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Make floral designs with ‘Flower Recipe Book’

For years the neighborhood florist was the go-to place for special-occasion arrangements and the occasional pick-me-up of cut flowers. Now as grocery stores, farmers markets – even hardware stores – have made fresh flowers so readily available, designers Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo of the San Francisco firm Studio Choo have another suggestion: Be your own florist.

Harampolis and Rizzo share their arranging skills in “The Flower Recipe Book,” a new how-to guide for creating 100 arrangements for all kinds of occasions.

The book (Artisan, $24.95) is set up as a series of recipes, with lists of ingredients, step-by-step instructions and photographs that make each arrangement simple to comprehend. The book also includes tips on choosing tools and vessels, advice on proper cutting technique and a frame-worthy ingredient chart.

Flower arranging seems like such an instinctive process, so I was cynical as I walked with book in hand to the Los Angeles Flower District, the huge market downtown. I presumed that following a recipe would take all the fun out of creating my own arrangement. I was wrong. With its streamlined approach – recipes often use no more than four ingredients and sometimes only one – the book was a helpful resource in an overwhelming environment. I have never been in and out of the 50,000-square-foot market so fast.

I could not find the exact ingredients for the thistle recipe I chose, but it was easy and fun to look for something similar at the market. By mimicking the flower shapes, colors and textures pictured in the book, I easily swapped eucalyptus greens for the book’s suggested acorn branches, and orange montbretia for euphorbia. Following the pictures and instructions, I assembled my own bouquet in a few minutes back at the office.

The substitutions meant my flower arrangement was different from the book’s, but that was fine by me. The effect was similar enough. And the total expense for what ultimately became two arrangements: $29.43.

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