You may have admired them from afar, taken a workshop for fun or tried your hand at them yourself – but one thing we can all agree on is that creating beautiful, sumptuous floral arrangements is a challenge.

Every artfully-arranged mix of blooms is the result of years of training and dedication, and requires an eye for even the subtlest detail. But where does one even begin learning? Florist Yi Lian of Yi Lian Ng Floral Atelier, who holds private floral workshops, shares tips on how to approach this art as well as her secrets to keeping your blooms fresh for longer.

How do you choose the right vase for flowers, and is there such a thing as a vase for all purposes?

I choose the vase before the flowers. The vase is a vessel with a fixed structure and form. Flowers are more fluid in terms of their shapes and movements. It’s easier to find the flowers that fit the vase instead of a vase for all purposes. 

What can we do to keep flowers fresh for longer, and is there any truth to the myth of adding a Panadol pill to the water to achieve that?

I haven’t tried that before, but I have tried adding soda water. Personally, sugar tends to keep certain flowers fresh for a bit longer. Of course, the best way to keep them fresh is to change the water daily and trim the stems about half an inch before adding them back into the new water. This prevents the stems from rotting. Also, keeping cut flowers away from direct sunlight and wind helps with shelf life. So does placing them in a cool environment. The lower the temperature, the better.

What blooms do you think will be popular this year?

Peonies and hydrangeas are always popular, but I see an increasing appreciation of traditionally under-appreciated and ‘weird’ flowers such as anthuriums and kangaroo paws.

What’s your personal favourite and how do you usually present it?

Aesthetically speaking, ranunculuses. Although they look great on their own, I also love mixing them with other small filler flowers that don’t steal the attention away from them.

One of the trends now is to use lots of foliage and dried branches in wild arrangements. How do we do that without making the arrangement look too messy?

Work with the flow and shape of the foliage and branches. Create a sense of fluidity and movement and an arrangement can look like an art installation.

What are three other things to consider when putting together an arrangement?

Firstly, affordability. Cut flowers can be really expensive here. Buying blooms from a wholesaler is cheaper than buying them at the supermarket and even the store in the market.

Shelf life is next. If you want your flowers to last, use flowers that have partially or hardly bloomed. When fully bloomed, which is when they are most beautiful, they usually start wilting after a day or two.

Finally, approach an arrangement from the perspective of colours.

What’s your take on using dried or preserved flowers?

I welcome them and use a lot of dried as well as preserved ones in my arrangements, especially for clients who want to keep them in their homes for a long time.

Any tip for choosing flowers at the wholesale flower markets?

Don’t just look at the blooms when evaluating freshness. Look through the transparent packaging at the leaves and stems and check for any rotting.

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