weeder’s digest: you do the math

Nicolette and I have been up to our ears teaching at the Little Flower School. Prerequisites abound. Geometry, for example; obviously REQUIRED. But we’re not talking about your average textbook Trig, we require advanced spherical trigonometry; and if you don’t know what that is, let’s just say it’s of utmost importance in the fields of astronomy, earth-surface/orbital and space navigation and floral arranging.

Got your pencil?…and excuse me, but is that gum you’re chewing?!

The average floral arrangement consists of what we describe as a string of “moments,” (clusters of 3 or 5 flowers that relate tonally or structurally and serve as general focal points) suspended – if you will – in the spacetime-floral-continuum, and illustrated in diagram 1.1. These moments can be seen from any given angle, and change as the perspective of the viewer rotates around the axis given as the center of the arrangement and are subject to infinite interpretation depending on the history and aesthetic predispositions of the onlooker [ex. 1: Carnations may remind some of a wrist corsage given at a first dance, velvet lycra, and C&C Music Factory. ex. 2: Lilly of the valley elicits memories of grandmothers in 79% of American women].

Such moments in general follow an organizational process that can be categorized simply by a theory of Triangles (as illustrated in diagram 1.0, and not to be confused with the concept of “love triangle” or with Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love ), the eye generally is drawn first to the widest base angle which we’ll call a, travels up along the a-b axis, pauses at the highest point or gesture B (a flower that perhaps extends a bit beyond), and then glides down the b-c axis. As illustrated in diagram 1.2, the arc formed between the…You know what, PASS THAT NOTE UP HERE RIGHT NOW.

Summing up, we remember that flowers grouped in odd numbers are generally easier on the eye. If you’re purchasing stems at a flower shop, buy 3 or 5 stems of ranunculus. Two stems grouped together often resemble antenna, unless you cut one significantly shorter than the other, thus mimicking the way flowers tend to grow in nature.

Now go forth and triangulate!

Note: Study arrangement contained: French Anemones, Lichen covered branches, Ranunculus, Yellow Cypress, Dusty Miller, Pine cones (wired), Astrantia, Seeded Eucalyptus, and Ranunculus buds.

  1. nina says:

    geometry never looked so pretty!

  2. LOVE this article and how it combines math and the art of flower arranging! Thanks for this great info… as someone who is always struggling to make my “homemade” arrangements look nice on my table, this is enlightening (I’m also a mechanical engineer, so I appreciate the diagrams).

  3. Green Key says:

    Reading this compelled me me go into my purse for some gum! Very fun!

  4. claire says:

    My favorite Weeder’s Digest post so far! Hilarious!

  5. faye says:

    ah so that’s how you do it! if only i was good at math.

  6. Janet says:

    This post made my day!

  7. Alix says:

    I had no idea there was MATH involved! I’ve been officially scared away from floral design for the rest of my life.

  8. Jo says:

    I hope there isn’t a pop quiz. Love this post.

  9. Jane says:

    If only my high school had approached advanced mathematics like this! I think I might just forward this post to my local school board.

  10. What a great post! Totally new information for me! Thanks for sharing!

  11. ha ..great….my wedding bouquet must have had plenty of maths as it looks similar to your pic

  12. allison says:

    call me gullible, but do florists REALLY use spherical geometry when making arrangements?? like, diagrams and all??
    cuz that would be cool.

  13. miss liss says:

    Such a fun post . . . now where is my sparkly gel pen so that I can take notes?

  14. Jessica says:

    oh dear, my little arrangments must really be suffering – I totally failed trig!

  15. Jessica says:

    … perhaps because my trig teacher actually made me wear my gum on my nose for an entire class

  16. Priya says:

    This is a such a great post and very true because I am always drawn to odd numbers of flowers arranged at different heights, that provide focal points for my eye and allowing it to travel on the ab axis. ;)

  17. Pins + Paper says:

    As an art educator – I thoroughly enjoyed this! Saving for later :)

    ~ Kristen

  18. Pam says:


  19. HS says:

    That’s why I can’t arrange flowers! I don’t have good math skills. Figures!

  20. Sarah says:

    The picture made me read the article, the article made me laugh out loud! Great post!

  21. Anna says:

    OMG love the post! Going to attempt my own wedding bouquet and find this helpful for what it’s worth. Plus, any post that mentions the C&C Music Factory rocks my face off!

  22. Annelies says:

    I had to pause when I saw the first paragraph of this post – my parish school growing up was actually called “Little Flower School”! What a delight!

  23. jennifer g says:

    space-time-floral continuum. hee.

  24. laughing out loud! i didn’t realize that my association of c&c music factory to carnations had anything to do with advanced mathematics… great post sarah!

    the same rules, but on a different scale, hold true for me in landscape design. planting in odd numbers is much more aesthetically pleasing…

  25. Linda says:

    I am an event designer florist and have used the term triangulation to describe the relationship of flowers to each other.
    Its actually a joke at the floral studio. Glad to finally know someone else understands!

  26. Maya says:

    Fascinating! My arrangements will improve now, I’m sure, and I understand why in Poland you ALWAYS buy an odd number of flowers, and all floral arrangements follow this rule. By the way, thanks for promoting “polish folk chandeliers”!

  27. Bernie says:

    too funny!!! This former Art teacher, and floral designer, might actually have done better at math if flowers were involved! Thanks for the chuckle.

  28. Yikes! However you did it…..it’s just other -worldly! Fantastic and beautiful!

  29. Lisa says:

    Love it! Maybe I can do a tolerable arrangement now

  30. Me says:

    Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe! I’ll go and read some more! What do you see the future of this being?

  31. Linda says:

    I loved this! I design jewelry, but my second love is floral arranging–but I never knew it could be so laugh-out-loud funny! Thanks.
    p.s. I’m an elementary teacher, so ple-e-ease spit out that gum, right now!

  32. Absolutely Brilliant!
    I laughed, I cried. Well done. :)

  33. Sarah says:

    Will you be my BFFs? I love this post so much. Makes me miss my grandmother (she was a florist). She would have adored this arrangement. xo

  34. Beautiful post. Stunning arrangement + great advice! XO!

  35. no1uno says:

    incredible post. Nonfloral people can just extrapolate these principles and precepts to the interior design and architecture of the rest of the world.

  36. WOW ! COOL! i actually really like how that looks with the math overlapped on top.

  37. Cyth says:

    Very cool post. However, being a wee bit right brained you lost me with the math. Was that “triangulation=strangulation”? Whether it was or not , I choked right there. But the arrangement,the colors, shapes,textures AND the Lily of the Valley got me right in the heart

  38. shel says:

    love your post. As a designer & gardener, I appreciate you applying the visual arrangement to trigonometry. Very fun, thanks!

  39. alisa says:

    The best post ever. I demand more! Adding floral to the spacetime continuum makes it make sense! and adding the spacetime continuum to the floral makes it reliable. Thank you!

  40. Norine says:

    thrilled to have you back posting. You are my flower crush.


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