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Sisters Laura and Christi Carrillo of Laurel Floral. (Credit: David Benthal)

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Sisters Laura and Christi Carrillo know the secret behind a beautiful fresh-cut centerpiece. The duo founded Laurel Floral Design out of Laura’s Delmar Lane home earlier this year, creating eye-catching arrangements.

With a background in hospitality, Christi tackles marketing, budgeting and partnering with local businesses like Kontokosta Winery in Greenport, while Laura, who attended the New York School of Flower Design, arranges and designs the bouquets and arrangements for weddings, birthday parties and baby showers.

Of course, you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy artfully designed flower arrangements at home.

“Flowers make the home cozy,” Christi said. “They make any space come to life by bringing a little bit of the outdoors in.”

Flowers are synonymous with spring, but a decorative fall arrangement welcomes warmth from the crisp autumn air. We sat down with the sisters for a tutorial on creating a fall arrangement that combines dahlias, roses and greenery for an impressive centerpiece.

What you’ll need

—Six medium-sized dahlias

—Five closed roses

—Four to six stems seeded eucalyptus

—Bushel of decorative kale

—Three stems hypericum berries

—Seven-inch tall vase

—Gardening scissors

—Packet of store-bought plant food (optional)

Flowers don’t have to be associated with just spring and summer. (Credit: David Benthal)

Flower Selection

To create the fall centerpiece, the Carrillo sisters selected hardy, medium-sized dahlias as the primary focal flower. The eye-catching, multi-petal flower bursts with fullness without competing with the secondary flower, roses, or lush greenery in the vase.

“You wouldn’t necessarily think to put roses and dahlias together because roses can be summery and dahlias are more for fall, but when you pair them together they complement each other,” Laura said. “The textures work well together. The dahlias have a lot of dimension while the roses are softer.”

Be sure the roses haven’t opened yet before being placed in the centerpiece. Closed roses will not only last longer, the stems will be easier to insert beside the larger primary flowers, Christi said.

When it comes to flower selection, Christi added, color is more important than variety. While popular fall choices are sunflowers and mums, a wider range is available year-round at local flower shops, she said.

“It is more about creating a palette that is reflective of the event or season,” Christi said.

Shades of orange, burgundy and yellow are ideal for fall centerpieces and can be mixed and matched to the creator’s satisfaction, Laura said. In this instance, she opted to select muted burgundy dahlias and pale orange roses.

“It is not too busy,” Laura said. “It is a little more simple and is a nice contrast with the dark greenery.”

The Carrillos tend to opt for a rustic aesthetic, using seeded eucalyptus paired with bulky decorative kale as greenery surrounding the flowers.

“I love eucalyptus, but it falls where it wants,” Laura said. “It smells delicious and fills out the centerpiece well because it’s a little more wild and not perfectly in place. It is rustic, like the North Fork.”

The final touch is hypericum berries, which are used as an accent after the centerpiece is constructed. The white berries are another contrasting element that makes the other colors in the centerpiece pop, Laura added.

Having the right tools is a big part of the equation. (Credit: David Benthal)


Fill the vase a little more than halfway with water. Add in the plant food, which slows fungal and bacterial growth. The plant food is optional, but prolongs the life of the centerpiece, Laura said. With proper care it can last between a week and 10 days.

Using a pair of gardening scissors, cut the stems of all the flowers and greenery on an angle, which helps the plants better absorb water. Leaves left to sit below the water line will deteriorate and promote mold, so remove any foliage from the stems that sit below water level.

As a general rule, stems should be roughly 5 to 8 inches taller than the vase. To accommodate the height of the 7-inch tall vase, the Carrillos cut the stems to 12 to 15 inches in length.

“They don’t have to be the same height,” Laura said. “You want different levels for dimension.”

Laura works on the arrangement during our shoot. (Credit: David Benthal)

Build your Bouquet

The first step is adding the greenery, placing the decorative kale and eucalyptus stems until it fills out the vase. For the fall centerpiece, the Carrillos opted for more greenery than the flowers. More kale can be added at the end to fill in any bare spots.

Next place the dahlias evenly in the vase, allowing the hardy greenery to support the stems. Repeat the step for the roses and the hypericum berries — just remember placement is not an exact science, so Laura recommends taking a step back and rearranging as needed.

“You can always add more or take away,” she said. “Just take a breath and see what feels right for you.”