Colorful Dahlia Centerpiece

In this video clip Leanne revisits the elements and principles of floral design as she creates a dramatic and eclectic design with a focus on the beautiful Dahlia. As Leanne demonstrates the classic Western Line Style of design he discuses how to “break-the-rules” and mix garden flowers with exotic orchids. Enjoy!

Welcome to the Flower Video Library. I'm Leanne Kesler, director of the Floral Design Institute. Today, I'm here to share with you an eclectic centerpiece, combining fabulous dahlias and garden roses, but with the surprising addition of oncidium orchids. In this day and age, you can mix anything for a fabulous, eclectic bouquet. 

For my vessel, the bronze compote, two-thirds of a brick of floral foam, already pre-soaked with flower food, then just anchoring it in place with waterproof tape, and I do twice to make sure that it's secure. Then, to ensure that the flowers last the longest, fill the water reservoir with water that's also pre-mixed with the flower food. 

I had a question asked just the other day, "Why don't you use very many foliages?" and I thought, "Oh, but no. I use lots," and then I went back and looked, and I go through spells where I use a lot of foliage and when I don't. It really is up to you whether you love it or not, and how much you use, and what the customer wants. Today, lots of foliages. I got some aucuba, the gold dust plant, that beautiful yellow speckled, making it go in in a radial pattern. Some camellia. It's very woody, bright, and shiny. Continuing on, and even large fatsia aralia leaves. They're so wonderful, and they work really fabulously terraced across a design to add instant impact and visual value from one side to the other. 

Next up, the fabulous flowers. The dahlias are amazing. These are local-grown right here in Oregon, and we get so many beautiful varieties from little tiny miniatures to great big dinner-plate-size, and they are grand, but they're very thirsty, so making sure that I get them down very tight into the foam. 

Then, I have a rule that I use, and it's just Leanne's rule where I do 70% of the materials at the body, and then 20% tucked below. See how I sheltered that one underneath? Then, 10% comes over the top, and in doing that, you get great depth in the arrangement. It's much more interesting to look at, so this might be the body point, and then tucking down lower, drawing the eye in so that it carries your eye to the very center. It gives you a much stronger accent, bringing in some of the roses. So bright. Again, thinking about 70% being out long with the body because that's what creates the form of the design, and then coming back with other materials tucked low to draw your eye inward to add depth to the arrangement. 

At this point, I have what I would classify as the 70-20, so the body of the design and the depth. Now, I want to come back and add some extension, so I could bring in some of the beautiful dahlias buds and let them come out taller over the top, giving a little bit of delicacy to the design. Tucking it in, and then adding in the orchids, the oncidiums. 

Now, when I first started as a florist, you never mixed garden flowers like a dahlia with an exotic like an orchid, but now, we can, and it makes it just so fabulous. Those rules are gone. You can be a little bit daring, eclectic, have fun with the materials, mix and match. The key is that you follow the rules, make sure you have an accent, the elements and principles are covered, create depth in the design, and with any variety of flowers. It will be fabulous. 

As a final touch, just a bit of curly willow tucked in to add a little more lightness over the top. Now, those of you that have studied with me online or in the learning center, you may recognize this as a variation on the classic western line. No matter what flowers you us, you can often times go back to the classic designs. 

Dahlias are so popular right now, on trend for centerpieces, weddings, parties, anything, and they last well as long as you've got a great water reservoir and you do proper care and handling. Check out the website,, and there's a whole segment just on care and handling of dahlias, and you'll find more inspiration there as well. If you have questions, you can reach me through the website or by telephone, 503-223-8089. 

Of course, I love to see what you create. You can send the photo to my personal email,, or better yet, post it on social media, tag Floral Design Institute, and that way, we all can see. Now, it's your turn. Have fun and do something you love.

  • Fresh Flower Food Individual Pack 10 ounce tub
    Fresh Flower Food Individual Pack 10 ounce tub
  • Quick Dip Individual Pack One Pint
    Quick Dip Individual Pack One Pint
  • Crowning Glory Individual Pack 32 ounce spray bottle
    Crowning Glory Individual Pack 32 ounce spray bottle
  • Standard Floral Foam Pack of Four Bricks
    Standard Floral Foam Pack of Four Bricks
  • Waterproof Tape Single Roll 1/4 Inch Wide (Green)
    Waterproof Tape Single Roll 1/4 Inch Wide (Green)