How to Choose the Perfect Flowers for your Table

Words by
Jemima Sissons

19th July 2022

Orlando Hamilton, a florist for over 20 years, has designed arrangements for the royal family, Madonna, Elton John and Robbie Williams, among others. He has appeared on the BBC, ITV and Sky. 

How did you fall in love with flowers?


I was a reinsurance broker for Lloyds. I fell into it when I left college and never enjoyed it — it was a job that paid the bills. I have always had a creative side but I wasn’t sure how I could turn that into a living. Jennifer d’Abo, a friend’s mother, was looking for someone to work for the royal florist Moyses Stevens and her son suggested she hire me. I’ve never looked back. The first flower I fell in love with was a gloriosa and to this day it’s still one of my favourites. 


What is tablescaping? 


Tablescaping is a way of dressing a table, often a long table, using more than one vase. You can also add other elements: candles, small pot plants — even grapes are a great way to have some fun. The idea is to create a scene or story. 


How do you achieve the perfect tablescape?


Set yourself a theme and follow through with your plates and glassware for added impact. Fill each small container or glass with one or two stems and space them apart in the middle of your table. Additions like tealights, herb pots, or miniature potted plants, which you can reuse, interspersed with small vases or narrow glassware from your larder, will work. Grouping a few containers together makes for an interesting look.


Which flowers are the best choices – and can you suggest any extras to make a tablescape stand out?


Use seasonal flowers as they are at their best and better value. In summer, English garden flowers like peonies, sweet peas, roses and dahlias work very well. Consider using a fabric runner down the middle of your table for a more formal look. I have even used fruit, such as aubergines for their dramatic colour, or bunches of grapes, as a twist on my tablescape themes. 


Are there any flowers to avoid? 


Tall or bulky flowers will dominate the space, and can be difficult to incorporate. 


How should you be mindful of sustainability? 


Where possible, cut flowers or foliage from your garden, if you have one. Cuttings are also a great sustainable way to expand your garden, or, even better, go out foraging. You can also dry fresh flowers, which can look great as they are, or can be turned into potpourri. 


Which garden do you consider to be the most beautiful in the UK? 


We are very fortunate that we have so many beautiful gardens, so it’s hard to choose just one, but if you put me on the spot, Sissinghurst is one of my favourites. It is so romantic and its outdoor garden “rooms” tell different stories throughout the seasons. 


What will you be planting in London this summer? 


Living in London, I don’t have much garden space myself — but I would suggest planting parrot tulips or ranunculus.