The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers

The scientific yet mystical properties of flower arranging

Words by Nicole Letts 
Photos by Dark Roux
Flowers by Antigua Floral


Have you ever noticed what it’s like to truly be “in the zone”? You’re so focused on the task at hand that nothing else crosses your mind. Those everyday, nagging problems that hover over your head like a Sims plumbob, seemingly vanish. Even if only for those few minutes, your mind is free from worry. For me, that happens when I am arranging flowers. Between the tactility and the aromas, I find myself completely distracted with peace of mind, and according to licensed clinical social worker Andi O’Bryan, for good reason. “Peace of mind is a beautiful example of mindfulness,” she says. 

Over the years, mindfulness has been largely overcomplicated. There is no single definition, and just about anything can qualify as mindfulness. At its core, mindfulness is simply the act of being present in the moment. “When we intentionally engage our senses in an activity we enjoy, such as flower arranging, our brain often responds by being fully absorbed in that activity versus worrying about the future (anxiety) or dwelling on the past (depression),” explains O’Bryan. 

It’s no secret that anxiety is an epidemic. According to an article published by the World Health Organization in September 2023, “An estimated 4% of the global population currently experience an anxiety disorder.” In 2019, that equated to about 301 million people worldwide. “These days, when so many of us live in a high alert state of fight or flight and/or chronic multi-tasking, our brain essentially rewards us when we stay in the moment,” O’Bryan says. That reward comes in the form of a peaceful reprieve from everyday stressors. 

As far as flowers and their part in this, O’Bryan says that scientifically, there is extensive research and data to support the positive impact of nature on our mood, mental health, cognitive functioning, and sleep. “A lot of this research is centered around the evidence that exposure to nature measurably reduces the levels of cortisol in the brain, causing a sense of well-being and relaxation,” she says. So, why does the brain respond in this way when surrounded by nature? O’Bryan explains this may be illustrated by the Attention Restoration Theory (ART). The theory summarizes that spending time in nature allows people to take a break from the mental fatigue that inundates us. There is a correlation between recuperation and restoration.  

On a more basic level, flower arranging is just plain fun. Tanner Boone, a florist with August Floral Design, is one of the floral arranging instructors for Montage Palmetto Bluff. He says, “It's very therapeutic to work with flowers. It's nature; it's beauty.” It’s also not meant to be serious. Boone stresses how important it is to have fun with flowers and not to get stuck on one style or method. “You can shift and rearrange things as you go. Have fun with it. Let it be flirty,” he says. The resort incorporates flower arranging classes into its wellness weekend offerings, a testament to the power and respect of the activity.

When selecting flowers, markets and grocery stores will have the widest selections, but Boone suggests foraging as well for an added layer of mindfulness. Look in your yard to see what types of hardy greenery you have. Palmetto fronds, magnolia leaves, and even holly trees are the beginnings of beautiful arrangements. Foraging also emphasizes getting outside, which is one small step in reclaiming your mental health. O’Bryan explains, “With so many things competing for our attention, technology constantly in our reach, and our on-demand culture, it is collectively taking a toll. Finding an activity, like flower arranging, that we enjoy and gives us the ability to “get lost in the present moment” is more important now than ever!” 


Tanner Boone, a florist with August Floral Design, shares his tips for amateur flower arranging:

  • Shop for flowers at your local grocery store. Boone suggests Trader Joe’s for the best selection.
  • Use the flower food that comes with flowers, as it keeps the water cleaner.
  • Change your water every three days, or when the water looks murky. 
  • To secure your flowers in a vase, use chicken wire. It’s a little more stable and environmentally friendly.
  • Start with a good base of greenery and filler. Seeded eucalyptus is a great option for building an initial layer. 
  • Working in the shape of a V, add stems in varying lengths to your base layer. Think of an oblong shape to make it more dynamic. 
  • From here, add flowers in complementary colors, continuing that V shape. Work from the outer edges to the middle, adding an odd number of flowers (3s, 5s, or 7s) as you go.