Monochromatic Arrangements to Celebrate Spring with Florist Mark Thompson
Perched on a hillside in the historic Forest Park neighborhood of Birmingham is Shoppe, a garden-and-gift store housed in a restored bungalow. Beside it, an English-style greenhouse anchors a rambling outdoor area that's alive with annuals, evergreens, and perennial blooms. "There's something to discover around every turn," says Mark Thompson, who cofounded the store with his partner, Jay Draper, in 2017.
It's a happy destination for many people within (and outside) their tight-knit community. "Shoppe is a place to explore," Thompson says. "It's a family-oriented spot for people to gather." That convivial spirit is contagious. Stroll down this bustling stretch of Clairmont Avenue on any given day, and you'll find customers wandering through rows of flowering containers, children marveling at the variety of plants in the greenhouse, and friends enjoying lunch around a bistro table next door at General, a cafe and gift shop also opened by Thompson and Draper.
When he's not running between the two businesses, Thompson is clipping greenery and snipping blooms from around the neighborhood—drawing inspiration for his next arrangement. He started helping out with flowers at his church when he was 12, and the hobby evolved into a career. His favorite looks to create are tabletop displays for dinner parties and other intimate gatherings. Here, he shows how to arrange five different centerpieces so you can share Shoppe's happy spirit with your guests this season.
Shining Yellow Arrangement
An easy florists' trick elevates an everyday flower in this whimsical design
Materials: brunia, euphorbia, acacia, genestra, ornamental grass, single and doubletulips, alstroemeria
How-To: Start with the tougher plants, and gradually work your way to the more delicate ones. Insert brunia stems at an angle. Repeat with euphorbia and acacia. Work in genestra (stretch this plant by cutting multiple pieces off one stem). Add ornamental grass. Separate tulip stems; remove leaves. "Flex" the petals by using your thumb to gently pull them back. This "touch of hand," as Thompson describes it, helps ordinary grocery store flowers (like tulips) look extraordinary. Work in alstroemeria. Finish with double tulips, flexing the outer petals to resemble peonies.
Pro Tip: Thompson recommends this type of vase for beginners. Its narrow neck and wide bottom allow you to insert stems at an angle and hold them in place—no chicken wire or florist foam required.
Preppy in Pink Arrangement
Brighten your home with fluffy blooms in a retro jadeite container
Materials: chicken wire, pink double tulips, ranunculus (blooms and buds), peony
How-To: Shape chicken wire into a loose dome, turning sharp edges underneath, and adjust it to fit snugly into the square container. Add tulips around the lip of the vase. (Keep the leaves on the tulips to serve as greenery.) Cut ranunculus stems in varying heights, and arrange them so they stand taller than the tulips. Nestle in one large peony bloom. Work in ranunculus buds for dimension.
Pro Tip: Making multiple centerpieces? Buy a bundle of peonies (usually sold with around five stems) from a local wholesale florist. Use one stem in each arrangement (like Thompson does here) to spread the beauty around and stretch your budget.
Lovely Lilac Arrangement
Supermarket blooms may get a bad rap, but here's proof that a quick and easy arrangement of wax flowers can make a wow-worthy centerpiece
Materials: wax flowers
How-To: The trick for making a single-flower bouquet look stunning is to give each stem individual attention (rather than just stuffing them all in a vessel and calling it a day). Find a bundle of fragrant wax flowers at a grocery store. Strip all leaves off the bottom of each stem, and cut them about the same length. (The longer they are, the fuller the arrangement will be.) Start by adding them one by one around the edge of the container, letting them fan over the lip. Then build in with additional stems (so the pieces in the center are held up by the others) to create a rounded look.
Pro Tip: Tulips or a bulk amount of whatever fresh, affordable stems you can find (no need to be fancy!) will make a suitable swap for wax flowers. Or snip viburnum or spirea straight from shrubs in your yard.
Orange Crush Arrangement
This make-and-take tableau is as easy as adding stems to bud vases. Cluster the mini vessels on a decorative tray for a bigger impact
Materials: protea, ranunculus, Asiatic lily
How-to: Separate stems of proteas, ranunculus, and Asiatic lilies into several bud vases. One large protea can stand alone in a container. To make petite arrangements with smaller flowers like ranunculus, Thompson says, "Three is the magic number." Mix a couple of Asiatic lily stems with a few leftover blooms for added interest. After dinner, each guest can grab a vase to take home as a party favor.
Pro Tip: Put every bloom to use. Stick leftover stems in bud vases, and place them in a powder room or on a nightstand.
Romantic Red Arrangement
Create a wild and airy look by mixing ethereal stems with a few dramatic blooms
Materials: chicken wire, snapdragon, grevillea, peony (blooms and buds), alstroemeria, ranunculus, greenery
How-To: A small claw-foot container anchors this artistic display. Shape some chicken wire (Thompson cut a 5-inch piece to fit inside the 5-inch-wide vase) into a loose ball, tucking the sharp edges underneath. Place it in the container. Insert snapdragon and grevillea stems of various lengths, giving the arrangement an elongated shape. Put a peony bloom in the center as the focal point (balance this heavier flower's weight by adding a similar-size one on the opposite side). From there, work in tight-budded alstroemerias, peony buds, and ranunculus for more dimension. Fill in holes with greenery.
Pro Tip: Fill the vase almost to the brim with water (if it's not being transported) so stems that were inserted at extreme angles will still be submerged.
Thompson's Flower Arranging Playbook
Six tips for working with flowers like a professional
1. Save Leftover Foliage
Use discarded leaves from the flowers in a display instead of buying greenery. Be mindful when cutting the stems so the foliage can be used later.
2. Designate a Pair of Stem Snippers
Thompson's top choice is Joyce Chen Original Unlimited Scissors.
3. Keep the Water Clean
Avoid letting leaves fall into the water, because they'll rot and have an unpleasant odor. Strip the greenery off the bottoms of stems before adding them to a bouquet (this also helps get more water to the actual flowers). Change the water every three days to lengthen the life span of the arrangement.
4. Cut Stems at a Sharp Angle
This method creates a larger surface area for the flowers to drink water.
5. Be Picky About Your Container
Clear glass can be harder to work with, but exposed stems can add more visual interest. Solid vessels help the flowers stand out more while hiding chicken wire, flower frogs, or any imperfections.
6. Take It Slow
Arranging blooms is like piecing together a puzzle, so don't be in a hurry. Work in flowers one at a time. Don't be afraid to take out a stem and place it in a new spot.