Art in Bloom

After a short stint as a stockbroker on Wall Street in the 1980s, Michael Gaffney stumbled into a floral shop and never looked back. He spent more than 20 years as a florist before opening the Minneapolis School of Flower Design last year, which offers classes for professionals and hobbyists alike. Gaffney believes that with a little instruction, anyone can arrange flowers. Here, he shares some thoughts on what it takes to blossom.

  • Floral arranging isn’t about being creative. It’s about some basic elements of design that anyone can learn.
  • About 90 percent of my students have never arranged flowers. But after 22 minutes, they blow out of the classroom like the next Martha Stewart.
  • The biggest mistake people make is that they aim for the bottom of the vase. Insert the stems at an angle, not straight down, to create a dome.
  • Forget the cylinder vases you see everywhere. The most fool-proof vessel is a classic urn shape because it’s wide at the bottom and narrow at the top so it forces you to create angles.
  • Greens add texture and hold everything together. Put them in the vase first, and then add the flowers until you have a 180-degree dome of color.
  • Beware: Store and florist-bought bouquets never include enough greens. You’ll need more to hold
  • the arrangement together once you get it home.
  • Arrangements should always have a focal point, so people are drawn in. Roses work well.
  • Get to know a supplier—whether it’s a florist, wholesaler, or farmer. That will ensure that you get the freshest product at the best price. Most flowers and greens are available year-round.
  • Cuttings from any of those ugly shrubs in your backyard will look beautiful and last a long time when you arrange them. Arborvitae trees and curly willow are both common in Minnesota.
  • The perfect way to arrange a dozen roses is in rings: six on the outside, five on the inside, and one in the center.
  • People often make the mistake of mixing multiple design styles instead of narrowing it down to one—like Asian or contemporary. Before creating an arrangement, pick a style, and stick to it.
  • For inspiration, copy what’s in magazines. Designers beg, borrow, and steal—you can too. And don’t be afraid to experiment!

Fall classes start August 18 at the Minneapolis School of Flower Design. 79 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis, 877-322-5666,

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