No, I have never taken a course. I think you just learn by doing. You take notice of what others do. And you learn over time what things might work better than others. For the dinner table, I like to have very intense small arrangements that are nearly all flowers, no fillers/leaves. Or alternatively, all leaves and no flowers. And try and stick with colors that seem to make sense together. And since we have always done all of our arrangements at home, we have never really had to resort to a florist or shop which generally charge significantly more than the actual cost of the flowers…
We took a surprisingly quick trip to Dimasalang at 6 am the morning of the 60th birthday dinner, the drive taking a record 18 minutes from Makati when it takes me nearly twice as long in the middle of the night. And the place had tons and tons of flowers and not a customer in sight… so despite my earlier plan to just put simple vases with amaryllis bulbs on the table, I decided to get some roses and carnations (several varieties) and some “queen anne’s” lace in pastel colors for a half dozen small arrangements.
Back at home, the flowers were placed in pails filled with water and allowed to drink for several hours, stems trimmed by an inch or so. This is a critical step to ensure that the flowers last longer.
Small white ceramic “plant boxes” like the classic wooden plant boxes in French estates used for orange trees that are out in the warmer months but transferred into the “Orangerie” in winter months were lined with dried moss…
…then oasis floral foam was shaped into something approximating a sphere with a “foot” readching down into the vase to steady the arrangement. The oasis was then removed and allowed to soak in a pail full of water and re-placed in the vase.
In cases where several of the same arrangement are being made, I like to have a rough “recipe” of flowers used, so that there is some consistency… in this case it was 6 stems of large pink carnations, 6 stems of pink-tinged white cluster carnations, 4 stems of dark pink carnations, 12 pink roses and some lace. I started with the roses then the carnations and the lace and tried to get a tight, spherical shape that looked random yet balanced.
Using a recipe also allows you to see if you have enough flowers for the intended number of arrangements. I tend to overbuy most of the time, but recipes help prevent running short or overspending. Think of it as the manner in which your brain naturally calculates how much “ulam” or viand you have on your dinner plate and how much rice you have and you have to pace your eating so that you end up with just a little rice and of course a last bit of ulam or viand. :)
Entertaining at home was far more prevalent in my parents generation, and today we rarely get invited to dinner parties in homes of peers with a formal sit-down dinner. But somehow I find that dinners at home can be far more festive, far more elegant, comfortable and despite all the extras, far more economical than an equivalent meal out at a restaurant or hotel. Floral arrangements such as these just make a table pop and they are often well worth the effort. :)