Create a beautiful flower arrangement
Share our advice for a beautiful country display
Begin by deciding what kind of arrangement you would like to create. It is often best to combine those flowers that appear side-by-side in nature or are cultivated together. Those in the wild such as cow parsley and lady's mantle complement each other, as do cottage garden favourites delphiniums and peonies, and greenhouse-grown dahlias are best kept on their own, displayed in different colours. Mixed up, bold hues and forms tend to blot out more delicate pastel colours and shapes and the arrangement ends up lacking a theme.
When it comes to colour, there are no strict rules and much is down to personal taste, but if you are making an arrangement for your own home - or for that of a friend - bear in mind the decoration of the room where it will be displayed and use shades that will complement the scheme. For added fragrance, or where the flowers themselves do not have a strong scent, include herbs in the posy - sage and different varieties of mint work well. Many also have attractive blooms of their own such as rosemary (its mauve flowers are set off well by the deep-green leaves of its stems) and, of course, lavender.
Once you've made your selection, cut the stems at an angle which will increase the available area for water uptake. Then it's important to keep your blooms as fresh as possible by putting them in a bucket of water in a cool place straight away. If possible, leave and allow the flowers to drink for at least 12 hours before using. This will prevent an air-lock and condition them, meaning they will open fully and last longer.
Once you're ready to create your display, choose a container or vase that is around one and a half times the height of your blooms and foliage. Begin with the leaves and herbs - this creates a framework. Cut your flowers at several different heights, so that those at the back are not obscured by the ones at the front. Remove thorns and leaves and place each stem one by one in the water, taking care not to cross them as this crowds the water, and enjoy making your arrangement.
The Complete Guide to Flower Arranging by Jane Packer (Dorling Kindersely, £9.74)
Encyclopedia of Flower Arranging Techniques: A Visual Guide to Creating Arrangements for All Occasions by Marcia Hurst (Apple Press, £7.24)
Teach Yourself Get Started with Flower Arranging by Judith Blacklock (Teach Yourself, £9.89)
Wreaths & Bouquets by Paula Pryke (Rizzoli, £9.34)
Church Flowers: The Essential Guide to Arranging Flowers in Church by Judith Blacklock (Flower Press, £22.50)
Go on a course
This one-day course on 8 September at Judith Blacklock Flower School in Kinghtsbridge, London, will teach you about selecting seasonal flowers including fruits and berries to make a wonderful, textural display, and you'll take two designs home at the end of the day. Places cost £220.
Beginners' flower arranging
A one-day course, dates vary, held at The Flower Arranging School in Cheshire. This introduction will fill you in on the basics, including materials, tools and simple, but effective, arrangements. Places cost £155 including flowers.
This three-day course on 22-24 October is run by the Academy of Floral Art in Exeter, Devon. Covers the basics of how to create pretty hand-tied posies and bouquets. Places cost £169.50 including all materials.
Festive floral design
Learn how to deck the halls properly on this one-day course on 6 November at the beautiful venue of Dillington House in Somerset. Arrangements will make use of moss, fir cones, berries, twigs and leaves. Places cost £45 - a list of materials to bring is provided, which should cost around £20.
The cutting garden
Not flower arranging as such, but learning how to grow all the blooms, shrubs and plants you need for a beautiful cutting garden - and endless material for your floral arrangments. This one-day course on 22 September is held at TV gardener Sarah Raven's Perch Hill Farm in East Sussex. Places cost £145 including lunch.