DIY Flowers

In 1994 my wife and I had a dream of owning and operating a NYC flower shop.  What began as twinkle in our eyes culminated in Starbright.  Over the years we have been privileged to receive many accolades from our clients.  Whether it’s been a smile of approval by a happy recipient, or a flattering review online, we have been amazed by the kindness of others.  However, I am not a good enough writer to describe how I felt when a Starbright fan wrote  the following article for our blog.  Mark Twain said it best: “The form of a compliment has nothing to do with its value — it is the spirit that is in it that makes it gold or dross. This one was gold. This one was out of the heart…”.  With that in mind, I say thank you to Debbie and humbly present her story:

Boring. Click.

Boring. Click.

Boring. Click.

Predictable.  Click.

Boring. Click.

Boring. Click.

Maybe. Click.

Boring. Click. Boring. Click. Boring. Click. Boring. Click. Boring. Click.


There’s got to be a new take on holiday arrangements somewhere in the universe, I thought, scrolling down the Google list. Not everyone can be happy with a triangle of red carnations intermixed with white spider mums and evergreen.

Uh huh.

Uh huh.  Seen it. Yep.


Red ginger stems with glossy green foliage and seeded eucalyptus in a blue pleated ceramic vase? Click eagerly.

Ethereal white-flowered branches twining through bright red curly willow braches?. Click rapidly, heart a-flutter.

Orchids?  Dusty red orchids daringly played against the cleaner reds of roses and ginger and sited in front of a cherry paneled wall?


I had arrived in florist heaven. 

What was the name of this place?

Starbright Florist, NYC.  Sure.  Makes sense.

Starlight, star bright,

First star I see tonight. 

Wish I may, wish I might

Have the wish I wish tonight.

I remembered Gippetto.  He got his miracle and apparently, I got mine.

I spent the next hour cruising through the gallery of photos, taking screen shots of floral designs that took my breath away. I labeled them “amazing white” and “spectacular white” and “incredible white, lime” until I realized these names would not help me distinguish the arrangements in my folder, and maybe I needed to be more informative about colors and styles and less giddy.

Wait.  You’re thinking THAT?  Of course I’m not a rival florist pirating designs.

I am the flower committee for my Midwest church – a big, Greek revival downtown church whose grandeur has been slowly diminished over the years by a declining neighborhood and a declining membership. My goal was to infuse a sense of freshness in the flower arrangements. Create new ones every season.  Invigorate the congregation. God or the pulpit could challenge their self-concept and shake up their sense of charity or forgiveness.  I  would challenge their sense of beauty. A creative outlet for me.  A means of rejoicing for them.

Well, maybe.

I soon discovered I was no Starbright designer.

And I lacked the right flowers.  I was using the silk flowers my predecessor had purchased 12-15 years ago in colors and selections that often did not appeal to me.

And there weren’t enough of them – not if I was going to create the impressive-sized arrangements needed for a 32’ by 27’ lobby or our giant auditorium.

And I had a one-time budget of $500. HA!  For silk flowers? I tried to guess what some of the Starbright arrangements must cost their patrons.  Starbright designers use their flowers exuberantly and imaginatively in distinctive vases that become part of the design. $500.????????  C’mon.

And then there was the irony. Going to all this work, searching for flowers, cruising all 600 entries of vases on ebay to find something distinctive for under $15. Frustrating myself with my own inabilities.  All for a small congregation. Did anyone care? Was I contributing to joy?

My first adaptation was an out-and-out steal of the Starbright design below.  But it was simple and I knew I could duplicate it. And I loved it.       

I bought the square glass vase, the white callas and clipped one deep red orchid from another new stem.  My artificial stems did not bend quite as gracefully as the real ones but I loved the clean lines, the straight of the vase against the curve of the stems, the illusion of the stems floating in mid-air, the tight, closed shape of the callas in contrast to the open bloom of the orchid. If anyone noticed this little gem I reproduced, they didn’t mention it, although the congregation as a whole recognized the fresh arrangements and expressed appreciation.

For winter, I wanted to attempt this arrangement.

I was transfixed by this design – how the red spikes echoed the design of the wallpaper, how the lime, purple and gray played with the rust and red tones in a terra cotta vase. It was so exciting. So dynamic in form, color and combination of flowers.

That I did not have any of these materials did not stop me. The substitutions were not always happy:  red twig dogwood sticks for the airiness of the red orchids sprigs; rust and gold foliage (marked down 75% at the floral wholesaler) for the rust-colored orchids; the hydrangeas with too much pink and not enough gray tones; and the total absence of the lime component. Of course I blamed the white background for the failure of the piece to come together You can see the result is pretty pathetic. 

