Reflexing flowers

By Glennis Byron
February 7, 2023
Filed in Flowers
3 minutes

It’s not a new technique but reflexing flowers has again become very popular with floral designers over the past year and it’s something easily done at home, with flowers from the garden, supermarket, or florist. Reflexing is a very simple design trick, barely a ‘technique’ in any real sense. All you are doing is flipping outwards some of the petals. It can help make a flower look fuller and it can make the best of second rate flowers, particularly roses and tulips.

For example, if you buy cut roses, they will often be tightly closed, and if you want to use them immediately in an arrangment for a particular event, this might be a problem. Reflexing some of the outer petals is a short cut to making those tight buds usable. It can even turn a stiff supermarket rose into something quite lush and romantic.

Give the stems a fresh cut on an angle (with a sharp knife, of course, not scissors) and then leave them with the stems submerged in water to hydrate for the best results – overnight is best. This will help the petals soften up a bit if they are those crisp supermarket varieties. Starting with the outer layer, put your thumb at the base of each petal and then use your forefinger to move the top of the petal gently downwards.

The flowers should last just as long in the vase as they would if not reflexed, but it does help to give those newly exposed petals a light spray of water before arranging.

You can get good results with garden roses too. This was the last rose in my garden this winter and it was just opening but looking very bedraggled. I took off the outer petals that had been damaged by the weather and insects, reflexed the next few layers, and suddenly it became quite a beauty.

Damaged rose upper right, reflexed rose below right and left.

While roses remain easily identifiable as roses when reflexed, tulips turn into quite a different flower. One of my favourite Korean floral artists, @keirafleur, uses the technique regularly, and it took me quite a while to realise one of her exotic flowers I was admiring was just a humble tulip, with its petals reflexed. I’ve always preferred tulips when they open wide, and this lets you reveal the beauty of the stigma, style and stamens right away.

Which do you prefer?

I must say I remain a touch ambivalent about manipulating the flower like this, but it doesn’t send me leaping up on my soap box like dyed or sprayed flowers do. And I see the advantages. When I went to the supermarket recently I succumbed to the tulips on sale at two bunches for nine dollars. When I got them home and stripped off the leaves I discovered I’d actually got very little tulip for my money: they looked very sad in the vase. Reflexing the flowers made it look like I had a lot more than I did.

What do you think? Does reflexing enhance the natural beauty of the flower or spoil it?

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