk mixed bouquets - that creature that is somehow so simple, and yet so complex at the same time depending on whom you talk to.
On one hand, there is definitely an art to creating a mixed bouquet. The order in which one puts them together, which flowers are used, and the overall effect desired still has its origins in floral design and should be followed for the most part.
On the other hand, getting down to the number of stems can be a bit overthinking of it - you should know when it looks good and looks full enough to be completed, and being too formulaic has its problems as well.
And when you're having to whip together bouquets for market or retail sales, you want to make sure that you're consistently being able to produce a nice bouquet without worrying about too much detail.
My way of doing bouquets is exactly that - my way - and you may find a way that works better for you. I'm not pretending to be the know-all of making mixed bouquets, it's just the way I put them together!
Below, I have covered the different types of flowers that we use to ensure we have a solid mixed bouquet recipe throughout the season.
1. CENTRAL FLOWER
Now, depending on what you’re using, this may be a technical focal flower - but it could be a different type of flower as well. Most of the time we use a rose, peony, mum or dahlia as our focal, but it can be something different - a protea, a lily, a snapdragon or foxglove or lupine, whatever you want to showcase. You just have to make sure it is big and dramatic enough to catch attention and hold the visual focus.
2. SUPPORTING FLOWERS
Unless you’re selling smaller bouquets or have some really big central flowers, you’re going to want to add supporting flowers. Supporting flowers are like the little accents or echoes of the central flower, giving it more rhythm and heft in the arrangement.
Usually disc or orb in shape, these help to draw the eye into the rest of the bouquet as well as add some bulk to it, and are usually also the easiest flowers to grow! We can sometimes refer to them as “spray” type flowers, given their propensity to create a stem with multiple blooms on it that really fill out a bouquet.
3. LINE FLOWERS
Now these flowers aren’t necessarily available all year round, but it’s great if you’re able to add a bit of height and vertical interest with the use of what we call line flowers. These are the vertical, upright pieces that add a bit of loftiness and elegance to a bouquet. Traditionally, these are mostly things like snapdragons, digitalis, lysimachia, lupines, and veronicas that steal the show, but you can also add other items as well that fit that upright spire shape - liatris, eremerus or foxtail lily, vitex blooms, kniphofia, salvia and larkspur. You can even add woodies like curly willow and pussy willow and forsythia, which are very valuable especially in spring prior to the usual suspects being ready.
The idea is to have the line flowers shooting upwards out of the bouquet to draw the eye and create a sort of elegance to show off the shape and depth of the bouquet.
We never have enough foliage for the most part. In summer and fall it’s mostly Dark Opal basil. Foliage is really the way to prevent your bouquet from looking “leggy” and will blend well with most pieces.
Foliage is kind of like the mortar that holds the bouquet together. We usually start with the foliage first, and add everything else in afterwards. A bouquet full of flowers looks a bit weird - a bit unfinished in a way, but also too busy. Using foliage helps the eye to rest a bit.
5. SPECIAL EFFECT FLOWERS.
These are the special flowers that add a little something extra to the bouquet. Whether it’s the whimsical shape of love-in-a-puff pods, airy seedheads of grasses, a large plume of amaranthus or solidago, or the structural seedheads of echinacea, we always try to add in something a little bit extra, a little surprise of something.
Sometimes these can comprise a large part of the bouquet - when we harvest things like Boltonia asteroides or Rudbeckia triloba, we tend to pile them into the bouquet to give a bit of something different.
Usually regarded as “filler”, I think of these usually more as texture and movement in a bouquet. This usually must be balanced with the foliage and line/supporting/central flowers to create the whole ensemble.