Expert Advice from Floral Designer Kate Holt

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2011

A fabulous florist, Kate Holt, shows you how to design a day that's totally you.

Known for
Colorful, textural arrangements that look just-picked

Where to Find Her
Flowerwild in Los Angeles (she's the owner;

Q: At what point should couples hire a florist?
Typically, six months out is plenty of time, though that can jump to 10 or 12 months if the person you want is especially popular. Many designers do only one event a day, so they can book up really fast.

Q: How do you find someone great?
Check out online portfolios and meet with a few of your favorites to narrow down the field. Go with the one who seems the most excited by your vision, because that's the person who's going to execute it to a T. It's also important that they're willing to go the extra mile, like visiting your venue if they've never been before, or showing you how to hold the bouquet on your wedding day. And while rates can vary, transparency is key: Costs should be clearly broken down item by item.

Q: Do you have any tips for the bride who wants to do her own flowers?
Potting a mini citrus tree, an herb plant, or a few succulents in an interesting vessel is one way to make a gorgeous centerpiece. Whatever you decide to do, budget plenty of time to complete the work -- especially if you want something more elaborate. Twenty tables takes me two days.

Q: What's the secret to a beautiful arrangement?
To get that professional look, you'll need to consider depth, shape, and interest. The easiest way to do this is to work in layers. Make some flowers recede and others lean forward; they shouldn't be flush. I usually start with foliage, then add big, hearty blooms, and drape something delicate on top, like jasmine vine or bell-shaped fritillaria.

Q: What are some pointers for flower care?
Store them at 45 degrees in buckets filled with a couple of inches of water and a capful of bleach, which is the best way to prevent mold growth. In hot weather, they need to stay hydrated. So after your vows, set your bouquet in water for a few minutes before you take photos. And remember that anything with a stamen, like lilies, can be messy. You need to pull off the pollen or it will stain everything it falls on or brushes against.

Q: Any sneaky ways to cut costs?
Put your cash toward the reception and keep the flowers simple for the ceremony -- it's so short, and everyone's eyes will be on you anyway. Anything you use during the vows can be repurposed for the party: Decorate the cake table with bouquets, and hang altar garlands on the bar.

Holt's Tips

1. Get Inspired
"Check out Ariella Chezar's 'Flowers for the Table,'" says Holt. "There are so many lush ideas" ($114,

2. Use Seasonal Blooms
"I love pompon dahlias for summer," she says. "Other varieties can be too delicate, but these won't wilt quickly."

3. Find Unusual Vessels
"Jamali Garden has an amazing selection. I'm drawn to these cement vases," says Holt (from $6,


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