How to make a fresh flower wreath

Perfect for the holidays, or really just any time you want to spoil yourself in flowers. I made this wreath for my holiday party a couple weeks ago and now it’s time to break it down for you.

I made this for my Christmas dinner party (and to shoot it, duh). My main goals were for it to be a focal point in the room that feels wild and festive, not terribly “holiday,” but not too wedding either. I’m not a florist, but I’m a serious lover of all flowers (like, ALL), and after ten years of styling them on sets and making arrangements, I felt confidant that I could pull this off, even though I’ve never made one before.

So I went to the wholesale flower market, which most large cities have, that are open to the public in the last hour or so of selling. Some are strict about it and won’t let you in unless you have “a badge,” some aren’t. In LA, if you park above the flower market in the above ground three-story building and take the escalator to the main floor you can actually bypass where they ask you for your wholesale badge (enter on Maple, between 7th – 8th streets). Once I tried to sneak into the Portland wholesale mart and was totally unsuccessful. The reason I come here instead of a florist is because of price (it’s about 1/3 of the price of florists, understandably because florists have to mark things up to stay in business), but mostly because of the variety. A lot of florists order the same thing over and over, and while they change things up within the season, they don’t have the time to really go down and pick out what is super beautiful right now. If you live in LA, go to Moe’s (it’s a fortune, but great flowers) or even better, go to the flower market at Sunset Junction that is right next to Intelligentsia (and shares the building with Cafe Stella). It has AMAZING flowers — the weird ones that most standard florists don’t have.

 

So I loaded up my cart. What you are seeing up there is around $280 worth of flowers. Obviously I didn’t put all in the wreath and used a lot in arrangements all over the house. If I wasn’t shooting it, I wouldn’t have spent so much, but I wanted to invest in the project for the blog and splurge a bit. Besides I can write it off (see the rationalization happening?).

Here’s what I bought for the wreath:

1. Ferns. Some wild and some more traditional. Bostons, maiden hairs, and some really dark bushy guys that stayed alive for a long time. These were the “filler” and these brought the winter vibe. Ask the florists for some that are heartier (not like maiden hairs that are so fragile).

2. Garden Roses. Now garden roses are different from regular roses because they aren’t mass produced and instead they have way more petals, way more color variation, and they have multiple heads on them, as well as some closed buds, some open buds, making them all look more organic and real. Often regular roses look so fake and generic, but garden roses look just so natural. (They are on the two middle shelves in the pic.)  If you don’t have the option of garden roses, then try to get some roses that are open and some still closed. If they are all the same amount of open or close they’ll look generic. Ask the florists for any really open roses. They might have in the back, and often they do and will sell for around $1 a piece.

3. Peonies. Obvs. But the main reason I bought them was for scale. I didn’t want a bunch of small flowers mixed in with the ferns or they would get lost. I needed some large hits of color and pop, and peonies were the only flowers big enough to hold this 27″ wreath.

4. Random greenery. I don’t know what it is called but the greenery on the top shelf to the right is cheap and their tips looked like buds so they were easy to fill vertical space.

5. White mums. Normally I’m not the biggest mum fan, but these white mums were soooo petal-y and full and reminded me of huge big polka dots … plus, they were inexpensive.

What you don’t want to buy:

1. Flowers that are very vertical and skinny. These don’t take up any surface area and will get lost or you’ll need a crazy amount of them to fill out the wreath.

2. Flowers that are really small, like daisies, wilf flowers, etc. Unless you want to do the same flower over and over and make it really uniform (or a pattern), then the small ones will get busy and dinky and expensive.

I bought a 27″ floral wreath form from one of the wholesale stores downtown. Moskatels sells them for around $25. This is made of oasis (the green stuff that soaks up water) so it will keep the wreath alive for a while. I soaked it for five minutes in the shower before starting and that made the wreath last for three to four days. The ferns lasted longer, just the flowers didn’t make it. (I think you could take it down and re-water it to help it last longer.)

I think this size was the perfect statement size and any smaller would have been a pretty big waste of time and money. So just go big.

That is my fantasy bathtub, by the way. Just overflowing with flowers.

