DIY Wedding Flowers

DIY wedding flowers

Well, my third wedding is in the books. Not my own personal third wedding but the third one that I arranged floral decorations for. I must say I absolutely love this creative side of my business. DIY wedding flowers can be a bit stressful but I use lists, lots of lists, to keep myself organized and on schedule.

This last wedding was my niece’s. The venue was in my brother’s backyard, located a little over an hour from my home. That meant everything was created here, then transported there. That’s always a challenge, especially when fresh flowers are best just that…fresh. I do love a challenge!

Succulent and Driftwood Planters for DIY Wedding Flowers

I know that my niece loves succulents. Way back last fall when perusing Pinterest for succulent wedding decor, I fell in love with some succulent driftwood planters viewed there. I had a feeling she would love them too; they made the to-do list.

Propagating Succulents

Propagating (producing new plants from old ones) succulents is very easy to do and can save tons of money. Simply lay a petal from an old plant on a shallow bowl of soil (the chunky kind made especially for cacti and succulents), spritz it with water daily and it will sprout baby plants! When they develop a few petals each, transplant each new baby plant (very gently) to a tiny pot of its own. At this stage, water much less frequently, once every 2 weeks should be plenty.

These were started last fall and took about six months to get to this size. These grew almost too big (heavy) and were difficult to keep them attached to the driftwood in the later stage, more on that later.

DIY wedding flowers

Of course, if you don’t want to try your hand at propagating succulents, you can purchase them instead.

Driftwood Planters

Last month I went in search of driftwood pieces. A kind stranger answered my request on Kijiji informing me of a great place to find lots of it, for free. I just had to collect it.

This driftwood collection became an outing with my adventure-loving, 6-year-old grandson, although he was upset that I might be stealing the home of a frog, snake, toad, or other creature. Point taken, we did make sure nothing was inhabiting my selections before we loaded them into my van. We did have to work around a thunderstorm passing through the area.

After the driftwood sat on my back deck drying out for a week, I drilled holes in it, spaces for the succulents to root (quite a messy procedure) then added moss and various shapes and sizes of succulents.

Two weeks later, with frequent spritzes of water to keep the moss wet, the succulents had perked up and rooted into the drilled holes. They looked awesome on the tables around the wedding venue and were a huge hit. We ended up giving the driftwood pieces to guests to take home.

Large Planters for DIY Wedding Flowers

The original plan was to hollow out several logs for me to fill with plants but that proved to be too difficult. Instead, I filled inserts that fit into fake birch bark containers (from my houseplants) and tall black planters that my son had stored in his garage.

The last time I filled large containers for wedding decor I used annuals only. This time, the center of the inserts were planted with ferns for the shade and ornamental grasses for sunny spots a month before the wedding. This enabled the “thrillers” to fill out. Ground covers like sweet woodruff, lamium, periwinkle, sedge, and perennial geraniums were added to the perimeter of each container for the spillers. Next, annuals within the bride’s bohemian-themed colour palette were added for the fillers. Tall, spiky blue lyme grass seed heads (that faded obligingly to a wheat colour) as well as branches of euonymus and smoke tree, were added next. The final touch was fresh flowers in plastic water tubes. Gorgeous!


Two days prior to the wedding I put together the boutineers. They too were created from succulents which survive longer out of water, so could be made earlier than the corsages and bouquet.

Using succulents was a bit tricky as they have no stem. I removed the roots, then stuck a piece of floral wire through the base of the succulent, creating a stem. Then I played around with various leaves for a backdrop to the succulent. When I was satisfied with the arrangement, I wrapped the wire with floral tape. The easiest way to do this is to hold the boutineer upside down and spin it with one hand while stretching and applying the tape with the other. Floral tape is only sticky when it is stretched.

After the boutineers were assembled, each one was placed in a ziplock baggie, filled with air, sealed, then stored in my basement where they can chill for a few days.

