Flower School

A Practical Guide to the Art of Flower Arranging


By Calvert Crary

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  1. Hardcover $32.00 $40.00 CAD
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 10, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Create the flower arrangements of your dreams to keep at home, take to the office, or display on any special occasion using the simple tips and tricks and masterful techniques taught by Executive Director and professor Calvert Crary and the master florists at FlowerSchool New York.

FlowerSchool New York is one of the world’s premiere institutes for floral design and artistry, offering career development courses certified by the New York State Board of Education, and exclusive master class programs taught by celebrated master florists including Kiana Underwood, Remco Van Vliet, Lewis Miller, Emily Thompson, and Ingrid Carozzi.

Now, for the first time, FlowerSchool Executive Director Calvert Crary is publishing a book that will make it possible for even the greenest at-home arrangers to create gorgeous, Instagram worthy bouquets. This hands-on, comprehensive guide provides readers with step-by-step instructions that cover all the most crucial aspects of flower arranging, including:
  • How to buy the best flowers and how to get the best prices
  • Selecting your flowers based on texture, color, and seasonality
  • Conditioning your flowers to ensure they last as long as possible
  • Pairing your flowers with the right vase
  • Creating arrangements in a wide variety of styles that will work for any occasion

Including advice from the school’s well-respected master florists, and featuring beautiful color photographs of each unique arrangement, Flower School offers invaluable, insider tips and tricks that can only be gained through years of experience, providing readers with the fundamental tools and education they need to create homemade floral arrangements that are on par with any professional design.


FlowerSchool Master Florist Lewis Miller adds embellishments to an arrangement while teaching a class at FlowerSchool in New York.

What Makes a Master Florist

The word “master” gets thrown around with regularity regarding crafts and trades. Master carpenter, master painter, master cobbler, master colorist, and, yes, master florist. But what does it mean to be a master florist?

FlowerSchool does not take the title Master Florist lightly. A true master is a master of many aspects of doing flowers, not only the technical aspects of making a flower arrangement. FlowerSchool Master Florists are able to build inspiring concepts based on past experience, client expectations, art, culture, and essentially defining the seasons. They must be able to gather, train, and prepare the perfect team in order to execute their projects to stunning result. Master Florists are floral designers who have a unique artistic vision combined with knowledge of flowers and a deep grounding in the fundamental mechanics of working with cut flowers. Master Florists must be conversant with the life cycle of flowers, cognizant of the past history of floral art, and able to channel the future in terms of floral artistry. Master Florists can visualize a style and make a creative statement that is unique to their own particular vision.

One of our more advanced students at FlowerSchool in New York works on creating a large statement arrangement.

The FlowerSchool prerequisites for being a Master Florist are deceptively few but difficult to achieve. We require a minimum number of years in the business with a company that has a well-trained staff who can execute that company’s vision without fail and that has a superior aesthetic vision regarding color, form, and design. As anyone who has accomplished this knows, it takes a huge amount of ambition, dedication, and passion to achieve a mastery of any craft, and flower arranging is no different.

A young woman approached the school one day asking for a teaching position at FlowerSchool. As we do with all eager industry people, our team sat down to meet with her. The conversation ranged over a wide variety of topics: inspiration, workflow, and so on. At some point, we asked how long she had been working. “Four years,” she replied. Weddings had been her main focus, so we asked how many weddings she had done flowers for in a typical year; “six to seven per year,” she answered. Realistically, 24–28 weddings a Master Florist does not make! Not to say that this young woman was not competent; in fact, her work was quite beautiful. But in order to really educate others from a position of authority, a Master Florist must have worked on hundreds, if not thousands, of weddings and events, working with all types of customers. After all, would you let a beautician cut your hair after giving only 24–28 haircuts?

FlowerSchool Master Florist Oscar Mora helps students learn to create arrangements of all shapes, sizes, and, in this case, heights.

Another indication of mastery is having a well-trained, permanent staff, not one made up of freelancers. This indicates that the company, or designer, contributes to a technical training program for their employees, so that they understand the company’s style and are able to expertly and consistently execute that style. Further, you can tell if a company’s or designer’s style is worthy of being taught by their success in adequately training their staff. Florists who specialize in a style, develop a workflow, and pass that on to their employees are florists who have perfected their craft. These are the artists who have the most to teach.

There are many great designers, but like a great painting, a brilliant poem, or a particularly superb slice of cake, when mastery is achieved, it stands alone. Anyone can become a florist or floral designer with a steady dose of ambition, passion, and vision. But in order to become a master, you must also be able to manipulate the flowers to create a heightened level of beauty, no matter where the flowers have come from. You may not always have the products you want. Actually, you never do. But Master Florists are able to use whatever products they have on hand to make something gorgeous.