I started up top with a cluster of flowers and started shoving the buds with a five-inch stem into the sponge-y wreath form, pretty randomly. Later, I filled in with the ferns. You definitely don’t want things to be perfectly spaced or measured out because it will look fake. These are flowers, let them be organic.

Make sure you don’t cut off the leaves of the peonies or roses near the bud. You want those to make them look more real by leaving some of the leaves in there. (Or cut the leaves off separately and shove them into the wreath.)

Don’t put the same two flowers next to each other, and don’t put anything in a line. Keep it looking “cluster-y” and random for the most organic look. Make sure to fill the outside and inside as well, and don’t go sparingly if you are going for the wild look. If you want a simple look get one flower and use it over and over again so the whole wreath is filled with it, but for a look like this make sure to add enough to make it really look like a statement.

I knew I didn’t want it symmetrical, so I did one cluster around 11 o’clock (if the wreath was a clock) and one cluster 4/5 o’clock. This kept it balanced, without looking too forced.

 

That’s my assistant Bearcat. She helps me by chewing on the leaves and then throwing them up and often I step on that puke in the morning on the way to make coffee. It’s a real treat. But she is VERY good at sitting next to me and looking at me oh so adorably. She gives me encouragement by thinking, “Mom, you are really good at moving things around the house and giving me so many boxes to sit in.” And that kind of support just can’t be bought.

I kept going and going, adding and adding, making sure it looked full, random and organic. If I had to do it again, I would do it pretty much the same, except probably even more ferns. And if you are on more of a budget (again, this probably cost me around $120 or so, with the form being around $25), I would do just wild ferns, but mix in different ones of different shades so it looks organic and handmade. Often I feel like real greenery equally distributed can look artificial.

Three clusters. Two would be too few or symmetrical. Four would feel too full and even. Three is perfect.

Photo by David Tsay

And there you have it. My fresh flower holiday wreath. I promise you this was way easier than it looks. I just shoved flowers into a wreath form and kept going ’til I had no more room to shove.

Any questions?

  1. Lara

    This is just gorgeous. Did the dampness from the wreath mess up your wall finish at all?

  2. Cindy

    I think this wreath is perfection. I could just stare at it for days!

  3. i reallllly love how this turned out! and it has inspired me to step outside of the florist in order to look for more beautiful and unique flowers. can't wait to try something like this out!!
    – jackiejade.blogspot.com

  4. i reallllly love how this turned out! and it has inspired me to step outside of the florist in order to look for more beautiful and unique flowers. can't wait to try something like this out!!
    – jackiejade.blogspot.com

  5. Elyse

    This is so pretty. I couldn't really justify the expense, but it has me wondering if I can grow peonies in west texas… although I think a lot of your tips could be used with fake greenery and flowers too for a less expensive wreath (well, one that will last a long time anyway) that maybe doesn't look so fake :)

  6. Elyse

    This is so pretty. I couldn't really justify the expense, but it has me wondering if I can grow peonies in west texas… although I think a lot of your tips could be used with fake greenery and flowers too for a less expensive wreath (well, one that will last a long time anyway) that maybe doesn't look so fake :)

  7. emily henderson

    Lara, the forms have cardboard on the back, so the dampness didn't hit the wall, BUT it did drip for a while so i couldn't hang it up til it wasn't so full of water and even then it dripped a little bit….

    Elyse, i think a fake one could be reallly pretty if you do it right and use a really fun color palette with bright colors. These can go 'wedding' really fast, so stay away from all white fake flowers or it might look a little stuffy or cheap, but big bright flowers with big greenery could be great.

  8. emily henderson

    Lara, the forms have cardboard on the back, so the dampness didn't hit the wall, BUT it did drip for a while so i couldn't hang it up til it wasn't so full of water and even then it dripped a little bit….

    Elyse, i think a fake one could be reallly pretty if you do it right and use a really fun color palette with bright colors. These can go 'wedding' really fast, so stay away from all white fake flowers or it might look a little stuffy or cheap, but big bright flowers with big greenery could be great.

  9. So glad you did a post on this! I'm kind of in LOVE with the way it turned out. I would have never thought to attempt a real floral wreath, but after seeing yours I think it's something I could totes handle. Def something I'm going to have to try.

