For Thanksgiving I decided to make my own flower arrangement for our centerpiece. I was able to buy a few bundles of fresh, fall colored flowers from the local market. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do, but I knew those colors would look good with whatever else I ended up doing. I totally believe in supporting your local florist - they always make such beautiful creations, and I love to buy arrangements from them whenever I can afford it. This year, I just thought it would be fun to do it myself.
When I first got home I filled a large bucket with cool water and commercial flower food. If you do a lot of flower arranging yourself you can buy flower food at your local craft supply store or floral supply store. Sometimes florists will sell it to you as well. I filled the sink with water and opened my bundles of flowers. You will need to trim the stems of the flowers. It's important to do this under water because the stems will "suck" and if you are cutting them in the open air they can suck air into their stems, creating an air bubble that hinders them from drinking water and of course, this causes them to die more quickly. When you cut them stems you should also use a sharp knife, such as a paring knife, and cut the stems at a slight angle. Using scissors is not recommended because it can crush the stems shut and this will also hider the flowers from drinking water. The only exception to this is if you are cutting woody stems like forsythia or lilac - those stems need to be crushed a bit. Does this sound too complicated, it's not! You'll get the hang of it pretty quickly.
After I trim the stems I put them into the bucket. It's best to let your flowers sit in the cool water and drink for a bit before working with them. If you are going to be making a lot of arrangements or corsages or something, try to keep your bucket of flowers in a nice cool location.
Since I was making a centerpiece I bought some bricks of floral foam. There are two kinds of floral foam - one for fresh flowers and one for silk flowers - make sure you get the right one for your project. You can also buy floral foam at craft or floral supply stores. I soaked the brick of floral foam in a bucket of water and commercial flower food for a few hours, but check the instructions on yours for details on that.
With floral foam you can create an arrangement in almost anything - if it will hold water, you can make an arrangement in it. I used a narrow bread basket - obviously water is going to leak through that, so I put some small plastic containers in the bottom and filled those with floral foam. The containers I used are like bowls that you use to mix paints, but you can use whatever you have on hand - Tupperware, old butter tubs, anything like that will work. I cut the foam to fit into the containers and then I was ready to work.
I started by using greenery to make a bit of a "base." I also think about sort of "hiding" the foam as I'm working, and the greenery base helps to do that. When you're making an arrangement you may want to look at a photo to give you some direction if you feel like you aren't sure what you want to do. I just sort of "winged it." When I was adding flowers I just worked slowly, adding flowers throughout the entire bricks of foam. It's better not to concentrate on one area because you may end up with an off balance arrangement. It's okay to be asymmetrical if you mean to, but on accident - well, you'll probably be disappointed with your results.
While I was working, I liked to try to keep the flowers different heights, and sort of sprinkled about "naturally." It's also important not to cut your flowers too long or too short. It will probably take a bit of practice to get the hang of this. If you cut them too short your arrangement sort of sinks into the container, and too long doesn't allow the flower to drink too easily from the foam. It's good to step back occasionally and look at your arrangement from a bit of a distance so you'll keep the entire arrangement in your mind as you work. Another good tip is to imagine in your mind a center point where all the flowers start from - this helps to keep your arrangement "flow" in a pleasing manner.
Don't get frustrated if you don't make a "masterpiece" the first time you arrange flowers. It takes lots of practice. Sometimes local florists or community centers offer flower arranging courses. There is so much to learn - so many techniques and theories - it becomes really addictive once you get interested in it. I'm sure that when a professional florist looks at my arrangement, they can see all the problems, but I had a lot of fun creating it and everyone said it looked nice - so that made me happy!