So far, Starbright was in no danger of being usurped by a Midwest floral superpower.

This summer, however, I had better luck.  I wanted to imitate the gorgeous and very romantic wedding centerpiece on the Starbright site.  The height of the crystal vase and the size of the hydrangea globes read “lavish” and the contrast of the thin, soaring curly willow against the lushness of the flowers –I had to go for it.  And those gold lights shooting up the columns and picking up the gold tones of the gilt chairs.  Whew!  I wondered if God would bestow some gold-toned special effects for me. I knew He was good with haloes.

I had plenty of white hydrangea so I wired bunches together to get a similar, lush effect.  A local interior design store closing its doors marked its silk flowers down 75% and I loaded up on some beautiful blooms, including the large pale green lilies at the base of my arrangement.  It wasn’t Starbright quality, but this time I wasn’t embarrassed by my results.

In the spring, summer and fall, my real passion is perennial gardening. My favorite areas of the garden are those where the plants themselves create the clarity of the design by the contrast in their leaf size and texture and structure. In the photo below from my garden several years ago, you can see each plant distinctly – just as you can in the Starbright arrangements.

In contrast, the flowers in my white arrangement are pretty but messy. The design lacks clarity of form, an element the Starbright team excels at. I have found that clarity much harder to achieve with artificial flowers. I always have too few or not the right kind. Am I making excuses here?  You bet.

But just look at the Starbright design below.  Every bloom or branch is cleanly seen and makes its own statement while contributing to the harmony and beauty of the piece. And the blending of floral types – the tropical orchids and anthuriums with the traditional hydrangea. Plus the bare branches for contrast and strength.  I sigh with appreciation.

Over and over in the Starbright designs I noted the use of curly willow branches. I knew their soaring quality was perfect for the height of my church spaces. 

But when I called local florists and a wholesale distributor, I could never find them. And I couldn’t buy a wholesale lot online.  I didn’t need a 30-years supply.

But I wanted them and I was going to hunt them down.

OK – it wasn’t quite that dramatic.  Frustrated by my failure to find any, I called a florist friend who had just dismantled some wedding arrangements and had piles of curly willow branches outside his back door for the taking.

I hurried over, loaded them into my too small car and took them home to spray paint red. I was fond of two Starbright arrangements I had viewed over the past 12 months.  I would try to blend them.

Here’s that combination I discovered on my first visit to Starbright – the white floral branch with the red, curly willow branches.  You can see how each element is allowed to speak for itself, how the willow stems add structure and definition while the white branches soften.

In the second arrangement, the reverse occurs.  The density of the white flowers with the green foliage contrasts with the airiness of the red, curving branches.

My final product combined the density of the underlying white with the structure of the red, soaring branches which extended 5 feet into the air.

I will say, while my floral arrangements at church do create a little stir each season among the women, at least, this arrangement might have been too unorthodox. A little too modern.  Remember, I live in the Midwest. Only one person told me they liked it.  Even my husband withheld outright enthusiasm.

Two other quick inspirations from Starbright to share, then I’m done.

The photo below shows how Starbright influenced me to make the vase part of the statement of the design.  While I inherited some classic vases at church, they were all white or cream.  This green gladiola vase (a $9 ebay purchase; the base has a small crack) delivers a lot of punch in this summer design and makes the blue and fuschia flowers more vibrant. Plus it’s fun.

Finally, Starbright produces tight, close arrangements on a smaller scale that nevertheless avoid the canned arrangements of many standard florists.

Here’s the Starbright inspiration followed by my more humble adaptation.

So, Starbright, you are my muse site, offering me the stars even though I’m at the flashlight level.  But I’ll keep wishing on my star and maybe someday…

 This scribe is brought to you by Debbie, Starbright’s #2 fan (Sorry Debbie My Mom is #1).  Thanks again Debbie and I hope everyone enjoyed half as much as I did. 

Starbright Floral Design is located in the heart of New York City’s historic flower district in a second floor loft at 150 West 28th Street.  Our services include local, national and worldwide flower delivery as well as consultation and execution of social and corporate events.  To learn more about us and the type of work that we do, please visit our website at  You may also go directly to our online portal for ordering gifts at or to our Event Gallery to see thousands of photographs from our recent work. You may also call us at 1.800.520.8999.  We are always thrilled to hear from you and to be of service in every way possible….

Our warmest regards,

The Official Florist of the City That Never Sleeps

Starbright Floral Design

Author: Starbright Floral Design of NYC

We are a team of dedicated professionals all entering as one. Starbright Floral Design is the company we are all a part of. The Official Florist sometimes is a designer, or a flower buyer, a partner, the marketing department or sometimes the guy who delivered your flowers! We invite you to visit our website and stay in touch...

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