Decorating with flowers and greenery is one of our favorite ways to change the mood and appearance of a home. The fall and winter holidays are an especially fun time to get creative by incorporating colors, textures, and scents that reflect the vibe of these annual festivities.
Since we are not all born knowing how to make our home look IG-worthy or Pinterest-perfect with flowers, we tapped the brilliant brain of Richard Stone of The Faux Real Co. for some of his personal tricks, tips, and floral favorites. With Richard’s helpful hints, you will have gorgeous arrangements and decorations in no time, which means you can devote your energy to spending it with friends and family (and all that holiday food).
Q: With the holidays approaching, what are some of the best ways to incorporate flowers and greenery into a longer-lasting decorating option?
A: During the indoor winter months, heat can play havoc with fresh flowers and greenery. Stick with the tried-and-true like boxwood, eucalyptus, and magnolia, which will continue looking good when they start to dry out. Carnations unfortunately have a bad reputation, but they look beautiful when arranged in a mound or interspersed in a wreath or garland. A favorite holiday classic of mine is the Hypericum for a touch of color.
Q: For people who don’t know a lot about flowers or design, it can be really intimidating to try and style an arrangement. Any simple solutions for beginners?
A: When in doubt, I recommend hydrangeas, which can be arranged “en masse” for a beautiful bouquet. While I love their blooms, I usually arrange them in a container other than a glass vase to hide their erratic stems. Since one or two in the bunch will die, it’s a good idea to buy a few extra to have replacement stems on hand. Cut the base of the stem on an angle, and then clip a slit in the stem so they can drink plenty of water.
Q: There’s nothing sadder than splurging on a bunch of flowers and then having them get all saggy and sad after a few days. What are your go-to flowers for when you want an affordable bouquet that won’t need to be tossed quickly?
A: Hydrangeas, carnations, and lilies are excellent candidates for a longer lasting bouquet and are readily available. Steer clear of roses, ranunculus, anemones, and delphinium, which are very heat-sensitive and only typically last a few days.
When creating a bouquet, it’s always important to make sure you’ve stripped off the lower leaves on the stems. These are what start to disintegrate in the water, and can create a mess, especially in a clear vase.
Q: Some of our favorite bouquets and arrangements contain more than just florals and include fruits or vegetables (like romanesco or artichokes), succulents, or other types of ornamental grass. What are some of your favorite unexpected combinations?
I remember a Christmas tree decorated at Keswick Hall with a garland made of fluffy miscanthus grass seed heads. At my favorite place on earth, The Inn at Little Washington, a pair of topiary made from dried corn greets guests at the door.
If you’re using fruit in a wreath or garland, stick with smaller fruit like lemons, limes, and clementines, which aren’t as heavy and less likely to fall off. Use a floral pick with an attached wire to secure the fruit to your creation.
Q: Are there any new floral trends that have you especially excited? Or do you tend to stick to your favorite tried-and-true options?
A: I love dried grasses and seedpods in an arrangement. I once made a fabulous pair of cotton boll topiary for a photo shoot, created with Styrofoam balls and hot glue. Okra pods are another favorite, which look wonderful in their dried form, or spray-painted gold. If you’re using dried grasses, such as the miscanthus garland à la Keswick Hall, give the heads a dusting of hair spray to keep them in place.
Q: Are there any local/native-to-Virginia flowers that you use in arrangements?
A: I love bittersweet. It can make a real mess when the yellow seedpods around the orange berries start to fall off, so I usually restrict this to outdoor use only. Osage oranges last an incredibly long time but are too heavy to use on a floral pick. Instead, try arranging the Osage oranges in a large bowl with a sprig of holly berries in between the fruits.
Q: If you could only use one type of flower in arrangements for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Peonies. If they’re cut while the buds are still tight, they will last for a week or two. When arranging peonies, allow enough room in the arrangement for their large blooms to open. Don’t pack them in too tight.