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all photos: Jeff Martin, all flower styling: Taffy Floral

Flower arranging is a lost art. While there’s nothing wrong with running to Safeway to pick up a cold bunch of flowers on the fly (in fact, one of the arrangements below is done COMPLETELY with grocery store bought flowers), there’s something way more personal and complex about flowers you’ve picked out yourself. And winter weather seems to provide yet another layer of challenge to the task. But it is, at the same time, the season we maybe need flowers in our home THE MOST.

Not to mention that they make wonderful hostess and holiday gifts.

So, as part of our “make your life more beautiful this holiday season” motivational process, we sat down with Michelle Samson, founder of D.C.’s very own Taffy Floral to talk about seasonal arrangements (she created four easy-enough-to-try-at-home sets for this story), taking care of your flowers,  and general pro tips.

BYT: What role do you think flowers play in day to day life?
Taffy Floral: I think flowers give life to everything from making people happy in general to adding color to decor in a room. Flowers are living things so they also gradually, slowly wilt away which I think looks beautiful. I usually leave my flowers out until they have completely dropped..enjoying them while I can. I think flowers are about enjoying things while they last, then letting go.

BYT: Can you give us a brief description and inspiration of the 4 arrangements each
TF: 1. Grocery store flowers. This composition consists of  hydrangea, garden roses, tulips, snapdragons, stock, lismachia, delphinium, alstromeria, kale, cedar and Carolina sapphire. I wanted to show people that 1) You can find amazing flowers at the grocery store. These flowers are from Harris Teeter and Whole Foods, and 2) You don’t need to stick with the traditional red and green color palette for holiday arrangements. I made it look wintry by adding the evergreens like cedar.

2. Neutral composition. This composition consists of ranunculus, paper whites, lisianthus, ladies slipper, trick dianthus, viburnum, cedar, Carolina sapphire, seeded eucalyptus and foraged autumn clematis vine and pods. This is a garden-style piece with a moody, organic feel. I used different types of white flowers with different shapes and texture.

3. Japanese-inspired. This composition consists of two types of amaryllis and  kalanchoe. This piece was inspired by Japanese or ikebana-style arrangements which are very simple and sculptural. I stayed with one type of flower for the focal flower and one color palette. I feel like ikebana is a dying art form. Most of the people who are masters at this style are older. I would like to master this style at some point and bring it back!

4. Minimalist. These are ilex or winterberry branches. This is a very simple composition using only branches. The red berries give the arrangement “pop”.

What are some of the things you love about working with flowers in the winter and what are some of the challenges?
Evergreen foliage! It smells so good. My favorite is Carolina sapphire. The only challenges really is the availability of certain items although there are still plenty of flowers to choose from like hellebores, kale and peonies. My favorite combination right now is kumquat branches mixed with paper whites and dark green foliage like camellia foliage.

Where do you usually flower shop? 
I try to source my flowers locally from local flower farms. Sometimes I purchase through wholesale for hard to find items (like ladies slipper). Rose Story Farm in California is one of my favorites for heirloom garden roses. I keep a list of local gardeners because sometimes they grow items that I can’t buy cut either locally or through wholesale. I also forage for certain items. Last week I found autumn clematis, which you normally cannot buy cut, growing next to a construction site which I used for a project. My favorite part of the job? The find. Sometimes it is that one random, perfectly arched piece that makes the composition.

A lot of people are intimidated by making more-than-two-types-of-plant arrangements … are there any natural winter plant combinations which can be a shortcut?
One idea is to group a simple flower arrangement with plants like cyclamen or rosemary and even succulents which are pretty easy to find right now. You can place the plants in birch bark vessels which are perfect for the holiday season.

Any other PRO tips?
Foraging for flowers and foliage is pretty popular these days. Make sure you clean the flowers and foliage you cut from outside especially if it is being used on the dinner table. You don’t want spiders or ants in your food!

One rule I like to break is mixing flowers and fruit. You normally would not want to have fruit near flowers. Fruit emits ethylene gas which ages cut flowers. I love using fruit especially for tablescapes. My favorites right now are figs, pomegranates and blood oranges. If you want to use fruit in your arrangement, take a barbecue skewer and skewer on to the bottom of the fruit. Cut shorter if needed. The skewer acts as a stem. You can use this same trick with succulents too.

You teach workshops on flower arrangements, when are some of the next ones?
I am currently planning for 2016. I plan to have another floral arranging and painting workshop. Floral arranging and painting always seem to go hand-in-hand and they are both pretty relaxing. I think it would be neat to have some sort of edible flowers arrangement workshop in the summer time. Look out around Valentine’s Day. I don’t plan to have a workshop (yet) but am planning a cool project with a local designer. Stay tuned!