How to make petite vintage-bottle floral arrangements

Petite floral arrangements make everyone smile

Ask anyone who knows me: I absolutely adore anything that is teeny-tiny, minute, miniature and microscopic. Perhaps it’s simply a fascination with detail, as I’m always amazed by the intricacies of the design and architecture of anything created in miniature – whether by humans or Mother Nature.

So when one of my favourite photographers, Paul Chmielowiec (who I’ve worked with to shoot projects and interiors over the past decade for Canadian Living), sent me some of his artful images of miniature floral arrangements by floral designer Sarah Wu of Petite Studio in Toronto, of course I was inspired!

A contemporary English-garden arrangement featuring Ontario-grown dahlias, lisianthus, Queen Anne’s lace and seeded eucalyptus by floral designer Sarah Wu, the owner of Petite Studio. Photo by Paul Chmielowiec.


Above: One of Sarah Wu‘s stunning arrangements – available at her floral studio, Petite Studio in Toronto – showcases her uniquely organic and fluid style. Sarah is certified as a professional floral designer by the Canadian Institute of Floral Design and is a part-time faculty member at the school. She also holds a bachelor of design from York University and Sheridan College, and an honours bachelor of science from Queen’s University.

I love Sarah’s work, but it was the images (below) that Paul sent me of her petite vintage-bottle arrangements that first caught my eye.

Using 80 vintage apothecary bottles that were brought in by a client for a wedding table centrepiece, Sarah casually dropped a single blooming stem into each diminutive 5- to 6-inch bottle, creating a very personalized and charming centrepiece.

These little treasures instantly took on an air of prominence and drama when captured separately through Paul’s lens and enhanced with his keen creative eye and digital skills. His vintage-style muted-yellow backdrop adds a nostalgic look to Sarah’s vintage-bottle bud vase arrangements, making them appear as though they were from another time.

Here are some of Paul’s images of Sarah’s arrangements, followed by some of my own images of the fabulous bottles I’ve found in abundance at flea markets and thrift shops on my travels.

Paul and Sarah’s vintage bud vases

A single stem of freesia in a green-tinted medicine bottle. Photo by Paul Chmielowiec.

A fragrant, soft pink “stock” flower in a green-tinted bottle. Photo by Paul Chmielowiec.

Brown and amber bottles make pretty bud vases for small yellow novelty chrysanthemums. Photo by Paul Chmielowiec.

A canning jar with an open rose and some greenery. Photo by Paul Chmielowiec.


Snap a photo of your own creation: Paul and Sarah’s tips

Take a photo of your own floral creation, then print it and frame it for an inexpensive and personal piece of art for your home or as a gift for a friend. Here are some tips from Paul and Sarah.

  • Select flowers that are meaningful to you, like a sweet wildflower given to you by your child.
  • Choose blooming stems in proportion to the size of your bottle.
  • Use single stems with clusters of blooms or a large single bloom such as a daisy, rose or dahlia.
  • Don’t have a garden? Find unique flowers at florist shops.
  • Clean your vintage bottles with a solution of bleach and mild dish soap before creating your arrangement.
  • Add floral food to the water to ensure longer lasting arrangements.
  • Use a roll of wallpaper or wrapping paper to create a background for your photograph. (See Paul’s photos above.)
  • Place your vase next to a natural light source, with the source of light coming in from the side, or shoot your photographs outdoors, but not in direct sunlight.
  • Turn off all indoor lights as they’ll affect the colour and exposure of the photograph.
  • For artful results, use a tripod, a shallow depth of field f/2.8 and below, and a macro lens (or set your lens to macro).
  • Create a nice composition, set the focus on the bloom and SNAP!


Hunting for unique bottles

The sky is the limit when it comes to colour, size and shape, so keep a sharp eye out for bottles that suit your decor. Here are some fabulous bottle collections I’ve discovered over the past few months at various flea markets in Canada and the United States.

Glass shelves fitted to a window frame make the perfect place to store and display your bottle collection when it’s not in use as bud vases.

Keep an eye out for these rare but beautiful vibrant blue and purple bottles. Photo by Karen Kirk.

Teal blue preserving jars are easily found and come in various sizes. Photo by Karen Kirk.

Apothecary bottles in pretty hues of seafoam green. Photo by Karen Kirk.


Happy bottle hunting! Follow me on Twitter: @KKMe123!