“The problem is you can keep going forever,” says flower stylist Sophia Kaplan as she spins the lazy Susan, scrutinising her arrangement from every angle before adding another stem. She is wearing a brown-leather holster that holds a pair of very sharp secateurs.

Kaplan works from a shared studio space in Alexandria. She styles flowers and plants for events, weddings, photo shoots and special orders. Below are her tips for those styling their own wedding or party, or who want to take decorating their house to the next level.

Sourcing the goods

Markets are the best place to source flowers from. The Sydney Market in Flemington is the cheapest, but it’s best not to go too early (like at 5am) because that’s when the florists go and it gets crazy. 7am is better and you’ll have a calmer, more enjoyable experience. There are also great sellers at Kings Cross markets and local wholefood markets have reasonably priced flowers. Foraging –while respecting other people’s property; if someone has one rose, don’t take it – is good too. Don’t take from national parks and parks, but if there’s a stray leaf overhanging in an alley then it’s probably okay.

Caring for your flowers

When everything comes back from market you need to process the flowers, strip the leaves and recut the ends. There are some flowers, such as hydrangeas and roses, that need to be cut cleanly on a diagonal. It’s important to use sharp scissors or secateurs. Then put them into fresh water and change it daily, this will give them a longer life.

How to choose

Your arrangement depends on the season. Thinking about autumn brings to mind beautiful autumnal tones such as maroons and oranges and darker greens. It’s definitely nice to match your style to the season because it also means you’re using the best flowers available. At market they have imported flowers as well, but it’s much nicer to use Australian ones because you’re supporting the local growers and there’s not as many travel miles on the flowers. You also get nicer combinations if you’re choosing from what’s grown here, because they tend to work better together naturally. Have some sort idea of what basic shape or theme you want and then just let the flowers guide you.

It’s all about the base

For the base its good to use an oasis [floral foam bricks] – you can buy these from Apack or Koch & Co. The other option is chicken wire; it’s better for the environment because you can reuse it. You can buy it from any hardware store and mold it into a double-layered wrap the same size as your vase. A base isn’t essential, but with an arrangement (like the one pictured) there’s no way the flowers would stay in place without one. Or you can use the foliage to create a base inside the vase. Put it in first so you can use the stems for everything else to fit into, slowly building it up by crossing the stems over each other until they sit in place.

Combining colours and textures

It’s good to have strong colours and then a balanced medium colour. I usually choose two main colours, like pink and orange and then have something that is a medium between the two colours, like a darker pink. Think about different flower sizes; that adds texture too. Don’t have everything big – dahlia-sized flowers – or all tiny little roses; have a combo of big and small. Use different types of foliage; in the arrangement pictured I used something that has little seedpods, and that adds texture as well.

Decorating a room

It’s nice to have feature pieces but not excessive, flowery things. Think about different levels in the space, something on the table, and something on a stand. Have things in different places and maybe something on the floor as well just to make the eye move around the room, rather than just covering the whole space; it’s overwhelming. Have smaller detailed pieces that focus your attention.

Dinner parties

If you’re hosting a dinner at home always think about putting edible things in your arrangements; you can buy grapes, fruit stems and basil flowers from the flower market. If you’re having pasta have some beautiful Italian herbs in there, I love the idea that you can pick herbs straight from the arrangement and put them in your meal.

Autumn flowers to look out for

Japanese anemone, cosmos, blushing bride, dahlia, begonia, camellia, fruiting plants such as pomegranate, berries or crab apple, echinacea flowers, garden roses, king protea, rose hip, clematis and cyclamen.

Final tips

Treat the flowers like babies, be gentle with them, and keep the water clean. With arranging just go with your gut; even if it’s a bit crazy. My style is a little bit kooky and wild, maybe it’s a bit messy. I think that’s okay, let it reflect your personality and your style.