How to use flowers to boost your wellbeing this winter

·6-min read
Photo credit: Erik Madigan Heck for Harper's Bazaar
Photo credit: Erik Madigan Heck for Harper's Bazaar

“A connection to nature is really a connection to the present,” solution-focused psychotherapist Gin Lalli tells us. Anchoring ourselves in the here and now can help us avoid anxiously forecasting the future, and ruminating negatively about the past. She says flora can be a tool to help us do this.

“Flowers grab our attention visually, with their bright colours and beautiful appearances, as well as through smell and their texture, which we can feel and connect with.” Indeed, their scents can be exceptionally powerful.

“Of all our senses, smell is the only one that bypasses the thalamus, or ‘consciousness detector’, which is sometimes called the gatekeeper of the brain,” Lalli continues. “So, the scent of flowers can enter our brains and attach to our memories without us consciously having to process it – it’s an automatic response.” She explains that we don’t really process information in words, we process it through emotions, which we can link smells to. “If you’ve ever felt relaxed or happy when you were around flowers, which many people often will have done, you’re triggering the same emotions by taking in the same scent,” she says.

Gin adds that by bringing the outdoors in – through the use of cut flowers or house plants – we are reminding ourselves of nature’s presence, even throughout the depths of winter when we naturally spend little time outdoors.

“Throughout winter, some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a feeling of low mood or depression brought on during the darker months, due to the reduced exposure to sunlight,” she explains. “When everything outside is dark and grey, flowers provide a huge contrast to that. They’re a valuable reminder that there is still colour and beauty in the world, and having them in the home can be hugely beneficial in reducing low mood, anxiety and stress.”

Photo credit: LK Verdant
Photo credit: LK Verdant

It's a very accessible therapy. “Nature in general is not demanding. It’s beautiful just existing, which is hugely powerful for achieving a sense of mindfulness; it’s why we give people flowers when they’re sad or sick. Caring for something, even plants and flowers, can also bring about a number of mental wellbeing benefits, as we gain fulfilment from nurturing something.”

Expert florist Raysa Farah, owner of online flower delivery service LK Verdant, too believes in flower power for easily elevating one’s mood. Here, the pro has handpicked eight flowers that make for a stunning winter vase arrangement – to brighten not only your home, but your spirits, too.

In addition, Farah explains how to handcraft a bouquet for your own display, with tips on extending the life of cut flowers, and how to use them for additional purposes.

8 flowers for the perfect winter home vase arrangement

Chrysanthemum (bellavista)

Photo credit: Tatyana Azarova - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tatyana Azarova - Getty Images

“I call this the firework flower. It has layers of small, thin petals that fan out in such a striking way from the head – they’re gorgeous to look at. I think that when we’re able to look at nature and admire its beauty, especially from the comfort of our own home, it’s always going to be good for the soul. While the bellavista is typically a two-tone orange, chrysanthemums come in a variety of colours, and they’re the type of flower you stop to notice different details about every time you pass them.”

Red rose

Photo credit: Amer Ghazzal - Getty Images
Photo credit: Amer Ghazzal - Getty Images

“Red roses have a warm, sweet smell, as well as a velvet-feel. Most people associate them with love and romance, so having them around the home or as part of your floral display will always add that ‘something special’. Roses in general are known to contain lots of powerful antioxidants. They’re used to make rose tea and rose water, and with petals high in vitamin C, they’re also a choice ingredient in certain skincare products. Larger roses are good for filling out your bouquet creation.”

St John's wort

Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images

“This evergreen plant grows all year round and is used medicinally as a herbal remedy to treat a variety of conditions, including mood disorders such as anxiety and Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a flowering shrub that smells earthy and warm. In the summer, St John’s wort blooms flowers that look like little yellow stars making it interesting to use year-round. Oil made from the plant has also been used to aid wound healing.”


Helenium (autumn fire)

Photo credit: skymoon13 - Getty Images
Photo credit: skymoon13 - Getty Images

“Heleniums can often look like mini sunflowers. Some are bright yellow with a small, greenish brown centre, or as you see more regularly with the autumn fire variety, a captivating mix of yellow and red. They ooze positivity to me and add little drops of sunshine to any floral display. We associate the colour yellow with happiness, warmth, fun and laughter, so adding a few heleniums to your arrangement will give it a more cheerful feel.”


Lavender

Photo credit: ASIFE - Getty Images
Photo credit: ASIFE - Getty Images

“This flowering plant stands tall with pretty purple and blue buds, which hold a sweet and earthy scent. I find this plant very grounding to be around.

"It’s commonly used in aromatherapy through essential oils, to help us sleep, and provides an overall calming effect. It’s available in the UK all year round.”



Ranunculus (sangria)

Photo credit: nschatzi - Getty Images
Photo credit: nschatzi - Getty Images

“To me, this beautiful flower resembles the frills on a ballerina's skirt. It’s versatile and doesn’t particularly have a smell, so it’s perfect for those who are sensitive to scented flowers.

"There are lots of different types of ranunculus. They will make any arrangement appear bright and beautiful in a way that boosts your mood whenever you walk by.”


Tuberose (elsa)

Photo credit: Biswa1992 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Biswa1992 - Getty Images

“The white or pink heads on this tall, elegant flower look incredible in a vase arrangement, complementing any colour palette. Its sweet, floral scent is so powerful and rich that it’s used in many perfumes and candles.

"If you have enough of it, tuberose can act as a natural version of a scented diffuser to keep any room smelling fresh.”


Peppermint

Photo credit: kokopopsdave - Getty Images
Photo credit: kokopopsdave - Getty Images

“Peppermint smells fresh and invigorating and can work as a natural repellent against insects. It’s a popular remedy for digestion issues and other conditions. So, as well as giving your vase arrangement fullness and depth, you can save some to make refreshing peppermint tea. It’s as simple as adding a few leaves to a cup of hot water, steeping them for a few minutes and then removing them. This is also beneficial if you have a cold or blocked nose, as peppermint is known to relieve congestion.”

Raysa Farah’s tips on home flower arranging

Try these tips to ensure the perfect arrangement at home, and to keep it fresh for as long as possible.

– “Fill your vase of choice with two thirds of very cold water. The cold temperature will keep the flowers fresher for longer.”

– “Add a tiny drop of bleach to keep bacteria at bay. This, again, will help to keep your arrangement fresh.”

Photo credit: LK Verdant
Photo credit: LK Verdant

– “Always cut stems at an angle with sharp scissors to allow for maximum water absorption. Cut them under a steady stream of water to reduce the chance of air pockets forming that could block their ability to drink water.”

– “Always put the focal flower – the largest flower head – at the front and middle of the vase to take centre stage. In this instance, it would be the red rose or ranunculus.”

– “Have your ‘filling flowers’ – heleniums, chrysanthemums and lavender – dotted around the focal flower and closing most of the gaps.”

– "Any foliage and greenery, in this case peppermint and St John’s wort, should be distributed evenly around the vase at different heights and positions to add the final touches of detail."

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