The Answer to Dinky-Looking Flower Arrangements

March 15, 2017

Last Friday, our incredibly lovely Director of Customer Care Rebecca got married. And very casually, on the Monday before her wedding, she posited a question to me in Slack:

My wedding is this Friday and I'm doing my own flower arrangements.

Let's take a pause here to appreciate the fact that Rebecca is a complete badass. Moving on:

I know I for sure want ranunculus and anemones but I'm not sure what sort of filler flowers to use...

Okay, so it wasn't phrased as a question, but I knew what she was thinking: Outside of "baby's breath," which is more of a funeral flower than a cutting-edge wedding bouquet helper-outer, what flowers (and other plants) can play supporting roles in modern tabletop arrangements?

The florally-fluent might find the term "filler flowers" problematic, implying that certain elements of an arrangement are an afterthought. (Several of the floral designers who I asked about their favorite filler flowers shot back with this admonishment.)

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And okay, fine. But for those of us who aren't professionals, but who do want to create arrangements with visual interest and a mix of textures and sizes, it's helpful to think about subtler, leafier, smaller-bloomed flowers that can play second fiddle to the super-stunners we know we want to spring for. So let's talk about that. Here's are a bunch of suggestions, from the flower lovers in our office to some of our favorite professionals:

  • I love quirky, fluttery jasmine for the way it can inject any arrangement with whimsy.
  • The laciest sprigs of fern you can find add geometry and softness.
Silver Dollar Eucalyptus
Spirea Branches
  • Alexis, our Art Director, often springs for silver-dollar or seeded eucalyptus, for a change in scale and volume.
  • She guards against Queen Anne's Lace, which can wilt quickly, for a wedding.
  • Emily Thompson, of Emily Thompson Flowers, says, "we use branches for this purpose—from flowering magnolia, spirea, and quince to plum, birch, dogwood.
An Emily Thompson arrangement, using branches for volume and contrast.
  • Nicolette Owen, of Nicolette Camille was also wary of the term "filler flower" but gave me the benefit of the doubt and suggested herbs—"mint, thyme, basil, sage... All are beautiful greens with varying leaf shapes and of course a beautiful scent"—as overlooked supporting players.
  • Anna Potter, of Swallows & Damsons, loves eucalyptus stuartiana, which "is a more green-toned eucalyptus with pops of pinks and yellow mottled through the leaves It's incredible! The veins of the leaf are also really prominent, making each stem totally unique."

Friday flowers 💥

A post shared by Anna Potter (@swallowsanddamsons) on

An Anna Potter arrangement using eucalyptus stuartiana (see how it's golden at the tips?).
  • She also uses waxflower as a filler flower: "It has a blossom-like quality and lasts such a long time. If you snap a stem the citrusy scent that escapes is one of my favorites."
  • For something a little more playful, bauble-like brunia is a favorite of Anait Tamanian at Stems Brooklyn.

You might be wondering what Rebecca went for—and that would be seeded eucalyptus and those feathery ferns we love. Pretty perfect, right?

we done did it!!!! #married #thegreatbaskalisburymerger

A post shared by Rebecca 🍓 Strawberry (@rebeccastrawberry) on

What "filler flowers" do you love to use in flower arrangements?


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


Christy C. June 15, 2017
This 7 flower arrangements looks very pretty. I really appreciate your effort of sharing this. Thanks.
sara March 19, 2017
Filler flowers are rarely used correctly. Better to go clean and botanical with tropical leaves and grasses. Or a messy garden look with broad leaved,variegated shrubry like tree ivy or by using delicate ferns. Both looks can help DIY floral because they are forgiving and can achieve an asymmetrical sophistication that appears intentional and modern.
BerryBaby March 15, 2017
My daughter designed and made all the bouquets for a friends wedding. The beide wanted Peonies and we cut beautiful Laurel ( we have a huge plant in the yard) it is dark green leathery leaves, and was blooming with fragrant white flowers. The combination was stunning!
Amanda S. March 16, 2017
That sounds spectacular!