Corsages and Bouquet

The corsages and bouquet were assembled the day before the wedding. Fresh flowers and foliage were collected in the morning (not too early so flowers no longer had dew on them) and then sat in water for three hours before the assembling began. Both the corsages and bouquet were simply in style and design as requested by the bride, so fairly easy to create.

For both the corsages and bouquet, it is easier to start with the foliage. Arrange it according to size, colour, texture, and shape in your hand. It helps to do this in front of a mirror so you can see what they will look like, especially the bouquet.

When you are happy with the arrangement of the foliage, start adding the flowers. These DIY wedding flowers were easy to make as they contained just a few flowers each. Again, arrange the flowers so the shape, texture, colour etc is spread out. For example, don’t place all the spiky flowers together, intersperse them between the rounder ones. When you are happy with their arrangement, attach an elastic at the base of the flower heads to hold them together. Then add ribbon, winding from top to bottom as explained with the boutineers. (One hand spins the bouquet while the other hand guides the ribbon). You can leave the stems bare too with a small piece of ribbon where it will be held.

Late to the Party

Much like the predicament when arranging flowers for my son’s wedding, several of my planned options did not pan out. I started dahlias indoors in plenty of time but our frosty spring delayed their transition to outdoors. As a result, they bloomed two weeks late.

Unfortunately, the pale pink and peachy beauties in my rose garden suffered the same fate.

Thank heavens for generous neighbours and clients who were willing to let me choose other options from their gardens. These were stunning in tiny green vases on cocktail tables as well as larger vases around the event. Several were also tucked into water tubes within the large containers, and others were used in the bride’s bouquet and mothers’ corsages.

Hits and Misses

As mentioned, I let the succulents grow too large, so they were sufficient to secure in place. I used">greening pinsgreening pins and hot glue on the surrounding moss to try to hold them in place">greening pins. These efforts were somewhat successful but the project would have been easier with smaller succulents. Deeper holes in the driftwood would require thicker, sturdier pieces. Lessons learned!

I did have some tinier succulents from my cottage garden that worked well.

DIY wedding flowers

The perennials and annuals I planted early (grasses, ferns, sedge, lamium, sweet woodruff, periwinkle, chrysanthemums, dusty miller) all filled out nicely.

The unrooted euonymus branches survived for several weeks but the smoke tree ones barely lasted through the wedding weekend, and sadly the Black lace elderberry did not last more than an hour. This was disappointing as it was so pretty on my shrub.

Black Lace Elderberry

As mentioned above, the seed heads of the Blue Lyme grass were awesome and still going strong (on my front veranda) three weeks later, even though the stems are just poked into the soil with no roots. Impressive

Amazing Peony Hack

I learned of a clever trick for peonies just a few days before the wedding. Pick the unopened blooms when the size of a marshmallow, (I tried smaller buds but they were not as successful) remove the bottom leaves, wrap them in newspaper individually, and store them in a sealed plastic baggy in the fridge. Remove as many as you need a few hours before you want them to open, put them in water, and wait for the magic….amazing! Apparently, you can store unopened peonies this way for months! Who knew?

I think that’s it for this episode of DIY wedding flowers. These endeavors were definitely labours of love that I would not take on for just anyone. All three brides are easy-going, and not in the least bit fussy. In other words, I could not handle the pressure of creating anything for a bridezilla.

I would though be happy to answer any questions for any of you willing to give any of these DIY projects a try.

Contrasting Colours in Gardens and Containers

step out of your comfort zone

Contrasting colours rather than complementary ones make a bigger impact in your garden. Most people tend to opt for complementing colors when choosing plants. I always tell my clients remember, you are not wearing the plants, they do not have to match!

Choose colours that are opposite (not next to) each other on the colour wheel (as pictured above) to create some drama.

