The Perfect Tulip Bouquet
Floral designer Michael George’s style has been imitated but rarely mastered by other florists. His technique is clean, simple, and monochromatic. It is a technique he has refined over the past 40 years of being a florist. For many of Michaels’ arrangements, like this one, the stem is as important as the flowers.
Use a rectangular vase that is approximately 6 inches by 4 inches by 3 inches. You will need at least 40 tulips or four bunches in order to create this very sculptural design.
First, cut one-half inch off the bottom of the stems, and place them in a bucket of cold water leaving the wrapping paper on. The flowers need to be hydrated immediately as they have often been without water for long periods of time. Keeping the wrapping paper on helps make the tulips stand upright.
After the tulips have spent at least one hour in the water, take them out of the bucket, unwrap them, and lay them out on a clean worktable.
Clean the tulips by carefully pulling off all the lower leaves and most of the leaves near the head, letting the small leaves just below the head stay attached. Tulips can often be quite dirty so you might want to dip them again in a bucket of clean cold water.
After you have cleaned all the tulips, lay them flat on the worktable, and make a pile of tulips about eight tulips wide. When you place the tulips on the pile, put the stems that are leaning toward the right on the right side, and the straight stems in the middle.
Make sure that all the tulips are the same length by measuring the tops with the palm of your hand.
Hold onto the tulips with one hand and then slide a knife under them so that you care able to pick them up with both hands in a bunch.
Gently place a see-through rubber band around the stems to hold them rightly. The rubber band should be about four to five inches below the heads. You may want to have someone else hold the tulips while you do this. Make sure that the rubber band is not twisted.
Lay the tulips back on the table with the flowers hanging off the side of the table so they don’t crush. Then with the knife make a clean cut several inches up the stems.
Then pick up the tulips and hold the stems in both hands. Twist the stems one way with your hands on the base and the other way with your hands near the flowers.
Carefully check to see that the tulips are all the same height and symmetrical, with none of the flowers sticking their heads up above the others. If they are out of alignment, you can pull or push them gently up or down by the stems. The tulips should all be facing outwards.
Test the length of the bouquet by putting it in the vase. You may need to clean the vase after this since tulips may still be quite sandy. The tulip stems should be at a maximum of 2 inches above the vase. Here, you will probably have to make two cuts. Make the first cut conservatively so you do not accidentally make the tulips too short. Make the second cut so that the tulips are the length that looks right. Then, when you are sure you have the correct length, make the final cut.
Adapted from The Art of Floral Arranging, by Eileen W. Johnson (Gibbs Smith, 2007).