Simply put, the whole needs to be greater than the sum of all its parts. This greater whole is achieved by using every element in an arrangement in the most creative way possible. Further, in order to be a FlowerSchool Master Florist, you must also be a superior educator who is friendly and supportive, with a commitment to teaching and mentoring.

Becoming a florist is now a common career path that typically begins with an apprenticeship, similar to the way that chefs often begin their careers working in low-level positions in the “back of the house” at a great restaurant. By watching a great chef cook, they learn and work their way up through the ranks to the front of the house. The world of flowers is not dissimilar. In fact, Remco Van Vliet, who creates the famous flower arrangements for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, is often asked by the museum to put the finishing touches on his arrangements in view of the public so people can see how he works. Watching the process of a master as they work is one of the most wonderful parts about being a florist, and it is an essential part of the learning process.

The apprentice relationship is at the center of what it takes to be a great florist—learning the artistry and techniques of those who have come before you. As you work your way through this book, think of yourself as an apprentice. By the time you’ve finished reading this book, you should have the skills required to strike out on your own and create your own designs.

What You Will Learn

FlowerSchool, including the FlowerSchool Floral Design Program, is the culmination of the best technical skills presented by the long illustrious list of FlowerSchool Master Florists. This book has condensed the skills and philosophies associated with being a professional florist in New York City into an easy-to-replicate set of instructions that will help you become an accomplished florist yourself. Like a chef planning a great meal or simply cooking a Sunday dinner, you will learn how to select your materials, how to prep your materials, and how to use myriad techniques to accomplish your design goals. The production steps in the following pages are designed to lead you to success every time, allowing you to break free of any nervousness surrounding the process of flower arranging, and to focus on developing your own personal floral design sensibilities.

Florists in New York City often have Herculean tasks ahead of them: from setting up a party for 800 people in under an hour to installing five 20-foot-high arrangements before visitors arrive at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to managing the delivery of over 150 daily flower arrangements through gridlocked city traffic that no mere mortal can navigate. In order to be successful, most of these companies choose to focus on a specialty.

Actor Rob Morgan works to complete an autumnal arrangement at FlowerSchool LA. “All proper ladies and gentlemen need a good florist for sending gifts. Understanding flowers is an important discipline.”

Olivier Giugni is a master of weekly floral installations. It is his main focus, and all of his clients have the same set of expectations. It only makes sense that all of his design work is informed by the tasks that he performs most often in order to make his business successful.

Olivier Giugni is a master of creating weekly flower installations. It is his main focus, and all of his clients have the same set of expectations: spectacular arrangements delivered on time each week. A master of visual creativity, Olivier’s work also requires him to be a master of scheduling and order as well as a creator of gorgeous arrangements.

As the driving creative force behind L’Olivier, the world-renowned floral atelier in New York City, Olivier Giugni has been making arrangements with movement and depth for an A-list roster of private clients for more than 30 years. In addition to adding warmth and excitement to private homes, he has also created stunning florals for the restaurants of Chef Daniel Boulud and for the Carlyle Hotel. Here Olivier tells us a little bit more about his process, and in the following pages he offers a lesson in creating a gorgeous arrangement that accentuates its surroundings, and makes use of whatever materials are on hand.

What makes a flower arrangement modern?

Precise color, shape, scale, proportion, and strong, bold gestures.

What is your style?

Modern flower bouquets need to be simple, architectural, and significant. When I was running Pierre Cardin’s flower shop in Paris, the window had to make a statement every week. Often, the window was filled with one-of-a-kind antique vases from Mr. Cardin’s personal collection. Sometimes, during couture season, his elaborate handmade dresses would be featured in the window. It was very important that the flowers worked with the window and did not fight against whatever was on display. Therefore, my expression of modern design is not to be loud, but to work in concert with the room or location.

What makes your style unique?

While working in a flower shop environment, you have the opportunity to work with a great many products. Our shop sold lots of tropical plants with very large foliage. So, rather than purchase foliage and fillers from the flower market, I would cut leaves from my palm trees and use them. It makes quite a statement.

Just like any at-home arranger, Olivier sets up his workstation at FlowerSchool with all of the materials he’ll need in order to make the arrangement. In this case, we have white amaryllis that have been conditioned (see here) and given several days to open, as well as accentuating green leaves and grass that are set off to the right. Now they’re ready to be transferred to the rectangular vase in the center whenever Olivier is ready for them.

As he prepares to create his arrangement, Olivier takes time to pluck any petals that are looking wilted or less than perfect. Now is the time to give your blooms their beauty treatment.

