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How to Create a Ruffled Flower Centerpiece

by Grace Bonney

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I have unashamedly used this blog post to indulge in some of the more blousy, romantic and ruffle-y florals. I’m aware that the term “ruffle-y” may well not exist, but I have permitted its use with the fickle excuse that perhaps the English dictionary hasn’t yet published quite the right word for these beauties.

Year after year in our little flower shop, future brides come to talk wedding flowers and a great proportion ask for their favorites: “Peonies” and “ranunculus.” Unfortunately more often than not, these fleeting flowers won’t be available simultaneously on their big day. There’s just one short, magical season when both exist together and I thought I should shout it out loud!

Ranunculus are in fact my all-time favorite flower, but I would never say this in front of the others. They appear at the start of winter as a cut flower, through to early summer when they join their larger headed peony friends. I love their delicate layers of papery petals, their little furry black centers and the huge array of varying colors available. They bend the opposite way than you hope for and their heads will become too heavy for their hollow, slimy-thin stems; but all is forgiven for the hues, tones and overall gorgeousness they give to an arrangement.

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Peonies are little divas when they are deciding to open, which is befitting their meaning, “king of the flowers.” Hot water, sunlight, removing all leaves and teasing open the buds can all help, but ultimately they will do what the heck they want. When you need them to “wow” at your dinner party on Saturday, you can be sure they’ll be the best looking peonies you ever saw the following Tuesday. That said, if you give them the time they need, varieties such as coral charm will slowly open from a hot, rich, blinding pink through to a soft blush and finally to a creamy peach, fleshy tone. It is wonderful and absurd to watch and very much reminds me of an Anaïs Nin quote that inspires me regularly: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

My two favorite ways to arrange these voluptuous florals are as follows! —Anna Potter of Swallows & Damsons

Photos by India Hobson

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A simple, clean container, one main color palette and some foraged foliage. Loosely arranged, focusing on the stunning, simple beauty of these flowers. Layers upon layers of ruffle-y petals, all with varying size and hues, make for a rich, luscious texture explosion.


The soft and blousy nature of the peony, ranunculus and garden roses contrast against the architectural Fritillaria Persica, wild scrappy foliages and vines. This combination creates a more moody, theatrical and natural arrangement.

Inspired by the colors found in the flowers, I laid a table to complement their hues. I used a variety of candles, vases, fruits and vessels to design an ombré effect running down the center — such a pleasure to create.

I am utterly grateful for this time of year when the flowers themselves make it easy to create such a dramatic, indulgent aesthetic.

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