It’s that time of year again—when peonies overtake matcha lattes as the darlings of our social media feeds.
As much of a cliché as the #nofilter floral pic has become, there’s a reason why we can’t help but zoom in every time a wild tangle of blooms is in sight. “Flowers have the power of changing the space around them,” says New York City-based master floral designer Ariella Chezar—digital space included.
And according to this pioneer of sustainable “farm-to-flower” design, late spring is a prime time to fill your place with mood-boosting botanicals or buy them for someone you dig (hi, Mom!). “There’s such a diversity of beautiful, beautiful options,” emphasizes Chezar, who’s crafted bouquets for the White House and recently co-authored The Flower Workshop, a guide to building double tap-worthy bouquets of all shapes and sizes.
Among her MVPs? Forsythias, daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, and tulips. But really, she loves them all: “Flowers are aliveness. They’re color. They’re fragrance,” she says. Oh, and did we mention that they’re also super healthy?
Since all you really need to design your own arrangements are a pair of clippers and a cool planter in which to showcase your creation, there’s no reason to not fill your farmers’ market bag with flowers every week, whether you’re having people over, fêting a loved one (hi again, mom!), or admiring them solo.
Keep reading for 5 of Chezar’s best tips for building a bouquet from scratch—no floral design chops necessary.
1. Be consistent with color
Wildly divergent colors are for sneaker collections, not vases—consistency within your palette will keep your bouquet cohesive and chic. “I like to find as many colors as I can within one tone,” explains Chezar. “It gives you a very saturated and rich [look].” Using green as your neutral, pick whichever springtime shade is speaking to you and play with it. Having trouble choosing? Chezar’s seasonal favorite is yellow.
2. Give your stems some TLC
First order of business after bringing your blooms home? “You have to recut your flower stems before you put them in a vase,” Chezar advises. The stems seal up almost immediately when they’re not in water, and trimming them will lengthen the lifespan of your bouquet. (Pro tip: slice them diagonally to expose more of the stem to water.)
Since bacteria means doomsday for your flowers, says Chezar, you’ll also want to ensure that their leaves are all high and dry—meaning above the water line.
3. Shop in season
Treat your flowers as you would your fruits and veggies. Those amaryllises that you love so much around the holidays? Buying them now would be the equivalent of going apple picking in the spring (read: a total bummer).
“Flowers grown in-season are bursting with a life force that may be missing from blooms raised half a world away,” writes Chezar. Reach for spring-flowering bulbs or ask your local vendor what’s been picked most recently.
Another expert tactic? “You rarely want to be purchasing a flower that’s already open,” says Chezar. “You want to buy something that’s still tight. You’ll have a much longer shelf life.” That flourishing peony may look stunning now, but chances are it’ll be drooping all over the mismatched plates at your dinner party by tomorrow.
4. Don’t limit yourself to flowers
Chezar calls foliage “the secret ingredient” to a killer floral arrangement—think branches, leaves, fruit, and vines. “If I do a centerpiece, I start with some sort of branchy, leafy base and build from there with the flowers,” she explains. Foliage and flowers are BFFs in their natural environment, so why not let them hang out in a bouquet too?
5. Pick a vase that will show off your creation
Think of it as finding the perfect palm tree-print jacket to cap off your spring athleisure look. “I think the most friendly shape to work with is an inverted triangle—something that flares up at the top,” says Chezar. “It immediately encourages the flowers to arch outwards.” But don’t worry about limiting yourself, either. Anything from a mason jar to a watering can can double as a vase. Or even that matcha latte cup you won’t be ‘gramming again until fall, anyway.
Reprinted with permission from The Flower Workshop, by Ariella Chezar with Julie Michaels, copyright © 2016, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Erin Kunkel.