Former White House chief floral designer Laura Dowling was working out of her kitchen as a part-time florist when she won the gig that had her creating vibrant arrangements for the Obamas for six years. Now, the author of the recently released book Floral Diplomacy at the White House is coming to town during Boston Design Week for AD20/21, which will have her leading a demonstration and discussion at the Cyclorama on April 9. But first, she picked us a bunch of her go-to tips.
On selecting flowers: Focus on the season and take advantage of the flowers that are available at the farmers market, or even grocery store, now. Think about the ones that grow together in the garden—for example, this time of year, daffodils and tulips, peonies and roses. If it grows together in the garden, it’s always a good mix.
On adding drama: Flowering branches are a simple way to create impact. You can get a very architectural line using forsythia or tulip magnolia.
On placement: Focus on key areas of the house. Even just putting a spring wreath on the door is a way to signal that you’re acknowledging the season.
On staying power: I love the idea of working in a vase just full of water—the flowers last longer that way—and developing an underlying structure of greens. You know how sometimes flowers can fall over or flop over, especially if they’re not the freshest? Well, if you have a base of greens as the support structure, the flowers actually are held up and last much longer.
On learning from a pro: For me, it was really life-changing and so important to take a flower class. I took a class in Paris, learned a couple of techniques for arranging flowers and then could really use that knowledge to build on that and develop my own style, my own aesthetic.
On hitting the books: There are so many great books on flower arranging techniques. …You can even go back to the golden era of the garden club in the 1950s and find used books that have so many ideas about principles of design. I think the more you learn and the deeper you get into it, the more interesting it gets because you start working with color, harmony and balance, and form and shape. All these elements of design, like any other artistry, come into play with floristry.