A beautiful arrangement of blooms can transform a space, instantly making a tabletop more elegant and interesting or a room feel alive and inviting. For guidance on how to create lovely flower arrangements that last, we turned to Paige Canfield, lecturer and owner of Washington, D.C.-based floral design company Sumner B. Designs, for expert advice. Canfield’s lectures cover everything from how-to tips to traditional tabletop protocol, and her Instagram account is filled with both inspiration and information that will appeal to the layperson and flower aficionados alike. Here, she shares a few pearls of wisdom:

How to select and care for your blooms: First and foremost, Canfield says to be certain that the bunches you select from the market are actually sitting in water. “Buying flowers from the grocery store is fine, just check the water level and find out the restocking days, and if a petal on a rose pulls too easily they have had too long a journey,” she says. When you get them home, always keep them in a very cool place before and after arranging. If you are lucky enough to be able to clip from your garden, Canfield says to cut early in the morning, at an angle, and place the flowers in cold water immediately after removing leaves from stems. Let them drink, and then recut under running water before arranging. Finally, if you’re gathering blooms for a dinner party or event, Canfield recommends purchasing flowers two days in advance so they have time to drink water and rest.

Tips for choosing your flowers: In terms of what to buy, Canfield encourages purchasing what is being grown locally. Year-round, she often works with roses, which she likes to form in a great round shape, and she’s also a fan of the “oh so maligned” carnation standing on its own in great masses. When using different varieties of flowers, remember that odd numbers look best, says Canfield. For example, use hydrangeas and two types of greenery to make three, or incorporate roses, freesia, tulips, and two greens to make five. Start by playing with threes, then try higher numbers.

The importance of picking a color scheme: For a sophisticated look, Canfield recommends purchasing flowers that are all in the same color scheme (her standby is greens and whites). Picking a single color and sticking to it—pinks, for example, in all shades from light to dark—will yield lovely results. Canfield advises always using greenery as the base, and then adding and playing from there. “Frequently, I grab what is close and use all greens,” she says.

Getting creative with vessels: It’s clear from the Sumner B. Designs Instagram account that Canfield takes an innovative approach to vessels—you’ll see florals tucked into everything from traditional urns to a tiny silver canoe. When selecting a vessel, Canfield says to buy what you like. “Most anything can be lined and made watertight,” she notes. “Once the flowers have moved on, you have a piece to love for another purpose.” Antique silver pieces, white pottery, iron stoneware, or even a children’s rain boot can be a container for a floral design. To transform an object to a watertight vessel, use a clear vase insert, which you can line with sheet moss to disguise. Jars and Tupperware can come in handy, too.

How to maintain your arrangement: “With cut fresh flowers, I recommend cutting the stems and changing and using cool water every day,” Canfield says, adding that there should be no leaves below the water line and you should always put your blooms in a cool spot at night.

TSG Tip 205 from Paige Canfield of Sumner B. Designs. Sumner B. Designs is featured in The Scout Guide Washington, D.C. Image courtesy Sumner B. Designs, photo by Abby Greenawalt. To book a lecture with Paige Canfield, contact sumnerbdesigns@gmail.com.