Downton Abbey flowers and arrangements

jbryanArrangements, Learning Opportunities2 Comments

OK, who isn’t caught up completely in watching Downton Abbey on PBS?  If you are just starting to get addicted and are on one of the earlier seasons of viewing, or have been with the show from the start, there are most likely more than a few things that have caught your eye–the architecture, the setting, the fashion–it’s a visual feast!

Which brings me to my favorite part of course, and that’s the Downton Abbey flowers! They are wonderfully wrought, and have adapted–much like the ladies’ fashion–to the historical time periods in which the episodes are set.

Don’t have a clue what I am talking about? Click here to learn more about this popular Masterpiece Classic series.

Know exactly what I am talking about? Then have a little fun, and take this quiz to find out which Downton couple you and your mate are most like!

Cross my heart, no spoiler alerts necessary in this blog post, but with the popularity of the show, viewing parties are popping up all over the place.

Plus, a recent Facebook conversation prompted the idea that we should show you how to do your own Downton Abbey flowers for your own viewing party or simply for your personal enjoyment.

Thank you to new readers Kieran and Susan for this discussion….it motivated me to write this post.

A quick internet search of Downton Abbey flower arrangement images illustrates a consistent and natural look–namely, one that makes use of TONS of greens, and one that seems to follow monochromatic color schemes (green and white OR green and yellow…not both!).


The flowers don’t pop off the screen, but they do fit in well with the background of each shot. You can spot footed containers, urns and vessels that are as ornate as the flowers are natural. These containers seem like a popular choice for their arrangements. Here are a few examples of containers I found around my house that (sort of!) fit the Downton Abbey style.

Possible Downton Abbey containers

Soooo, now that we have containers to work with, I’m going to show you how to make three Downton-inspired arrangements: a quick centerpiece that uses a footed container, a smaller tiered arrangement and one arrangement using an old cut glass vase from my family. If you have old pieces around that you have never felt you knew what to do with them, your Downton experiment may be just the right fit!

With the exception of the cut glass vase, I have never arranged in either the silver or the red/white raised containers….so, this week we are experimenting together! Give it a try yourself, and share with us your results (shoot the results to!)

So, I bundled up, scraped the ice off my car, and went to Trader Joe’s in the frigid “polar vortex” that brought single digit temperatures to DC. I was instantly cheered up by their flower selection. I went a little overboard, and got two mixed bouquets and one bunch of hydrangea. (TJ’s is awesome though, all three bouquets still only set me back $15…not bad for three arrangements!) The color palette is simple, with primarily white, purple and light blue blooms.

When I got home, well, you know the drill…. I conditioned the flowers by giving them fresh cuts, dipping the hydrangea fresh cuts in alum (you can buy it in the spice section of the grocery store) and gave all the flowers a nice long drink of fresh water. An overnight slumber in the water gave the flowers the drink they needed and this morning, they really looked great!

Here are containers I am using today, and the mechanics I am using:

Arrangement #1:

This one uses oasis cut to fit and soaked in water, taped to stay put.

I started with the hydrangea, and realized that the individual blooms were so large that they look super lopsided when inserted into the Oasis. I deconstructed the blooms, which is a fancy way of saying I cut them into smaller pieces (and dipped them in alum) and inserted the smaller pieces into to Oasis to get more coverage, and less lopsidedness.

Arrangement 1 Starting with Hydrangea

There were holes, and in those holes I added the hydrangea leaves I had removed from the stems, some yew branches from the yard, and my favorite, thistle from the mixed bouquets. Here is the finished product.

Love this thistle! So Downton!!

Love this thistle! So Downton!!

Arrangement 1 - Final Product

Arrangement #2:

This next arrangement is a combination of different pieces of silver I had around. I  wanted the height you see in the pictures, but did not have anything quite so ornate. I did have smaller pieces of silver so I Jenga-ed them up, and will use a frog (that little round pointy thing) to hold the stems.  I used a candlestick as the base, a wine tray as the base on top of the candlestick, and a  footed candy dish to hold the flowers.

Pre jenga:

Arrangement 2 Mechanics


Arrangement 2 Final Mechanics

This arrangement of silver gave me two levels to arrange in.

Though its hard to see, the middle tier is filled with hydrangea leaves, white mums and baby’s breath just resting on the wine tray. It fills in the gap.

You can kind of see the tiers in this picture!

You can kind of see the tiers in this picture!

I had a few stems of white lily, and here is a helpful hint: if your lilies have started to open, be sure to carefully cut out the brown stamens….they stain! If your buds have not opened, as some of mine have not, you will need to anticipate the space they will take up when they do, in your arrangement. I filled in around the lilies with white mums, purple stock, asiatic lilies and some more pieces of the dissected hydrangea. Here is the finished product!

Arrangement 2 Final Product

Filling in with flowers, around flowers that are not open already, is difficult. It takes practice. If you are new to flower arranging, then try using something less challenging…. more mums, maybe some roses. I tried to maintain a roundish shape, but also think that you could do something with a triangular shape, and drooping sides that would look nice.

I did not have what I needed, to do that type arrangement, and it was too cold to get something from the yard. Here is an example of an arrangement that has a triangular shape, and what we call a down line (that drooping lower line) that I did last summer. It has a Downtown feel, and lots more greens. Come on summer!

Down line example


There were lots of leftovers from these two arrangements and that was due to my big buy…. but it left me with some very nice options for a small table arrangement in this pretty cut glass crystal vase from from my grandmother.

Arrangement 3 - Glass Vase and the Leftovers Final Product

The trick here is to use height and proportion to let each flower gets its show. Notice that the highest flowers, are the thistles, then we come down to the purple stock, and the star of the show is the single gerbera white daisy at the base where the flowers meet the vase.

Tucked in around the base are mums and a thistle stem here and there. The little whimsy in this arrangement that may be hard to see, is the few pieces of goose grass that are tucked in to offer additional height and movement.

So now you have some time until Sunday to work on converting your own home into Downton Abbey, at least on the inside….. at least  with flowers. Now get to work on making those arrangements and convincing your children that they need to dress up and serve you dinner at your dining room table on Sunday with the fancy dishes, crystal wine glasses and cloth napkins and your Downton Abbey flowers! Snap to it (and send us your finished results!)


jbryanDownton Abbey flowers and arrangements
  • Wchuck

    One of the most impressive arrangements I recall from the Downton Abbey series was a gift that The Dowager Lady Grantham and Mrs. Crowley each received from a gentleman who visited. The arrangements were in Oriental bowls, with large white flowers, small blue flowers, and large green leaves. Does anyone else recall these arrangements and have any ideas of what the flowers might have been. The large white flowers looked almost like peonies, or large white roses, perhaps.

  • Julie Edwards Bryan

    I think you might be on to something with the large white flowers ….peonies, and large cabbage roses were popular at this time in history. Without a photo to study, it’s really hard to identify the specific ingredients, but I think we can all conclude that the natural beauty of these arrangements are eye catching. If you have the screen shot, send it along and I will take a look! Thanks for posting!