Susan McLeary’s Colorful Cascade

Susan McLeary of Passionflower shows how to make a cascading arrangement to brighten up cold days with rich, spring colors
cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary
Susan McLeary of Passionflower shares step-by-step instructions for making a cascading arrangement of colorful blossoms and succulents.

Susan’s Inspiration: I love experimenting and exploring new shapes. I also enjoy bringing techniques used for large-scale design to the tabletop, and vice versa. For this piece, I’m borrowing techniques to create oversized archways and shrinking it down for use in the home or for a special event. I think this cascading bridge piece can be used in many settings: for an entryway, a sideboard, an escort card table, or, as pictured here, resting on a pair of side tables. I chose all my early spring favorites in a rich palette. Color is something I’m especially hungry for this time of year.


    • Spirea
    • Eucalyptus
    • Lilac
    • Fritillaria persica
    • Fritillaria meleagris
    • Hellebores
    • Butterfly ranunculus
    • Ranunculus
    • Sweet peas
    • Jasmine vine
    • Echeveria

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary1 | This type of arrangement works best with two similar containers in two different heights and sizes. I’ve chosen two brass bowl vases from Jamali Garden, measuring 6 and 4 inches tall. Measure a 4-foot piece of plastic-coated florist netting (chicken wire will also work). Fold the netting over on itself to form a multilayered orb, and tuck it into the large container. Squeeze together the middle section of the netting, forming a bridge between the two vessels. Now create an orb for the smaller container. Once the netting is secured, add water.

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary2 | Start the design by adding the sweeping spirea for definition and structure. To create an undulating, cascading design, let the spirea spill over the side of the large vase, and then add it throughout, allowing it to also spill out over the smaller container.

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary3 | Add in the eucalyptus to fill out the shape of the piece, following the shape created with the spirea. Next, add the lilac to provide color and fullness. Place it in a triangular shape in both vessels, allowing it to naturally spill over the edge.

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary4 | Add the Fritillaria persica. Start to conceal the bridge by tucking one of the fritillaria into the mesh of the main vase, but crossing over the bridge. The mesh will help hold up the large flower, and the bloom creates a visual stop. To keep it in place on the bridge, create a U shape with a length of 18-gauge wire to attach it to the bridge. To secure, simply catch the stem with the U-shaped wire, sink into the bridge structure, and pinch it to close. Add a few of these gorgeous blooms in the smaller vessel to carry the eye throughout the piece.

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary5 |The locally grown echeveria goes in next. Wire them from the top down, using a hairpin wiring technique, and secure the wire to the stem of each with floral tape. Tuck these in low. Add the hellebores, using them to build up the bridge, making U-shaped wires as needed to secure them. Keep in mind that the arrangement is meant to be viewed from all sides, so at this point, make sure to move around the arrangement when adding stems.

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary6 | The Butterfly ranunculus, with their coppery color and open faces, go in next. Allow these to fly high to show them off and to reinforce the lines of the piece. Add the stems so their faces point in different directions—some towards the sky, some straight towards the eye, and some off to the side. When adding height, make sure to leave a little empty space for the eye to rest. Continue by adding deep-plum ranunculus. Feel free to stroke the petals to open them up. Because of their dark color, place them low in the arrangements and off to the sides.

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary7 | Now that the shape has been clearly defined and the heavier blooms have been placed, it’s time to add the airy, finishing blooms—Fritillaria meleagris and sweet peas. The tone of the sweet peas speaks to the interesting coppery color in the Butterfly ranunculus. Start with the fritillaria, allowing them to nod downwards, showing off their lovely bell shape. Place the sweet peas next, using their full length to allow them to dance throughout the piece and to gracefully drape over the sides.

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary8 | Finally, add the lightest of the materials: jasmine. Feed the vines into the bridge structure to conceal the mesh. Add a few wispy pieces on both ends and trailing off the sides. To finish, walk around the arrangement and fill in any holes with leftover materials. Fluff and tweak the position of the flowers to create visual spaces and reinforce the waves.

cascading arrangement, Susan McLeary

“I chose all my early spring favorites in a rich palette. Color is something I’m especially hungry for this time of year.”—Susan McLeary

Produced by Jena Hippensteel | Photography by Amanda Dumouchelle

See more of Susan McLeary’s arrangements and follow her on Instagram @passionflowersue.

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