Creating Spontaneous Flower Arrangements in Your Backyard

Not long after florist Gayle Nicoletti designed the wedding flowers for Cupcakes and Cashmere’s Emily Schuman last spring, she held a workshop that focused on a more informal theme: how to make bouquets from the things growing in your backyard—or rather, in her backyard.

Ms. Nicoletti invited a group of 20 women to her Mill Valley, CA home the other day for a lesson in creating spontaneous flower arrangements. Here are some of her secrets:

Photographs by Kathleen Harrison.

Above: “Walk around your garden and snip flowers and herbs, and think of the arrangement you’re about to make as a physical representation of that garden—what grows together? What’s tall, and what’s short?” says Ms. Nicoletti. From her garden: scabiosa pods (R), decorative kale (L), and succulents, including her favorite echeveria ‘Metallica’ (“ I love the shape, like a rose, and that color —a hint of pink”).

Above: Ms. Nicoletti with a flat of Sagina subulata (Scotch Moss) that she bought at Green Jeans Garden Supply in Mill Valley; it’s widely available at nurseries. Ms. Nicoletti uses it to completely fill the surface of a planter to create a simple arrangement that looks like a tabletop lawn.

Above: A spool of bind wire, made in France and purchased at the San Francisco Flower Mart. A 70-foot spool of Bark Colored Wire is $8.49 from Afloral. Ms. Nicoletti uses a heavier green wire—such as Paddle Wire ($1.89 per spool from Afloral) to pierce the stem of the succulent; she twists the green wire like a pipe cleaner and attaches it to the viburnum stem.

Above: Dahlias from Ms. Nicoletti’s garden. They’re ‘Jersey’s Beauty,‘ an heirloom dahlia from the 1920s; bulbs are three for $39.50 from Old House Gardens.

Above: The finished bouquet, in a wide-mouthed mason jar, also includes roses, miller, and buddleia from Ms. Nicoletti’s garden. For beginners, Ms. Nicoletti recommends: “Keep it simple: limit yourself to two or three different flowers and two different foliages.”

Also on Gardenista: Small-Scale Gardening in San Francisco.


Louis Olivencia
Lou Olive5 years ago

NO "Artificial Food Dyes" belong in any foods...Lets fight to get rid of them!

Penny Bacon
.5 years ago

Very nice, I love the moss, thanks.

rene davis
irene davis5 years ago


Gloria Ortega

Gracias por compartirlo.

John B.
John B5 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

John S.
Past Member 5 years ago


Monica D.
Monica D5 years ago

Thank you, some nice photos here.

Miranda Parkinson


Jean Wall
Jean Wall5 years ago


Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson5 years ago

What a wonderful idea, thanks for sharing.