As you can see, I worked pretty loosely - I was certainly not owned by my photo! I took the photo at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, in 2004.
Once I had a working sketch, I started to select fabrics for the background. I knew that I wanted the foreground to look like greenery and the background to be dark but indistinct. I wanted two of the spiky plants that you see in the background of the photo, but they needed to be lighter in color so they would show up on my dark background. I wanted a larger variety of flower colors than in my photo, but I didn't really want any white flowers. So here is my background with the spiky plants in place and some flowers off to the side.
Once I was satisfied with my background, I started placing flowers. Basically, I kept moving them around and rearranging them to get them to look both balanced and random. I would upload a photo to our classroom (a yahoo group) and Ellen would make suggestions. Sometimes the suggestion would just be to move one flower slightly up or down so that it wasn't in line with another one; other times it was about how to shape a flower so that it looked right. Ellen's suggestions were invaluable, and so was looking at the photos. I could often see things on the computer screen that I couldn't see in the quilt, so that's a tip I'm going to have to remember for future design efforts.
Once I was satisfied with my placement, it was time to stitch everything down. I used a combination of glues, fusible web, pins, and my fingers to hold things in place. All of the stitching was done with the batting and backing in place, so it was stitched and quilted in one step. Here it is after quilting and before squaring up and binding: