Fall Out: A Bold Autumn Arrangement

Atlanta-based event designer Joy Thigpen crafts a freestyle autumn arrangement alive with color
Joy Thigpen shares step-by-step instructions for crafting a beautiful autumn flower arrangement that’s rich with jewel tones and fall colors.

My inspiration for this design started with the plum trees and fiery Japanese maples growing near my house. I like the graceful curve of the plum branches and their depth of color, especially when the light filters through them. When I think about fall I always think about colorful leaves—but not usually purple! For this arrangement I thought it would be fun to play with “fall colors” and use a brighter, more colorful palette for the season. Usually I like things that are subtle, but sometimes it’s fun to turn up the volume and just play a little.


  • plum branches
  • Japanese maple branches
  • fuchsia, lime green, and orange Italian ranunculus
  • David Austin ‘Juliet’ roses
  • bright pink and yellow dahlias
  • purple astrantia
  • hanging pink amaranthus
  • king protea millet
  • assorted burgundy and orange fall foliage

Tools & Supplies

  • a silver compote
  • floral tape
  • clippers
  • 2 bricks of floral foam
  • a knife
  • a bucket
  • wire

1| Set the bricks of floral foam in the bucket of water, with the small holes facing upward. Don’t push the floral foam down. Wait for it to sink on its own to prevent dry pockets from forming inside. Once the floral foam is fully soaked, place the first brick in the vessel and trim off any excess length with a knife.

2| Cut off blocks from the second brick of floral foam to fill in the shape of the vessel. It doesn’t have to be perfectly filled in; just give yourself enough of a base to hold your flowers. I love cutting wet floral foam—it’s such a unique feeling!

3| Using the floral tape make an “X” across the top of the floral foam, and wrap the ends of the tape under the vessel to hold the floral foam in place.

autumn flower arrangement how to4| Start with the long plum branches to create shape and movement. Don’t be afraid to trim them down to a more workable size, and cut them at an angle so they can be shoved into the floral foam more easily. Using the natural shape of the branches, place them in the floral foam so that they begin to relate to one another as a group. I ended up using the plum branches to create an S-curve across the vessel.

5| Next, add some of the burgundy and orange foliage to cover the floral foam and provide a base for the arrangement.

6| Cut off the long stalks of the amaranthus so you’re left with just enough stalk to hold it firmly in the floral foam. Strip off most of the green leaves because they wilt and wither so quickly.

7| Push the whole handful of amaranthus straight into the floral foam as a group. Angle the stems up slightly so they spill out gracefully.

8| Trim a few roses down to varying lengths. They can be pretty thorny, so if you press the thorns sideways you can pop them right off.

9| Hold the rose stems toward the bottom while you push them into the wet floral foam; otherwise they sometimes bend or break.

10| Cut the protea down and place it low into the arrangement. It has a lot of visual and physical weight, and your arrangement needs to support that.

autumn flower arrangement how to11| Now add the dahlias. Sometimes I hold a stem up to the vessel and try it in a few places before deciding how to trim it. Since my dahlias were so big and bright, I made them a focal point.

12| To add more texture and interest, add the ranunculus, astrantia, Japanese maple, and millet.

autumn flower arrangement how to13| I loved the texture and color of this giant dried leaf, but its little stem was too short for where I wanted it to go. No problem! Since it doesn’t need any water from the floral foam, just take a little twig that you trimmed off another branch earlier and wire and tape it to the stem to make an extension.

14| With the extended stem, place the leaf exactly where you want it to go.

15| Finally, add the lime green ranunculus. I knew they were the lightest and brightest and would catch the most attention, so I saved them for last in order to place them carefully.

autumn flower arrangement how to

“I had a lot of fun making this arrangement! It’s a very spontaneous, girly, and playful piece. I think it’d be perfect for a really eclectic restaurant with dark wooden tables, fiery plaster walls, loud live music, and good drinks.” —Joy Thigpen

Produced by Abby Waller

Photography by Erica George Dines

See more of Joy’s work and learn about her classes at JoyThigpen.com, and follow her on Instagram.

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