Use Colour Contrasts in Containers Too

I love using coleus in containers for the wide range of contrasting colour in their foliage. Straight from the nursery, choose from the many options in contrasting colour combinations within the same plant! The chartreuse green of creeping jenny or sweet potato vines make the red tones of the coleus pop in your creations:

For full sun containers, I tend to go for purple, pink, red, blue and yellow for the “fillers” and “spillers.” Their bright colours look so summery and vivid against the various shades of green which are perfect backdrops for “thrillers” and additional “spillers.”

Choose Perennials with Contrasting Flower Colours but the Same Bloom Time

When choosing perennials for your garden beds, instead of picking matching colours, try selecting contrasting colours in plants that bloom at the same time. For example, this yellow ligularis in front of a purple clematis creates a much more eye-catching scenario than two yellow or two purple plantings.

contrasting colours
ligularis and clematis

Another great example in my yard is my collection of daylilies I have in a raised bed at the side of my house. From dark wine-red to pale peach, they are contrasting yet compliment each other beautifully!

Foliage with Contrasting Colours

Another trick to make individual plants stand out is to place contrasting foliage colours next to or in front of each other. An example here is the leaves of a purple smoke tree (that just had a haircut so will soon be much taller) behind (right now it looks like it’s inside) the bright green leaves of a hydrangea.

contrasting colours
purple smoke tree and hydrangea

Try some new contrasting combinations in your garden to create some drama. Be sure to send me pictures of your combinations.

Remember, forget the matchy-matchy look, you are not wearing the plants!

Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers

When designing summer, autumn, or winter containers be sure to follow the thrillers, fillers, and spillers rule for maximum effect. The “thriller” is the center, tallest plant. The spillers go around the perimeter of the pot; choose ones that sprawl “spill” over the edges. The fillers go in between the thrillers and the spillers to fill in the bare spots.

photo credit

Annuals or Perennials?

Most people choose annuals over perennials for their summer containers. That’s because annuals bloom all summer until frost kills them off. Perennials, on the other hand, bloom for two weeks on average, if you’re lucky. You can use a combination of both for your thrillers, fillers, and spillers. For example, perennial ornamental grasses make an awesome, inexpensive (dig a clump up from your garden) “thriller” (center) for containers.

Sun or Shade?

When designing your container, be sure to take its intended location into consideration. Some plants (both annuals and perennials) like full sun, others full shade, with others somewhere in between. Don’t try to combine these different requirements in the same container. If you do, some will thrive, and others will fizzle.

You can probably tell from these pictures that coleus and hibiscus are my favourite annuals for shade and sun containers respectively….


Containers of annuals can be fertilized weekly right up until frost. This practice will keep the annuals looking cheerful as long as possible. Perennials need less fertilizer, especially those in garden beds when monthly is ideal up until August (in zone 4/5).

Deadheading and Pinching

Deadheading, or removing spent blossoms, helps to keep your containers looking nice all season. For annuals and perennials with flowers on stalks, remove the stalk right back to the first set of leaves after the flower has passed its peak. This practice often encourages repeat blooming. Others just need the faded flowers picked off.

Pinching the center of annuals and perennials encourages them to get bushier instead of leggy.

Frost Warnings

While annuals will be affected by frost, most perennials will not. Some annuals tolerate a light frost, others not so much. Of course, the first frost date varies across the globe, sometimes year to year within the same area.

In other words, frost is unpredictable.

Perennials can overwinter in your containers if you choose plants two zones hardier than what is normally hardy in your area. Otherwise, you can stick them in the ground to overwinter, to use again the following spring.

You can extend the season on both ends by heeding frost warnings in your weather forecast. In the spring I tend to start my containers early to ensure I get the annuals I want. If a frost warning is issued, I move the containers into my garage, off the (cold) cement floor, for the night in question. The same technique can be used in the fall when a sporadic early frost is in the forecast.

Once frost has set in for several days, you are fighting a lost cause. It’s then time to switch your concentration to fall or winter containers. Use the same thrillers, fillers, and spillers technique to create unique designs…