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  • Writer's pictureFrancesca Sharp

DIY table centrepieces to add wow to your garden party

Flower arrangements from Francesca Sharp Flowers in Farnham
Create a beautiful centrepiece using flowers from your garden

People often ask me for ideas for decorating tables both inside and out and for me the most important ingredient for a summer party is colour – the more the merrier! 

I will be busy stocking the shelves at Applegarth Farm Shop and Holybourne Shop and Post Office with lots of beautiful pots and jam jars filled with flowers each week. But if you fancy giving it a go yourself then here is my step by step guide for creating an arrangement at home with flowers from your own garden…

Step 1 – Find a suitable container

I often use vintage terracotta pots or jam jars that I have saved and cleaned because I like to reuse and recycle wherever possible. Not only is this kinder to the environment but it also adds a wonderful rustic charm to the arrangement. 

Line your pot and fill with water says Francesca Sharp Flowers
Line your pot and fill with water

Step 2 – Line and add water 

If you are using terracotta pots or any vintage containers then you will need to line the pot before you put water in so that it doesn’t leak and ruin your table.

You can buy florists cellophane online at a very reasonable price and a roll will last you a long time if you are doing arrangements like this. You will need to cut a square that is bigger than your container  and then push it in to the centre.

Trim any excess cellophane so that you can’t see the cellophane from outside the pot and then fill it with water. If you are using jam jars or glass vases then you can simply fill these with water, there is no need to line them.

Step 3 – Pick the foliage and flowers

Enjoy picking flowers and foliage that you would like to use from your garden or forage from the hedgerows. Do this in advance of arranging your flowers because the longer you can leave them to condition in water, the longer your arrangement will last.

When picking flowers and foliage it is important to use a sharp pair of scissors or secators and cut the stem at an angle to allow the most water to penetrate. As soon as you have cut them you need to put the stem in a bucket of fresh water  and leave it to stand in that for as long as possible before arranging them in to your pots.

Start by adding your foliage
Start by adding your foliage

Step 4 – ‘Green up’ your pots

I always start with my foliage first because it provides the base for your flowers and holds them in place. I use a lot of foliage in my arrangements to recreate the natural look of an English country garden. Before you add the foliage to your arrangement you need to trim any low lying leaves that will fall below the water line as this will keep your arrangement looking fresher for longer.

In this arrangement I have used Alba Rugosa Roses as foliage because they are beautiful even when not in bloom and Ribes which is a flowering current that doesn’t grow fruit but produces wonderful flowers in Spring.

Try not to pack it too tightly with foliage; you need enough structure to support your flowers, particularly if you are using large headed flowers like peonies, but you also need enough flexibility to fit your flowers in to the arrangement and for some air to circulate. 

Start to build in some colour
Start to build in some colour

Step 5 – Start to build in some colour

When you are happy with the balance of your foliage you can start to build in some colour with delicate blooms such as Fever Few to fill in the gaps in the foliage, which I have added here along with Sage Flowers to bring a beautiful purple hue around the edges.


Step 6 – Add statement flowers

In this arrangement I have used Roses as my large, statement flowers but you could chose any large flower heads such as peonies, hydrangeas, sunflowers, whatever you have in your garden right now.

Francesca adds statement flowers to a bouquet
Add statement flowers

If using Roses then always cut them at a node where the flower stem meets a leaf and always trim at an angle. Again trim off any low level leaves that would go in the water and look for flower buds that are just about to open and maybe one or two that are already in bloom.

This will help your arrangement look beautiful for longer and you can just snip out any flowers that start to look past their best.

I don’t stick to any rules with regards to stem amounts, I go by my eye as I always try to maintain the just picked, haphazard look, so each arrangement is never the same, just natural.

Step 7 – Finish with delicate seasonal blooms

Once you have added your large statement flowers, you can start to fill in any remaining gaps with some more delicate seasonal flowers to add variation in colour. Here I have used Salvia, a wonderfully scented flower that is part of the sage family.

Finish with delicate seasonal blooms says Francesca Sharp Flowers
Finish with delicate seasonal blooms

I have also added Everlasting Sweet Pea which is a perennial and not scented like the annual Sweet Pea varieties, but equally as beautiful. There are also some phlox which has beautifully scented small white flowers.

These are both perfect for filling in any gaps in your arrangement because they have small flowers but add lovely colour. 

Step 7 – Plump up the volume

When you are happy with the balance of your arrangement and have filled in any gaps; you have almost fininshed. The final step is to lift your arrangement from underneath to plump it up and add the natural volume back in to the foliage which may have been squashed while you were arranging the flowers. 

Group flower arrangements advises Francesca Sharp Flowers
Your finished arrangements will look beautiful grouped together on the table

Now your centerpiece is ready to display on your garden table or inside if you wish to bring a sense of the outside in. If I am having a garden party then I will usually create a few arrangements of various sizes to display along the middle of the large table and maybe a few smaller pots to have on some side tables where people might rest their drinks. 

Create a smaller potted arrangement

If you are making some smaller pots to go alongside your large arrangement then you will need to follow exactly the same steps but using smaller varieties and single stems of foliage and flowers to ensure the balance is right. 

Make flower arrangements with Francesca Sharp Flowers
Use smaller cuts of foliage for mini arrangements

Here I have used small pieces of Ribes foliage. If you cut at a node, the point above where a leaf joins the stem, then you can get several pieces from one large stem of foliage and make it go further in your small arrangements. I have also used sprigs of Rosemary for scent, texture and also for structure as it stands upright and is quite firm so can support the flowers for longer. 

Fennel is lovely in smaller arrangements thanks to its zingy bright yellow colour. I have used it here as it has a lovely texture and helps to add variation in the green tones of the foliage. 

Orlaya are delicate white annual flowers that I grow from seed each year, they look so beautiful in small arrangements as do sweet peas because their small flowers always have such vibrant colours and the scent is unmistakable.

Francesca Sharp Flowers use delicate flowers in smaller arrangements
Take joy in smaller arrangements using delicate flowers

Cornflowers also work wonderfully in small arrangements, the bright blue flowers add a shot of colour and the great thing about cornflowers is that the more you cut them, the more they grow! 

Use your eye to ensure the arrangement is balanced, and try to use co-ordinating colours if you are displaying them alongside the larger centrepiece arrangement so that the whole look is tied together. 

Come along to a flower arranging workshop

Throughout the year I run seasonal flower arranging workshops from my home in Wishanger near Farnham, Surry. The next dates will be 13th and 14th September when you can create a beautiful Autumn arrangement to take home. If you would like to find out more then visit the workshops page or contact me on or call 07710 914420.

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