How to shop for flowers

Before I became a florist, I would stand in front of flowers at Harris Farm or my local farmer's market trying to decide what to get. I love flowers, but I was never quite sure how to shop for flowers and have a nice arrangement in my home. I would end up buying 2 bunches of carnations and popping them in a vase. I just didn't know what to get.
There is a really easy way to select flowers, and all you need is a little bit of an inside tip. Flowers fall into 3 main categories: focal, line and transitional (also known as filler). Like people, flowers have different roles and when you bring them together it works best if they each bring something different.
Focal flowers: these are flowers that have one single flower, on one single stem. Think roses, peonies, dahlias, carnations, gerberas, sunflowers. Within a floral design, these become the focal point, drawing the eye with their size and dominance. 
Line flowers: these are flowers that have a "line" shape to them. Flowers like delphinium, stock, snapdragons, gladioli, larkspur. Line flowers create the outline or outer shape of your design, they give height and depth to what you create.
Transitional: this is sometimes referred to as filler and it is multiple flowers on multiple sterms. Baby's breath is the classic translational flower and others include wax flower, sweet pea, spray roses, camomile daisy and lisianthus. Transitional flowers fill in the gaps between the other flowers and create space between them.
Then of course you have foliage, which plays a similar role to transitional flowers. In my opinion, having foliage in a design makes it look more natural. If you think about it, you can't really have flowers unless that plant has leaves to absorb the sunlight. So including foliage mimics the natural growth of flowers. The great thing about foliage is it's all around us, so you can forage for it, or buy it.
To make shop for flowers easy, all you need to do is get a mix of these 3 types of flowers so that they each do a different job within the design. If you follow this simple tip, you'll be able to create something really beautiful.
I like to find something that really catches my eye and build around that. Say, you find some gorgeous pale yellow roses - you can use them as your starting point. From there, you know you need to find a line flower and filler. You might see some peach snapdragons that work really well with the roses. Now all you need is a transitional flower - they might have wax flower, my all time favourite. You might not want to stop there - you can use more than 3 things but that's really all you need. That way you have a focal point, an outline and some filler to transition the other flowers. Simple!
Here are some gorgeous designs to show you the role each of the flowers has played in their design.