Life is full of surprises, especially for professional floral designers. Here’s how to meet them head on.

A “surprise package” is a regular component of floral design competitions. It also can be part of the testing and evaluation process for earning professional credentials. But when you work in a flower shop, it’s also true that you may be asked, at any moment, to fulfill a custom order within a limited time, using only the materials at hand. It’s your own personal surprise design challenge.

How do you meet those challenges with confidence? Is it possible to plan ahead for the unexpected?

In this new Florists’ Review series (and in a forthcoming book), we’ll show you how. Learn how to create your own portfolio of design templates—flexible, pre-evaluated design ideas, adaptable to different materials and situations—using a proven method that will help you hone your skills and train your eyes.

This month’s example of a design template is in the formal- linear style. Formal-linear design offers you the best opportunity to demonstrate expert execution of all the principles and elements of design (typically used in scoring), all within one design. It features strong lines that lead the eyes to the focal area where you can showcase a variety of artistic techniques.

Look to future issues for more about the “Sketch and Score Method” and how using it can up your design game.

The first step is to create a sketch. It doesn’t matter if you are good at sketching or not. The idea is to create a template for your design idea. Then you’ll create a design based on your sketch, and you’ll score the design as a judge would in a floral design competition. (In future issues, we’ll talk more about scoring.) Go back to your sketch and correct anything that brought your score down. Then make another sketch, and score it. Continue with the process until you have a template that can yield a perfect score.

Now that we have a template for an asymmetrical formal-linear design, let’s try realizing it using various materials. In this first version, the longer primary line is established with a grouping of pink snapdragons. A second line is created with fuchsia stocks. Within these two main lines, open negative space invites the eyes to settle on the focal area—here composed of three terraced pink Gerbera and embellished with loops of variegated lily grass and accents of flat cane. Foliage of various kinds adds depth and balance to the design while lily buds, Hypericum and mini green Hydrangea add texture.

Fresh Materials

Pink snapdragons, fuchsia stocks, pink Gerbera, fuchsia carnations, green Hypericum berries, mini green Hydrangea, variegated Pittosporum, Italian Ruscus, variegated lily grass, Philodendron ‘Xanadu’/‘Winterbourn’ leaves, variegated Aspidistra leaves, Fatsia japonica leaves.

Hard Goods

OASIS ® Instant Floral Foam Maxlife, OASIS TM Flat Cane, square black ceramic container.

A second version of the same design template uses birds-of-paradise and Delphinium for the two main lines. The focal area is done with yellow roses and orange lilies, to pick up the color from the birds-of-paradise. Croton leaves, with their variegated orange and yellow veins, are chosen to continue the color scheme. The design is finished with Eryngium, yarrow and swirling accents made with OASIS TM Mega Wire.

Fresh Materials

birds-of-paradise, Delphinium, yellow roses, orange lilies, mini green Hydrangea, green Hypericum berries, Eryngium, yarrow, ginger foliage, Philodendron ‘Xanadu’/‘Winterbourn’ leaves, croton leaves

Hard Goods

OASIS ® Instant Floral Foam Maxlife, OASIS TM Mega Wire, square black ceramic container

The materials chosen for this third design give it a very different look, but it is clearly based on the same template. The primary line is created with Aspidistra, foliage, wired to hold it upright and give it a pleasing curve. The second line is created with a combination of yarrow and OASIS TM Pear Leaf Natural Wrap, mounted on picks. The focal area showcases sunflower centers and green Cymbidium orchids, accented with Pycnosorus (formerly known as Craspedia), croton leaves, white and yellow mums, orange spray roses and circular medallions made with coiled OASIS TM Aluminum Wire. Small Monstera leaves balance and complete the design.

Fresh Materials

sunflowers, yarrow, green Cymbidium orchids, Pycnosorus/Craspedia, white football mums, ‘Orange Babe’ spray roses, mini green Hydrangea, yellow button spray mums, variegated Aspidistra leaves, croton leaves, mini Monstera leaves

Hard Goods

OASIS ® Instant Floral Foam Maxlife, OASIS TM Aluminum Wire, OASIS TM Pear Leaf Natural Wrap, square black ceramic container