How to design a cascade-style bouquet with a sustainable approach

Floral design, photos, video and text by Beth O’Reilly, AIFD, CFD, TMF

Presented by Alexandra Farms

bride holding bouquet

Design mechanics for hand-tied cascade-style bouquets can be tricky, especially when taking a sustainable approach. For this tutorial featuring spectacular garden roses and garden spray roses from Alexandra Farms, I wanted to highlight a beautiful modern color story using biodegradable materials from start to finish. In the spirit of a garden-style design, I also used cuttings from my own cutting garden to bridge the colors and textures in this bouquet.


• When designing with garden roses, allow sufficient time—as long as four days—for them to fully hydrate and open, following the instructions on the packaging or online at Remove the cardboard sleeves, store them with enough room to “breathe” in storage containers.

• Before using garden flowers or foraged materials, test their vase lives. I recommend testing cuttings both in and out of flower-food solution, conditioning them as you would commercial-grown cut flowers and using a finishing spray. Remove any tender new growth on foliages with new growth because it will, most likely, wilt. Also, remove any pests that might be present.


Step 1: Clean and organize stems. Removing foliage from flower stems is a must for the spiral hand-tied technique, enabling the designer to lift and shift stems easily without disrupting the design.

cleaned rose stems

Step 2: Create a crescent-shaped armature from a natural material such as a thin dried vine; I used jasmine vine. Form the vines into the desired size and crescent shape, to serve as a “grid” for designing an elongated hand-tied cascade-style bouquet.

step 2

Step 3: First, arrange rose stems diagonally through the center of the vine armature—larger blooms first—rotating the design as you add stems. A spiral stem formation will develop naturally. Create layers and depth as you arrange each stem.

Step 4: Arrange additional flowers and long-stemmed foliages over and through the vine armature, somewhat horizontally, extending to the ends of the armature, to create the elongated “cascade” shape and to camouflage the armature.

Step 5: Secure the stems at the point where they cross (the binding point) with rubber-bands. Loop a rubber-band over the end of one sturdy stem, and move the rubber-band up to the binding point. Then wrap the rubber-band tightly around the stems, and secure it by looping the “end” of the rubber-band to another sturdy stem. Do this several times, if necessary, as you add materials, positioning the rubber-bands at the same binding point each time.

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN TIP: Natural organic rubber-bands are made from latex sap derived from equatorial Pará rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis); therefore, they are biodegradable over time. Also consider recycling rubber-bands from commercial flower bunches, and avoid using synthetic-rubber rubber-bands.

bind with rubber bands
close up of rubber bands

Step 6: Test your spiral technique. A well-balanced spiral bouquet will stand on its own. Cut all stems to an equal length, to extend only about 1 inch below the hand, and then check the balance and spiral stem placement by standing the bouquet on a flat surface.

NOTE: Cascade-style bouquets should be held close to the body at the navel area, tilted, with the stems directed inward toward the body. This is another reason that stems in a hand-tied cascade bouquet need to be cut short.

Step 7: Wrap the binding point with satin ribbon, to camouflage the rubber-bands.



BOTANICALS from Alexandra Farms

Rosa spp. ‘Notre Dame’ (Deluxe Dutch hybrid-tea rose)

Rosa spp. ‘Café Latte’ (Deluxe Dutch-hybrid garden rose)

Rosa spp. ‘Romantic Antike’ (Deluxe cabbage garden rose)

Rosa spp. ‘Juliet’ (David Austin Wedding Roses garden rose)

Rosa spp. ‘Miyabi’(Wabara garden rose)

Rosa spp. ‘Loli’ (Wabara garden spray rose)

Rosa spp. ‘Sola’ (Wabara garden spray rose)


Justicia brandegeana (shrimp flower, false hop)

Buddleia/Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush, summer lilac)

Elaeagnus pungens (thorny olive, silverthorn, spiny oleaster)

Loropetalum chinense (Chinese fringe flower, Chinese witch-hazel)

Cordyline fruticosa, formerly C. terminalis (ti plant, good-luck plant)

Jasminum officinale vine, dried (common jasmine/jessamine, poet’s jasmine/jessamine)


• Natural latex rubber-bands

• Satin ribbon