Floral Tutorial with The French Potager

Celebrate the spring garden by re-creating this arrangement by Martha Whitney Butler of The French Potager
Floral design by The French Potager featuring spring flowers in a concrete cast bust
Martha Whitney Butler, who owns the The French Potager

“A beautiful container can inspire you to flower your home on a regular basis, not just on special occasions,” says Martha Whitney Butler, who owns the The French Potager in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi.

For this spring arrangement, she chose a concrete vessel cast in the shape of a bust. Follow her instructions below to re-create the look at home, or see all of the arrangements she created for Flower magazine here.

The French Potager’s Step-by-Step Tutorial

Clippers, chicken wire and flowers for a step-by-step floral tutorial by Martha Whitney Butler of The French Potager


  • Dusty miller
  • Ornamental kale rosette
  • ‘Jacorma’ peony
  • Queen Anne’s lace
  • ‘Princess Hitomi’ garden rose
  • Gentiana
  • Helleborus ‘Winter Bells’
  • Muscari
  • Tulips
  • Scabiosa
  • ‘Apollo’ iris
  • Astrantia
  • Feather-leaf acacia
  • ‘Mini Green’ hydrangea

Step 1

Cut a square of coated chicken wire and mold it into a dome shape inside the container, keeping it flush with the opening. Add water.

Step 2

Insert the dusty miller horizontally at a slight angle, allowing some to fall gracefully while still touching the water. The greenery base will guide the overall shape and capacity of this arrangement, along with the face of the vessel.

Martha Whitney Butler of The French Potager begins by adding dusty miller foliage

Step 3

Reflex the leaves of kale by delicately turning them downward to expose the rosette at the center. When reflexing flowers, it is best to use aged blooms that have softer, more pliable petals to prevent tearing or breakage.

detail of reflexing kale leaves

Step 4

Insert heavier focal flowers like the kale, peony, Queen Anne’s lace, and roses around the edge of the container, and work in to the center. The heads of the flowers should fall beyond the rim of the vase. Reflex the garden rose for a romantic and robust feel. Make sure to stagger the height of the focal flowers by pulling out and pushing in to create dimension and avoid a flat look.

Step 4, Martha Whitney Butler of The French Potager demonstrates adding focal flowers

Step 5

Parade the gentiana above the focal flowers, staggering their heights to give structure to the arrangement. Create movement by plugging in the muscari and Helleborus, letting them fall naturally from the “hairline” of the vase, or use them vertically to create whimsical curves. Group the muscari to embolden its unique color.

Step 5, adding gentiana

Step 6

Stand back and assess the arrangement for opportunities to create movement and statements. You may continue with cascading elements, such as the reflexed tulips, for the front of the arrangement or imposed over the dark kale for a nice pop.

Step 6, placing a reflexed tulip

Step 7

Float the scabiosa and iris slightly above the focal flowers. Pull them up and out to avoid overcrowding and to show off their delicate blooms. Finally, address any holes with astrantia, Helleborus, and feather-leaf acacia to add color and texture. If you have a large space in the back, you can fill it with a ‘Mini Green’ hydrangea.

Step 7 adding hellebore


  • Floral design, Martha Whitney Butler of The French Potager, thefrenchpotager.net
  • Cast-concrete bust, by the Abbott Collection through The French Potager
  • Painting, Gretchen Weller Howard through Gallery Orange, gallery-orange.com
  • Small green bowl, McCarty’s Pottery, mccartyspottery.com

Produced by Margaret Zainey Roux | Photography by Sara Essex Bradley

This story originally appeared in Flower magazine’s March/April 2021 issue. Find Flower in a store near you or subscribe.

cover for Flower magazine March/April 2021