As Olivier has noted, scale and proportion are extremely important parts of creating a modern design. In order to make sure the amaryllis are well distributed and that they stay in place, Olivier has created a simple grid using waterproof tape. This tape will not be visible to viewers once the arrangement is complete, but it’s essential for creating an arrangement that is orderly and that stays in place.

Now it’s time to start adding flowers and accompanying greenery. Here Olivier shows us his famous leaf wrapping technique, where he takes a large leaf and wraps it around the top of the vase. This is just one example of how a personal touch can take an already beautiful arrangement and make it sing.

After adding some additional amaryllis, along with some taller blades of grass for additional greenery, Olivier steps back to consider his arrangement and to determine if any alterations should be made. Notice the ends of his amaryllis have been taped so that they don’t split. This is a good reminder to all students that you should constantly be checking your work. Step back often and consider your arrangement. The most successful florists learn to make adjustments as they work.

This is the time to consider all of the components of the arrangement. Is it balanced and proportional? Are there elements of varying height, color, and texture? Do the colors work well together?

After careful consideration and planning, here is the final arrangement. Notice how the underlying grid of waterproof tape is helping to hold all of the flowers, grass, and leaves in place, while remaining invisible to the eye. This arrangement is deceptively simple but requires a master’s touch. This technique can be used for all large flowers with long stems such as delphinium or lilies (see illustrations on here and here). With practice, you too can learn how to harness proportion, color, shape, and scale to make next-level arrangements.

Victoria Ahn creates exquisite parties and weddings for some of New York City’s most prestigious clients and venues. Professionally trained in ballet and modern dance, Victoria is now the owner of Designs by Ahn in New York City. She approaches each arrangement like a choreographer, paying close attention to how each color and texture is placed, and how they work together. There is truly no better person to look to for matrimonial design trends, and tips on how to make exquisite table decorations.

What makes a great florist?

You have to have a discerning sense of style. This is something you can’t really teach; it can only be found inside. Also, flowers themselves are beautiful. To make them extra beautiful, you must use many different textures.

In addition to her work as the owner of Designs by Ahn, FlowerSchool Master Florist Victoria Ahn also teaches classes at FlowerSchool New York. On this page and the next we see just one example of Ahn’s stellar use of color in her work.

How do you start a flower arrangement?

I start by being open-minded. I don’t usually plan. In fact, for a lot of events and photo shoots, I don’t even go in with a plan. I am always trying to come up with a new idea, and I am always trying to find the most unique way to create a new look. I go to the market every day to find inspiration, and to search for new colors or new flowers.

Where does your color inspiration come from?

I have always liked playing with color. Museums are obvious places to go for inspiration. I also look at what people are wearing. For instance, when I meet with brides, they don’t necessarily know what colors they like, but you look at what they wear, and that tells you what colors they like.

What advice would you give new florists?


  • "This visually stunning offering from Crary, executive director of FlowerSchool New York, highlights the creative potential of flower arranging...the pay-off will be rich for any gardener who sees flowers as an ideal artistic canvas."
    Publisher's Weekly
  • "Because Crary has a front-row seat to all the modern designs and creative artists in the marketplace, his book is truly an encyclopedia of design, resources and having fun with flowers to brighten your life and others."—FlowerPowerDaily

On Sale
Nov 10, 2020
Page Count
224 pages

Calvert Crary

About the Author

Calvert Crary is the Executive Director of FlowerSchool New York and FlowerSchool Los Angeles. After over a decade as a professional photographer, shooting mostly lifestyles and fashion, Calvert made the transition to floral entrepreneur in 2006. Having opened and successfully run three flower businesses in New York City simultaneously, he not only knows his way around the camera but the cut flower world as well. Calvert has trained and coached many students on how to open shops and reorganize existing floral businesses into thriving careers. 

Bruce Littlefield is a best-selling author, lifestyle expert, and arbiter of American fun. Hailed as a “lifestyle authority” by the New York Times and as a “modern day Erma Bombeck” by NPR, he is a contributor to Good Morning America and has appeared on NBC’s Today show, CBS’s Early Show and ABC’s The View, as well as MSNBC, Rachael Ray, The Soup, and The Better Show. He has authored 18 books, including Garage Sale AmericaMerry Christmas, America! and Airstream Living, critically-acclaimed adventures in Americana. His Bedtime Book for Dogs is the first book written with words dogs understand and kids love to read. He is also the co-author of six New York Times bestsellers with well-known personalities, including Use What You’ve Got (with Shark Tank mogul Barbara Corcoran), My Two Moms (with civil rights advocate Zach Wahls), and The Sell (with Bravo star Fredrik Eklund.) Follow him @brucelittlefield and visit www.brucelittlefield.com  

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