Matching Floral Arrangements with Art: SAF Pros Share Secrets

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By Jill Brooke 

Just like Santa mythically needs his trusted elves to get the job done, the Society of American Florists had their own team of industrious talent to create designs at their 135th annual convention in Amelia Island, Florida.

“We created over 1000 arrangements over the past few days,” says chairman Ian Prosser, one of seven AIFD artists who were given this Herculean task.

Aside from floral arrangments at the dining tables, the team, who includes Corey Harbour, Lorraine Cooper, Sylvia Bird, Robyn Arnold, Chris Collum and Patience Pickner, was given permission by the Ritz Carlton to spruce up their hotel as well.

Many of the halls within this cavernous hotel are filled with artwork that the SAF team interpreted with flowers.

When I mentioned how this reminded me of the Art in Bloom series at museums, where floral artists are asked to interpret paintings, Prosser concurred that this was the motivation.

Let me show you some of these creations and the techniques used by these masters that you can use at home.

Chris Cullum was given these blue-toned paintings to create floral arrangements. 

Notice how this painting is made of cloud-like circular balls. The blue shade in the painting inspired him to use blue hydrangeas with an accent of blue eryngium and green hydrangeas.

TIP: Always consider shapes when doing a display. He tightly grouped these hydrangeas to mirror the ball-like abstract motif in the painting.

This next one is a different image in the same color family. However, there are more moody green flowers used in this design. What is particularly clever is how he found the hydrangea to literally drape over the vase with the leaf that follows the line of the green water edging away from the blue color. The painting flows literally into the vase.


TIP: You can do slightly different floral arrangements as long as you have a thread to tie it together. Both have the same vase as a display.


For this painting, Ian Prosser knew the main attraction of this painting was the red bird. This inspired the color palette of reds and oranges. He found a red hydrangea – which is rare but the best growers in the world donated flowers so he could find these options – as well as red Gerber daisies accented with orange roses, astilbe and most importantly, the bird of paradise stem.  Notice how the bird of paradise stem points to the right – and then leads you into the direction of where the bird is looking.

TIP: Consider where the eye follows in a design. The bird of paradise stem, as well as the greenery, leads you in the same direction as the painting’s focal point.


In this painting, the bird of paradise stem leads you in the opposite direction. Why? Because this painting’s focus is rectangular shapes of abstract water. Also, each stem has its own personality. These artists found ones that had more purple in it and that tied into the paintings main color palate.

One’s impulse is maybe to have gone more raspberry here as well but how wonderful that they resisted that thought and kept the design as a complementary orange which is subtly introduced in the sky.

TIP:  Each stem has its own personality. Play around with displays to complement the painting.


Here the artists identified that the tree’s branches were a focal point. They found an orchid with blooms that draped in the same direction. The orchid shade also picked up the accent color of white wafer-thin lines zig-zagging through the painting. Also, by turning the vase ever so slightly, they also ensured that the leaves’ endpoint took the eye back up into the branch. Subtle but very effective. 

These little details can make the difference for an arrangement in your home to be ordinary and vs. extraordinary.

Another myth is that you need massive amounts of flowers to create something special. Not true. Here is a beautiful arrangement with just a few calla lilies.

TIP:  By buying containers and using some inexpensive greens, you can use a few flowers to create a dazzling effect.

Furthermore, as floral shops listen to the needs of customers, artists have become more cost-conscious and creative. Flowers are always worth investing in from a floral shop because of their built-in artistry. Given a choice between a bottle of expensive wine or a floral shop arrangement, I would choose the flowers any day. They last longer. But ideas can also be gleaned for home use. 

Aside from these home tips, let me also show you some of the magnificent displays this team created throughout the hotel and for display tables.

Walking down the Ritz Carlton’s hallway, I overheard a couple talking to each other.

“Look at these flowers here,” a woman said to her husband. “Does the Ritz always do this?”

I had to laugh.  No, they don’t, I told them. These visual treats were courtesy of this special group of floral artists. 

Smiled Sylvia Bird, after receiving a stream of praise, “It’s what we do,” says this veteran SFA member. “It’s also what we love to do.”


Photo Credits:  All Flower Power Daily

Author Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine.  She is editorial director of FPD.