Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht of the big flower fight judges some larger-than-life creations
Forget TikTok dances and baking banana bread – flower arranging has become the biggest pastime of the year. And we’re not just talking about these crazy creations from hit TV series The Big Flower Fight, as Frankie Graddon discovers
No scroll through a social-media feed is now complete without viewing several dozen pictures of bloom-filled vases decorating shelves, mantelpieces and stylishly curated tablescapes. Fashion editors and influencers have even switched #outfitoftheday selfies for posts of their latest floral creations. Are begonias the new Balenciaga? Quite possibly.
Full disclosure: I’m not the flower-arranging type. For years, my idea of at-home floral design was buying a bouquet from the supermarket and chucking it into the nearest vase with a splash of water. Trimming stalks and sorting stems? No thanks – I don’t have the time. Yet since the days
of lockdown, I have come over all green-fingered. The act of artfully placing flowers in a pot has become a cherished weekly ritual for me – and I’m not the only one.
Instagram hashtags #floraldesign and #ihavethisthingwithflowers currently have over a quarter of a million followers each, while Pinterest has seen a huge increase in floristry-related searches over the past few months, including ‘flower boxes’ (up 408 per cent) and ‘flowers to plant in spring’ (up 433 per cent). During last month’s Chelsea Flower Show, which took place virtually due to lockdown, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) reported its busiest day in history, with enquiries from its members up a whopping 333 per cent year on year.
Even Netflix is backing the boom, with its new gardening competition The Big Flower Fight, in which contestants battle it out to create flora and fauna delights every episode. Judged by Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht (aka the Mary Berry of floristry), and with co-hosts Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou, it’s The Great British Bake Off with foliage and has been an overnight hit. Granted, flower arranging is hardly the sexiest of hobbies, so why the spike in popularity?
Taking it up during the lockdown period of a global pandemic makes sense, says RHS director of science Alistair Griffiths, given that it has a proven positive impact on our wellbeing. ‘Being surrounded by nature is physically beneficial; it lowers blood pressure and heart rate, among other things,’ says Griffiths, explaining that greenery also affects our cortisol levels, resulting in a reduction of stress.
Left: For a wild, textured look, intersperse pretty shades with bursts of vibrant colour and greenery. Right: The Big Flower fight team, from left: guest judge simon lycett, judge Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht and co-hosts Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou
There’s a valuable mindful element, too. ‘It’s called the theory of flow,’ Griffiths says. ‘You become so engaged in an activity – such as harvesting and arranging cut flowers – that you enter into an almost meditative state. It distracts from everyday life and allows you to reboot and restore yourself.’ A recent survey by the RHS found that 71 per cent of people say nature has helped their mental health during lockdown.
Perhaps the biggest mood-boost of flower arranging is the introduction of colour. With many of us having spent a lot more time at home than usual, we’re looking for ways of giving our living spaces an impactful (and preferably inexpensive) update. A spray of tinted petals does just this. For me, a jug of purple sweet peas brought a serene country-meadow atmosphere to my London bedroom, while a glass vase filled with hot pink ranunculus really spiced up my lounge.
There’s also a therapeutic element, explains Griffiths. ‘We have colour preferences as individuals, and these have a strong emotional impact. Bringing colours you like into your home will offer more happiness.’ He advises creating a moodboard of shades that promote a positive reaction and working with this when picking your next bunch.
Vivid colours will create a statement focal point
Though it might have started in lockdown, my passion for flower arranging is something that will be sticking around. Thanks to inspiration from the likes of top floral stylist Willow Crossley, and myriad other florists (see page 53) wowing us with their creations, my posies are getting more accomplished by the week. But even if your skills are on the basic side, it doesn’t matter. The beauty of flowers is they will always look blooming lovely.
How to get the best from your blooms
Left: Consider scale, too: larger blooms such as roses and peonies make a statement by themselves. Right: Re-cut them at a 45-degree angle, 1cm-2cm from the bottom of the stem
Which flowers will look their best right now? And can you stop them wilting in the vase? Florist Olivia Wetherly Wilson gives her key tips
1 Always pick seasonally
Not only do flowers look their best in season, they also tend to be cheaper to buy and, if grown locally, are far more sustainable. During the summer months, look for cornflowers, delphiniums, garden roses, larkspur, peonies, sweet peas, scabious, snapdragons and stocks. Use foliage like flowers and arrange sparingly for wild and whimsical arrangements.
2 Let nature inspire you
When it comes to grouping flowers into bunches, the trick is to take nature’s lead and be guided by hedgerows, verges and country gardens. Consider scale, too: larger blooms such as roses and peonies make a statement by themselves. Match up smaller flowers such as cornflowers, scabious, poppies and grasses for a meadow-like arrangement.
3 Choose the right vase
Your vase should be about a third of the height of the flowers in total; for example, if your flowers are 60cm tall, the vase should be 20cm or thereabouts. Stems should always touch the bottom of the vase rather than float in the water. This has a huge effect on visual balance and also means stems are more likely to remain in water if they are really thirsty, or if you forget to top the water up.
4 Add a chicken-wire base
Forget a flower oasis (the traditional green foam brick) – it is toxic for the environment and doesn’t biodegrade. Instead use chicken wire and crunch it into a ball before placing it in the bottom of your vase to create a frame. Then simply slot your flower stems into the gaps. You can also try a kenzan (upright pins on a weighted base, sometimes called a flower frog) for keeping flowers in place.
5 Give them plenty to drink
When buying flowers from a supermarket or florist, the most important first step is to trim the stems as soon as you get them home – re-cut them at a 45-degree angle, 1cm-2cm from the bottom of the stem. While some suggest adding a crushed aspirin or a penny to the water to make flowers last, the best method is to keep them out of direct sunlight and in deep water, which should be refreshed every two days.
For rooms that bloom
Interiors editor Nicole Gray shows you how to incorporate this season’s top floristry trends at home
From left to right: Footstool, £410, ceraudo.com, Vase, around £425, johnderian.com, Tile, £45, edit58.com, ornasetti scented candle, £155, amara.com, Cafetière, £38.50, oliverbonas.com, Chair, £998, anthropologie.com, Cushion, £24.99, celinadigby.co.uk, Framed print, £278, anthropologie.com, Wallpaper, around £64.50 per metre, organoids.com, Dinner plate, £23.50, rosenthal.co.uk
From left to right: Chair, £118, anthropologie.com, Lamp, £98, smallable.com, Candle, £34, chaseandwonder.com, Screen, £77, maisonsdumonde.com, Rug (140cm x 200cm), £409, amara.com, Cushion, £50, bedeckhome.com, Tray, £33, saramiller.london, Dessert plates, £220 for six, ladoublej.com, Storage bench, £179, made.com, Vase, £435, ladoublej.com, Deckchair, £120, welovecushions.co.uk
Left to Right: Sofa, £3,339, sofaworkshop.com, Pitcher, £111, davidshuttle.com, Teapot, £58, anthropologie.com, Cushion, £58, libertylondon.com, Side plate, £75, thenewcraftsmen.com, Chair, £998, anthropologie.com, Wallpaper, around £950 for a 3m x 2.8m panel, pierrefrey.com, Glasses, £87.49 for six, trouva.com, Vase, £22, anthropologie.com
Olivia Wilson is founder of Wetherly floristry studio and co-founder of sustainable creative platform SSAW Collective.