Floating An Idea

Bowls of water keep quick-to-wilt gardenias going

Photo: Margaret Houston

Fragrant but fragile gardenias rarely hold up for long in conventional arrangements. That’s why the Charleston, South Carolina, floral designer Sara York Grimshaw prefers to float the delicate flowers in bowls of water—to support them and hydrate the easily bruised petals, all while casting the nostalgic aroma throughout a room. “The bloom of the gardenia naturally wants to lie flat, and gardenias absorb water through their petals and stems, which makes floating them an easy and ideal way to keep them healthy,” she says. Leave a bit of greenery on a few of the cuttings for contrast. And for maximum drama (and the ultimate party trick), stagger multiple bowls of the blooms on an entry table to greet guests with an intoxicating scent as they walk through the front door. Now, that’s what we call a Southern welcome.

The Mix:
Fresh gardenias (High Camp Supply; $149 for thirty fresh blooms;; antique Red Aves octagonal serving bowl (Replacements, Ltd.; $350;; Brighton Pavilion wallpaper (Miles Redd for Schumacher; $598 per panel;