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Botanical Brouhaha Expert Discussion Panel: No. 77

Mar 2, 2016


Do you have any tips for creating an easy to hold, big and wildly unstructured bouquet?

Tara Mcmullen Photography-oronto-wedding-photographer | Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff | Tara McMullen Photography


For bouquets like this, it’s good to do it in stages. I will create the first part of the bouquet, with some stronger stems that create the outline and overall shape, and then loosely tape those stems together. From there, I keep adding in, taping as I go. This makes it easier to hold the bouquet and keeps the stems from falling apart.The other thing that can be helpful is to really keep your hands loose. It can be tricky at first to get this just right, but by staying relaxed, keeping your hands loose, you will be able to create a bouquet that breathes more.

Clare Day (Clare Day Flowers)


For that kind of bouquet I usually create face designs, which are wide but not deep, and flat on the back… What I mean by saying “not deep” is if you look at the bouquet from the top, you want to be able to insert all the stems in a rectangle shape, not a square one. One good test to make sure it is fine is to try to carry the bouquet over your arm, just like if you were holding a baby (see below/Anna Tereshina Photography)… And flat on the back is important, it is easier for the bride to lay it somewhere when she is tired of carrying it without damaging it.

Anna Tereshina Photography | Floresie

Laetitia Mayor (Floresie)


I make lots of big, wild bouquets for our brides. I usually start with the foliage, keeping a loose hand when holding the stems so they can fan out easily. Once I have the shape and structure formed with the foliage, I then weave in flowers. This keeps the bouquet more open and wild, rather than flower-heavy. It also helps me keep the bouquet more balanced feeling in my hand. The real key to a successful wild bouquet is that while it looks wild, it’s actually controlled and balanced so it’s easy for the bride to carry around all day.

Jennie Love (Love ‘n Fresh Flowers)


I think the key to this look is a combination of larger flower heads such as peonies, hydrangea and garden roses as well as smaller blooms that have very thin stems like sweet peas, cosmos and astilbe. Combining these types of flowers with softer foliages that have some movement in them such as acacia, eucalyptus populus and asparagus fern can create a wild unstructured bouquet in a way that the stems are not too bulky to hold. Also, top binding the stems rather than binding them with ribbon all the way down also helps keep the looseness.

Nick Priestly (Mood Flowers)


A great way to get a handle on big, loosely styled bouquets is to use an armature. I was taught this long ago, by one of my early mentors. The way she taught it, the armature, made of curly willow, was meant to provide a structure for flowers and foliages to rest on, but also to show a bit, and be part of the bouquet design. A willow collar of sorts. I like to make the armatures a bit tighter, and use them so they don’t show. To make the armature, start with a bunch of fresh curly willow tips. Really, any young, slender branch that’ll bend will do.Hold the bunch in your hand, about 5-6 inches up from the end of the stems.  Pull the tips down, and tuck them into your hand. The tips will join the stems that you were grasping at the start. Keep pulling the tips down, and tuck them into your hand, so you’re left with a bunch of willow loops that are about 5-6 inches tall. Tape the binding point (the part your hand was holding) with water proof tape. You’ll be left with a sort of light bulb shaped loop cluster above the binding point, and stems below. Trim the bottom of the stems short- about 4 inches or so.Now you have a structure that foliages and flowers can be fed through. Start with a nice strong foliage that will provide even more structure and shape.Feed the foliage through your willow loop cluster, at an angle from either side, to achieve a lovely loose sprawling shape. Add to the front and back of the bouquet as well, feeding your stems through the willow loops to ensure they stay put. Next, add your next heaviest materials – things that add fullness and even more structure – i.e., lilac, pieris, spirea, privet berry…After the shape is well established, I add in my heavy focal blooms. I add them deep, and they rest right on top of the armature. After that, supporting blooms are layered in and around the focal area of the bouquet, to add depth and interest. Lastly, delicate “floater” flowers, such as sweet pea, scabiosa, clematis, cosmos are added in for movement. Each element finds it’s own foundation in the armature, and is well held in place. As you work, keep your grip light, and let things really hang on an angle. The tighter the grip, the tighter the resulting bouquet!!  Let your stems splay at the bottom. You will cut them short before you deliver them to your bride which will keep them from poking her dress.  It’ll also cause her to hold the bouquet in the most flattering way, so all the faces of the blooms show. This technique is really fun, and I find that less flowers are needed to achieve a full look, since a lot of space is taken up by the inner structure. It can be used to make a bouquet that cascades laterally or vertically.Also, armatures lend support to flowers that would otherwise flop about.

The bouquet below (image courtesy of Silver Thumb Photography) consisted of only 3 peonies, 3 stems of orchid, 3 stems of geranium, and 6 passionflower vines. Without the willow to rest on, these elements would have resulted in a much tighter, smaller bouquet.

Passionflower | Silver Thumb Photography

Here’s another example, made by a student (image courtesy of Amanda Dumouchelle Photography):

Amanda Dumouchelle Photography |

Susan McLeary (Passionflower)


  1. Great post! I can’t wait to try out some of these ideas to give my designs the wider more unstructured look!

  2. I love this post! I learned so much! Thank you!

  3. janet says:

    Love Susan’s technique! Great post!

  4. Willow armature! Game changer! Thanks for sharing that Susan!

  5. Candice says:

    These bouquets are gorgeous! Would it be possible to see a photo of the armature without the flowers?

  6. Agnes says:

    I have to agree, very helpful post with the willow armature. I had also committed to loosening up my bouquets this year and now I have some specific ideas to go forward with.


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