Tropical Twist

Lesley Frascogna of Tulip invites us into her home in Madison, Mississippi, to create an arrangement that uses traditional flowers like roses and tulips mixed with more exotic leaves, ferns, and orchids
tropical flower arrangement
Designer Lesley Frascogna gives step-by-step instructions for making this tropical flower arrangement.

My inspiration for this arrangement was tropical flowers and the way they can be transformed when mixed with more traditional blooms. Usually, you think of tropical arrangements as being very structured and colorful, but I love to use them in an unexpected, looser way. My new home was also an inspiration with its clean, modern lines, white walls, and bright light, so you see a lot of white and fresh greens in the arrangement with accents of yellow, orange, and bronze.

MATERIALS umbrella ferns, sea star ferns, calathea, monstera leaves, ‘Caramel Antike’ garden roses, ‘Polo’ roses, chocolate anthurium, cymbidium orchids, fringed tulips, ‘James Storie’ orchids, maidenhair ferns, narcissus, ‘Lady’s Slipper’ orchids
STEP 1 Prepare the container. For this particular vessel, cut a rectangular piece of chicken wire. As a guide for measuring, I like my chicken wire to be double the width and length of the vessel, so it fits nicely once it’s folded and placed inside. You can fill the vessel with water before or after you put the chicken wire in. If prepping the arrangement for travel, secure the wire with strapping tape.
STEP 2 Begin to create your foliage base. I start with the umbrella ferns and the sea star ferns because of their flat, interesting shapes. They cover the wire perfectly and give a unique base to begin the arrangement.
STEP 3 Continue to build the foliage base with the broader and larger tropical leaves. These leaves help fill out the arrangement and give support for the fresh flower stems, which will be added later. For this step, I used two different types of calathea leaves for their beautiful green tones and variegated stripes. Complete the greenery base with the monstera leaves to enlarge the shape.
STEP 4 Start adding the base flowers. For this step, use about a dozen white ‘Polo’ roses (with the stems trimmed and stripped of all foliage). This rose opens in a similar way to a garden rose and has a beautiful scent. It’s one of my go-to roses for design work because it’s priced as a standard rose, making it a great alternative to the more expensive garden roses.


STEP 5 Add in the chocolate cymbidium orchids (in floral water tubes) to add a little asymmetry to the design. Place the longer stems a little to the side and group the shorter ones more in the center. Then, add the white fringed tulips for some interesting texture. I usually join tulips in groupings of two or three and place my groupings on each far side of the arrangement.
STEP 6 Once you have a nice base and shape, add the anthurium in a triangle shape. Place one in the center toward the back of the arrangement and the other two toward the front of the piece on each side. I like to place anthurium toward the end of the process because of their unique shape—if used in the beginning, they tend to become hidden.
STEP 7 Because there’s a large separation of color between our white roses and our chocolate anthurium and brown cymbidium orchids, we need to bridge the color palette of our arrangement. ‘Caramel Antike’ roses are perfect for this as they complement the brown, rust, and red tones. As a nod to spring, I also tuck in a few stems of narcissus.
STEP 8 Finally, insert the maidenhair ferns to fill in any holes and add movement. Complete the design with a few stems of yellow ‘James Storie’ orchids and two green-and-white ‘Lady’s Slipper’ orchids. Remember, these steps are just guidelines. There are no rules in floral design. It’s an art form and each arrangement is different. Have fun with it and try new things!

tropical flower arrangement

Tropical flowers have a way of transforming your mood, taking your mind to a warm and relaxed place. – Lesley Frascogna

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Produced by ALICE WELSH DOYLE | Photography by KARLA POUND

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