From DEBRA’s garden
We’re convinced that even the tiniest of gardens can yield interesting and unique flowers, branches, leaves, vines, and stems to create a seasonal bouquet. You don’t have to be a flower farmer to grow and harvest appealing ingredients. And you don’t have to be a floral designer to assemble an eye-pleasing arrangement.
When the sun is shining and the earth is warm, as is the case when June rolls around pretty much everywhere, it’s even more tempting to fill a vase with water, grab the floral shears or pruners, and clip away at whatever catches your eye. Experimentation is the name of the game.
This morning, when it was still yet cool and the sun wasn’t beating down on the garden, I did just that. I strolled around my suburban backyard, snipping a little of this and a little of that. I took care not to completely denude any of the woody or herbaceous plants in my beds and borders; rather, I tried to cut stems randomly so as not to leave an obvious bare spot in the garden.
With a bucket of water at the ready, I clipped roses, hydrangea, Shasta daisies, yarrow, salvia, sedum, fancy-leaf geranium, nicotiana, stephanotis, agapanthus, podocarpus, grapevine, nasturtium, mint, and probably a few other things that now slip my mind. As I cut, each stem and branch was quickly placed in the water to keep everything fresh and hydrated.
Next step – design. I began with vase selection. I wanted to assemble one lavish, tall arrangement to place on the grand piano in our living room. This creation called for my crackle-glazed vase in celadon green, approximately 10-inches tall and with a 7-inch opening. For my second arrangement, I wanted a cheery, cottage-style nosegay to grace my kitchen counter. The “lid-less” white teapot pulled from the cabinet was perfect.
As with many things in my life (writing, cooking, garden design, to name a few), I figure out what I’m doing while actually doing it. And with floral design, this isn’t a bad thing. You really need to start with the vase anyway and let its style and scale suggest a design theme. Add the flowers and other botanic ingredients that relate to the vessel’s personality. Here’s what I came up with:
YELLOW, WHITE, GREEN – for a breath of fresh air
The celadon vase is so beautiful that I didn’t want my floral palette to compete with it. And thus, as I plucked my cut flowers and foliage out of the water bucket, my hand almost instinctively reached for everything white, yellow and green. Here’s what I used:
- Foliage: fern-like branches of Podocarpus. This is a ubiquitous hedging plant in Southern California and we have several at the north edge of our backyard (it’s often called “fern pine”). Clipping off 12 inches’ worth was a great starting point to my arrangement. As I added more blooms, the fluffy Podocarpus helped stabilize each stem.
- Tall white blooms:I added five about-to-bloom white agapanthus with their delicate, pompom-like flowers (this flower is often called Lily-of-the-Nile). I also added two of these “in bud” – still green and pod-like – looking quite gorgeous on their thick, erect stems. Other white blooms included a spray of ‘Iceberg’ roses and three Shasta daisies. I don’t know the name if this variety but I sure love the double petals with the bright yellow centers.
- Medium-sized yellow blooms: There is an abundance of Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (also called yarrow) in my backyard. I planted four of these perennial plants last spring and they’ve just taken off. Butterflies and other pollinators love them and the golden bloom color is quite pleasing, echoing the yellow at the center of my Shasta daisies. One more source of yellow called out to me as I was cutting flowers today. It is an unusual variety of the tobacco flower (Nicotiana sp.) that I carried home in a tote bag when I flew back from Garden Writers Association annual meeting in Raleigh, N.C., last fall. With glaucus blue-green leaves and long, tubular yellow flowers, this is a cool plant for the perennial border and an equally fetching choice for my bouquet.
- Extras: These are the little accents that add style and personality to any design, making it so much more interesting than the clutch of clashing blooms wrapped in grocery store cellophane. I added a few lengths of newly unfurled grape leaves (and their vines) and some pinkish plumes of Pennisetum orientale, a gorgeous fountain grass. What you notice more than the color is its soft texture – a meadowy touch to the design.
A POT O’PRETTY – a cottage garden mixture for my tea pot
The white tea pot long ago lost its lid, but I still use it to occasionally brew tea.
Yet, as a flower vase, it’s just perfect for a small bunch of fragrant ingredients. This posy design gives me the ideal opportunity to combine solitary blooms in need of company.
Let’s see, two different roses (one deep scarlet; one an apricot hue). Add a sole pale pink hydrangea flower and a raspberry-pink Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.
To these, I added a pleasing hodge-podge of interesting foliage and flowers:
- Stephanotis stems with flowers, buds and glossy green foliage.
- Fancy-leaf and scented pelargoniums
- Blue-green nasturtium foliage (they look like tiny lotus leaves)
- A spray of miniature rose buds
- Several stems of magenta-colored salvia
Simple! To me, successful floral design is about no more than capturing a breathtaking moment to observe and marvel at nature’s glory. And, of course, that other rule: You can never have too many flowers!