You don’t need to have lots of tools, countless containers and an abundance of plants to create a beautiful floral arrangement. All you really need to get started is a good cutting tool (knife or clippers), one container and a few healthy plants. But if you’re hoping to arrange flowers on a regular basis, why not be prepared? Put together a toolbox containing various floral-design tools, and designate at least one shelf in the pantry for your other materials. By having all the necessary design equipment in one place, you’ll have everything at your fingertips the moment you’re ready to start creating!

Cutting tools

From clippers to scissors, sharp cutting tools are a must in making a quality floral display.

Photo Credit: David Pippin

Fastening materials

Keep a variety of fastening materials in your supply box.

Photo Credit: David Pippin

Floral foam

Floral foam comes in a number of sizes and shapes.

Photo Credit: David Pippin

Floral arranging containers

Just about any kind of container can be used in floral design.

Photo Credit: David Pippin

Here’s what every self-proclaimed floral arranger should have in his or her design arsenal:

Cutting Tools

  • Clippers. Buy quality clippers! (I can’t stress this enough!) Don’t buy a $5 pair that’ll likely break within a year. Invest in a good pair – some of which may cost as much as $50. The price may seem steep, but believe me when I say I’ve gone the cheap route and have been sorry. I eventually bit the bullet and bought a sturdy (and expensive) pair of clippers that I’ve now been using for years. (I even took things a step further and bought a whetstone to sharpen my pricey cutting tool on a regular basis.)

    It’s also important to keep your clippers clean to avoid spreading bacteria. I clean mine by wiping the blades with either rubbing alcohol or bleach. Use your clippers to only cut flower and foliage stems. Cutting wire and other non-floral items may dull or ruin your clippers – no matter how much you’ve paid for them!

  • Wire cutters. Save the life of your floral clippers and keep a good pair of cutters handy, specifically meant to cut wire of various gauges.
  • Knives. I have a couple of knives in my toolbox. I use a small floral pocketknife to cut flower stems while designing. (Some designers use a small knife similar to a paring knife, but I prefer the collapsible kind so the blade isn’t exposed in my toolbox.) I also have a large knife with a serrated edge (an old bread knife) that I use to cut floral foam. The serrated edge works well on the foam and doesn’t mash it…same as when cutting a loaf of bread. The serrated knife works fairly well when cutting Styrofoam, too, but I’ve found that the best way to cut Styrofoam is with an electric knife. (Trust me – it works!)
  • Scissors. These should only be used for cutting ribbon and fabric. Cutting anything else will dull them, and there’s nothing worse than trying to cut a nice satin ribbon and having the scissors “chew” their way through it. You may want to keep a second pair of scissors in your box for other uses, like for cutting paper.

Fastening Tools

  • Wire. There are so many types of wire available for a variety of uses in the floral industry. Floral wire comes in 18-inch lengths, as well as in spools, and has a variety of gauges. Wire can be used to support flower stems or create artificial stems (for corsages and boutonnieres), and decorative wire can be used to create interest in a design.
  • Picks. Wooden picks with wire attached at the top are used most often to increase stem length with either dried or artificial flowers. They can also be used to fasten a bow or ribbon to a design.
  • Chenilles. Chenille stems or pipe cleaners are used to fasten bows, make decorative accessories (like hearts) and fasten floral designs to railings and posts without scratching the finish.

Tapes and Adhesives

  • Waterproof tape. Use waterproof tape to fasten floral foam inside a container. (The container should be clean and dry before the tape is adhered.) It comes in green and white, and in ¼- and ½-inch widths.
  • Corsage tape. Available in a variety of colors, this material is mostly used for corsage and boutonniere construction. It can also be used in displays to fasten one stem to another to increase stem length with artificial flowers. Stretch and press corsage tape as it’s wrapped around a stem to make it adhere. (It takes some practice to get the hang of it.)
  • Spray adhesive. This product is perfect for adhering moss to the outside of a container. Just spray it on and let it set for a few minutes until it becomes tacky, then press the moss onto the container.
  • Sure-Stik. This floral adhesive is great for holding smaller design bowls on top of other containers. (I do this quite often rather than filling a large container with floral foam.) It also helps hold candles in place in candlesticks.

Floral Foam

  • Floral foam (fresh flowers). This type of foam absorbs water, and there are several brands available. If you’re buying a block or two at a florist or craft shop, make sure you buy the kind that absorbs water. When ready to use, drop the foam in a bucket of warm water and allow it to absorb slowly. Don’t force the foam down into the water. Once it stops bubbling and sinks slightly, it should be completely saturated.
  • Floral foam (dried and silk flowers). This type of foam is perfect for dried and silk flower designs. It has a fine, dense texture and is perfect for holding stems. It’s available in light green and brown, and it doesn’t absorb water.
  • Styrofoam. Styrofoam is available in a variety of preformed shapes – blocks, spheres, eggs, wreaths, hearts, crosses, etc. Used mostly for silk designs, it has a coarse texture and is available in green and white.

Containers

I recommend keeping a variety of containers in your floral-design cabinet, too. I keep small bottles for just a few stems from the garden; larger vases for longer, heavier stems; baskets with watertight liners; glazed decorative containers; and some nondescript watertight liners.

Creating a beautiful floral display starts with having quality tools and the right materials. The next step: growing, buying and conditioning your plants. (We’ll cover this topic in Lesson 2.)