Photos by Shannon Richardson

Summer may have been flower season, but today’s global marketplace means most varieties of fresh flowers are available almost all the time. That keeps local floral shops like Avant Garden, located in Wolflin Square, busy 12 months of the year.

Owner Rachelle Tuls loves that aspect of her business. “I’m from Southern California,” she says. Local winters leave her longing for SoCal sunshine. “We can get kind of sad [here] in the winter. I just find that it’s such a stress relief to walk in and see pretty things, to look at the flowers and be inspired.”

There are plenty of pretty things in Avant Garden, which opened its storefront in 2019. In addition to large-scale events, personalized fresh flower subscriptions and bring-your-own-vase workshops, her customers find inspiration in the shop’s flower coolers.

The grab-and-go cooler features pre-made arrangements at a variety of price points. Customers “can simply pop in, pick out something, and be on their way,” says Kaitlin Garrett. She teamed up with Tuls to launch the business after more than a decade designing for another local florist. “Our regulars absolutely love it, and first-comers are always surprised to find out about it.”

The DIY stock cooler features buckets full of fresh stems, all ready to be assembled into an arrangement. These flowers are sold per-stem, starting around $3 each, with specialty items—like tropical birds of paradise or French tulips—carrying higher price points. “There’s something for everyone’s tastes,” says Garrett. 

Whether Avant Garden does the work or a customer assembles their own bouquet, the presence of flowers can elevate a home. “You constantly have a fresh entrance piece or something on your bedside table,” says Tuls.

We asked the Avant Garden team to jump-start that elevation by designing three fall-friendly floral arrangements readers can prepare themselves. Two arrangements take a traditional approach, making use of late summer colors that roll easily into the fall months. The other is a little more sinister, just in time for Halloween.

At our photo shoot, we discussed how to refer to the spooky arrangement. What should we call it?

“Call her Natasha,” jokes designer Sharayah Welty.

“I was thinking Matilda,” injects Garrett. “Matilda is sassy. Kind of frumpy. She wants to be left alone.”

Meet Matilda

Designed by Kaitlin Garrett, spooky Matilda is perfect for a Halloween party centerpiece or near a trick-or-treating entrance. The orange container adds a solid base for the witchy verticality of the curly willow branches. “With a big jar, it takes a lot more to fill it. You want to go for the big, branchy, hearty elements,” Garrett says. 

This arrangement contains silver highlights from gunnii eucalyptus and seeded eucalyptus, along with whimsical dried pods, delicate clematis flowers and tropical black ti leaves. “They give it a red undertone. They can pull black or burgundy depending on which direction you’re looking,” says Garrett. 

She started with the eucalyptus greenery, then added the willow sticks to give shape. “I do all my delicate flowers last, and the ti leaves are a finishing touch for me,” she says. “It’s like an art piece. You’re giving it dimension and texture. We like to do a lot of texture here.”

Tips from Kaitlin: Always consider the space where an arrangement will be displayed. “Is it going up against a wall? Will it be viewed from all directions? How hot or cold do you keep your house? If the house is hot in the winter, you want to avoid delicate florals.”

Pretty Pumpkin

This more traditional floral arrangement by designer Sharayah Welty pairs fall elements with late-summer orange tones and warm colors. “When I design, I divide my base into four sections,” she says. Flower arranging is all about the “grid,” and many florists start by taping a grid across the top of their vase or container. Welty likes to complete one quarter of the grid before rotating the vase in order to work on the opposite quarter.

“I start with the bigger blooms first, then the smaller blooms. Then you always do your delicate flowers last,” she says. “I would say the tulip is the more delicate flower here.”

Tips from Sharayah: In this arrangement, Welty began with the hydrangeas at the base before inserting the roses, followed by marigolds, spray roses, hypericum berries and then tulips. Many consumers assume flowers like hydrangeas and roses are expensive, but these popular flowers—though prized—can actually be more economical than other varieties. That’s why Welty and Avant Garden rely on them as a type of floral filler where other florists might use more traditional greenery.

Crystal Clear

This traditional arrangement, courtesy of designer Valentine Martinez, includes plenty of pink, magenta and other showy colors. “A lot of customers have such bright-colored houses they want the bright pinks and yellows,” explains Garrett. 

“I like to show the best faces of the flowers,” says Martinez about his arrangement. Knowing that statement needs an explanation, he continues: “Flowers absolutely have faces. You look into the face of the hydrangea, the amaryllis, dahlias, roses.”

He makes sure those faces aren’t covered by anything else in the arrangement.

Tips from Valentine: Because his arrangement is contained in clear glass, Martinez wants the water to stay as clean as possible. “With a clear cylinder like this, it has to be very clean. No garbage inside,” he says. 

Using a half-bleach and half-water solution in a spray bottle, he adds a single spritz of the solution to the water in his vase. “That is not enough to kill the flowers,” says Martinez. “It keeps the water clean. I’ve even seen, after the flowers die, the water is still clean.”