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The flowers, of course, are the stars of the show and combining the right colours, sizes and shapes should be your first step. A good arrangement will include one dominant design feature, whether that be colour, type of flower or shape (such as round or pointed flowers).
Roses, carnations, tulips and lilies often form the centre point of the arrangement - these single stem flowers provide the focus from which you can balance your design.
Tall-stemmed flowers behind your single blooms will add depth and height while small, multiple buds fill out the arrangement - transitions between the sizes of the flowers keeps the design in proportion.
Important too is foliage as it creates green space between colours, and adds texture and density to the design as well as creating contrast.
The container that you choose should not clash with the flowers, either in size or shape. As a general rule, the vase should be roughly half the height of your finished arrangement.
Hold your stems under warm water and cut at a 45 degree angle, about one inch from the bottom. Leaves that will be under water should be removed.
If you are using floral foam, be sure to soak it first by dropping it into water, allowing it to soak up the moisture naturally. Be careful not to push the flowers in too far and, should they push through the foam, create a new hole rather than simply pull the flower back as the air left below will wilt your flowers sooner.
As you begin to add your stems, try to place open flowers at different angles and intersperse with different textures to add interest. The design should look stable so, although large blooms look best towards the bottom of the arrangement, these should be balance by lighter plants above.
Most importantly, stand back and look at your arrangement as you go - your eye will tell you when something looks unbalanced.
And don't be tempted to clutter your design - remember, less is more.