  10. So glad you did a post on this! I'm kind of in LOVE with the way it turned out. I would have never thought to attempt a real floral wreath, but after seeing yours I think it's something I could totes handle. Def something I'm going to have to try.

  11. Wendy

    Love it! Love the non traditional decor of this partay! So fun. So when are you traveling with your show to the midwest? Would love to have a room done by Emily! But i live in Kansas City! Love your show and love your blog too!
    -Wendy

  12. Wendy

    Love it! Love the non traditional decor of this partay! So fun. So when are you traveling with your show to the midwest? Would love to have a room done by Emily! But i live in Kansas City! Love your show and love your blog too!
    -Wendy

  13. It's so gorgeous. Beautiful work. Also I love when Bearcat makes appearances in your posts. My cats offer me a similar style of support in all I do. It's especially helpful when they slide tackle whatever fabric/drapery I'm in the process of ironing. And not at all dangerous, no sir.

  14. It's so gorgeous. Beautiful work. Also I love when Bearcat makes appearances in your posts. My cats offer me a similar style of support in all I do. It's especially helpful when they slide tackle whatever fabric/drapery I'm in the process of ironing. And not at all dangerous, no sir.

  15. Jessi

    LOVE it. Just gorgeous. Never made a wreath with floral foam, but when I was working as a wedding planner I picked up a few floral tips! To make closed roses open (and possibly other flowers, I've only tried roses) put them in a bucket of warm water overnight. In the morning, BOOM, big pretty open roses. And to keep the heads of flowers like gerbera daisies from dropping, cut the stem at an angle under running water, which prevents an air bubble from forming in the stem, which eventually causes the droop.

  16. Jessi

    LOVE it. Just gorgeous. Never made a wreath with floral foam, but when I was working as a wedding planner I picked up a few floral tips! To make closed roses open (and possibly other flowers, I've only tried roses) put them in a bucket of warm water overnight. In the morning, BOOM, big pretty open roses. And to keep the heads of flowers like gerbera daisies from dropping, cut the stem at an angle under running water, which prevents an air bubble from forming in the stem, which eventually causes the droop.

  17. It's beautiful! I love the pink and green color scheme. Bearcat is so cute!

  18. It's beautiful! I love the pink and green color scheme. Bearcat is so cute!

  19. Love this!! Will have to check out Moe's next time I am down there. I love to treat myself to a trip to the Flower Market and bundles of peonies! A note on artificial…..not a big fan of silk flowers…no matter how good they are… I did just see a really fabulous tissue paper flower wreath that was pinks and white and really textural and lovely.
    Happy Holidays!
    Simone

  20. Love this!! Will have to check out Moe's next time I am down there. I love to treat myself to a trip to the Flower Market and bundles of peonies! A note on artificial…..not a big fan of silk flowers…no matter how good they are… I did just see a really fabulous tissue paper flower wreath that was pinks and white and really textural and lovely.
    Happy Holidays!
    Simone

  21. Robyn

    Love it, but I would have added some of those berry like things, (sorry can't think of what they are called but they come in green and pink, maybe persimmon?) and also a small artichoke or two or three. I love the colors and textures! Great job!!

  22. Robyn

    Love it, but I would have added some of those berry like things, (sorry can't think of what they are called but they come in green and pink, maybe persimmon?) and also a small artichoke or two or three. I love the colors and textures! Great job!!

  23. Allie

    I LOVE this!!! Thank you for sharing. Will definitely try this one day!

  24. Allie

    I LOVE this!!! Thank you for sharing. Will definitely try this one day!

  25. Emily

    The wreath is great, I love peonies. The cheap greenery is pittosporum and will last forever, even just in a vase with water. You can plant bushes of it in your yard and then you can use it all the time in arrangements, I love it. I also love your blog, keep the posts coming!

  26. Emily

    The wreath is great, I love peonies. The cheap greenery is pittosporum and will last forever, even just in a vase with water. You can plant bushes of it in your yard and then you can use it all the time in arrangements, I love it. I also love your blog, keep the posts coming!

  27. waw, wonderful! thanks for share.

  28. waw, wonderful! thanks for share.