The Key to Colour: Our Top Tips on Choosing Floral Colour Schemes

Picking perfect floral colour schemes is an often overlooked aspect of the florist repertoire and, as any florist will tell you, it’s not always easy! The colour scheme can make or break a design and we all recognise the niggling feeling when you’re missing that perfectly-hued bloom (usually straight after you’ve sold the last few stems of it, natch). Today we’re going to draw on the experience of our very own McQueens pros, to discuss the topic of colour and how to go about creating winning floral colour schemes across all areas of floristry.

Using the surrounding as your inspiration

As a contracts florist, the first thing I do is assess the environment where the flowers will be placed. Is it light or dark; from what vantage point will the flowers be viewed; how is the space decorated; are there dominant colours in the surroundings already? This will usually dictate the colours I go with.

For example, a low-light space might need ‘advancing’ colours to stand out — these are typically the colours you find on the ‘warm’ side of a colour wheel, reds, yellows oranges etc. A brighter, lighter space offers more freedom to use ‘receding’ colours, such as blues and purples on the cooler side of the colour wheel.

I also look for any existing furnishings, colour schemes or accents that might influence the flowers I choose; artwork (hanging paintings or sculptures) usually create focal points in a space.

Nicola Costain, McQueens contracts manager

A vibrand red and magenta flower scheme at Bluebird, London
Planning a colour scheme? Look to your surroundings for inspiration

Using the colour wheel to your advantage

When it comes to creating winning bouquets, my advice is to start off with colour wheel combinations, such as complementary colours (those that sit opposite each other on the colour wheel), analogous colours (three or four colours that sit side by side on the colour wheel), or monochromatic (the same colour in different tints, tones and shades).

If you’re just starting out, these kinds of ‘tried and tested’ colour combinations won’t fail to work and, over time, you can develop your own instinct. I’m a great believer in going by your feeling; if you challenge yourself to experiment with unusual different colours and textures, your intuition will guide you along the way.

Mariusz Ćwik, McQueens shop florist

A giant red rose and guelder rose bouquet by Andrea at McQueens
Simple and effective, red roses and vibrant green Guelder rose come together in perfect ‘clashing’ harmony

Fool-proof favourites

I spent many years as head of sales, handling the incoming bouquet orders to our Bethnal Green HQ, and my first question to clients would inevitably be ‘what’s the occasion’? This is a great starting point for picking a floral colour scheme, especially if your client isn’t sure or is open to different colour preferences.

Personally, I don’t think you can go wrong with white, cream and light green for something classic and fresh. Another combination I like to suggest is ‘pastel nudes’ — a blend of vintage lilacs, light blush pinks, ivory and cream; it’s timeless, elegant and romantic. Alternatively, for something cheerful, you can always go all out with bright yellow, oranges, purple and pink for something really vibrant that will truly brighten someone’s day.

Freddie Wahid Shaw, McQueens school administrator

You can't go wrong with white, cream and green
In need of something classic and fresh? You can’t go wrong with white, cream and green says resident expert, Freddie Wahid Shaw

The key to a colour pop

I retrained as a florist fairly recently so the concept of learning how to work with flowers and colour is still very fresh in my mind! One fool-proof tip I learned early on, is that using four to five different brightly-hued flowers is the key to a colourful colour scheme (in colour wheel terms, polychromatic — the use of any and every colour in the wheel). This works best when you combine bright ‘jewel’ hues like blue, violet, orange, cerise, yellow etc. (as opposed to blending in pastels or variegated varieties) for the ultimate colour pop. That’s not to say that another combination wouldn’t work, it’s just a really simple way of getting it right!

Selina Kerley, McQueens shop florist

colourful urn wedding flower displays at the Grove Hotel, London
Colour popping perfection at The Grove Hotel, London

Helping your bride pick the perfect colour scheme

One thing I find very interesting about bridal consultations is how often a client will come to the meeting wearing the colour they have in mind for their wedding flowers. Nine times out of ten their clothing or accessories will allude to the floral colour scheme they have in mind, too! That’s not to say you should bank on it, but if a client isn’t sure what they want or like, it can really help to pick up on their personal style.

Another thing I find quite useful is to use photos and mood boards to help a client to choose a floral colour scheme. Brides will often come to a consultation with a selection of images and I’ve found that you can usually split these into two groups; one for style or theme, and one for colour. Splitting them out into two is a simple and effective way to narrow down what your client wants quickly.

Sandra Walker, McQueens events administrator

A pale yellow, white and pastel pink bridal bouquet
If your bride is struggling to decide on a floral colour scheme, try looking to their personal style for inspiration

Creating a balance between light and shade

I love anything with a bit of shade – I don’t think you can go wrong with dark reds and purples, with lots of foliage and a touch of something softer, a light pastel, for example, to add a bit of contrast. I love a lot of foliage and will often use it as a starting point. If I have a dark burgundy foliage, for example, I might combine it with a pale cream or blush pink flowers to create that aspect of light and shade. It can be a tricky one to get right but I think the key to creating a balance is to pull out a hue from your darkest flower, as opposed to creating a stark contrast (like red and white). A pale violet, for example, will always complement the subtle blue tones in a deep, maroon rose.

Nadia Sefti, McQueens shop florist

A deep red and violet bouquet with calla lilies, Astrantia, red and violet roses
They ket to a ‘dark and stormy’ bouquet? Create a tonal blend of light and shade, says McQueens shop florist, Nadia Sefti

What are your thoughts on choosing floral colour schemes? Tell us over at @McQueensFlowers on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.