Casual, Late Summer Arrangements … Shadow, Light & Texture for the Vase

August 10th, 2012 § 4 comments § permalink

The Dark Centers of Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and Fine Texture of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) Play with Light and Shadow on the Early Evening Dinner Table –  Jar from Terrain

I love fresh cut flowers, and at the end of a busy week, I find there’s nothing more relaxing than a stroll through the garden, meadow and surrounding forest, to gather leaves, ferns, branches and flowers for arrangements. Beginning the day with a bit of meditative flower arrangement is the perfect way to get creative juices flowing. While outside I like to keep my eyes open for fresh combinations. Late summer blossoms are beautiful in vases, of course, but why not bring more of nature’s abundant beauty indoors?

An Old Atlas Jar, Filled with Un-Ripe Blackberries, Sprigs of Elderberry and Luminous Hair Grass from the Meadow

In late summer, the garden is overflowing and I’m constantly taming borders and clearing paths by clipping things back. Rather than compost my cuttings, I’m often inspired to create arrangements with some of the the extra foliage. Shiny hosts leaves, textural conifer branches, feathery ferns, wispy blades of wild grass and lacy tendrils from vines all make beautiful additions to the vase. Wayward bits of foliage in the vegetable garden and berry patch are fair game as well! Why not create an edible centerpiece with berries or nasturtiums? When putting arrangements together, I like to contrast bits and pieces that catch light (grass, delicate seed pods, lacy flowers) with darker elements (berries, gnarly brown branches or shadowy leaves). Looking for inspiration? Lately, I enjoy visiting Pinterest for fresh, creative ideas!

Gathering Foliage & Flowers in the Morning, Fresh from the Garden: The Entire Process —Selecting, Cutting, Prepping, Arranging— is Relaxing and Fun

Delicate Queen Anne’s Lace and Immature Hydrangea Blossoms Lighten a Vase Filled with Lush Foliage in Cool Shades is Calm & Refreshing on a Hot Summer Day

Tips for Keeping Flower Arrangements Fresh & Lovely

1) Cut flowers & foliage when it’s cool in the garden. Morning or evening.

2) Use sharp, clean pruners or shears.

3) Carry a bucket with you while cutting and place flowers & foliage in tepid water.

4) Cut flowers in bud or just as they are beginning to open & young, fresh foliage. Be creative. Select twigs and branches, berry brambles, ferns, conifers, vegetables and other items. Have fun and experiment!

5) Cut stems long, but take care to remember the rules of pruning; particularly when cutting roses, lilacs & other shrubs (revisit this basic pruning post).

6) Strip off lower foliage and side branches as you go (anything below the waterline of the intended vase).

7) Sear sappy/milky stems with a flame or boiling water (poppies, hollyhocks, etc).

8) Hammer the bottom and strip bark from woody stems.

9) Arrange flowers in a clean vase, filled with tepid water. If you are having a party and want to keep arrangements fresh until guests arrive, place vases in a cool basement or refrigerator (be sure cool storage temp is set well above the freezing mark)

10) Add a tiny bit of sugar and a few drops of bleach (hydrogen peroxide based is fine) to the vase when you arrange flowers.

11) Check and change the water in vases every day when it’s hot. For greatest longevity, try to place arrangements out of direct sunlight and in a cooler part of the house, if possible.

Woody Stems of Old Fashioned, Flowering Weigela (W. florida ‘Red Prince’) Fill My Kitchen Sink

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Wild Blue: The Beauty of Baptisia…

June 7th, 2012 § 3 comments § permalink

The Beauty of North American Native Plants: Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis) & Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus) in My Garden. This Flowering Combo is Backed Up by “Nativars” (Native Plant Cultivars): Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’ & Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’

In my work as garden designer, I often find myself doing overtime as PR agent for native plants. Many North American wildflowers make beautiful additions to the garden, and yet the natives continue to struggle with “weedy” and “seedy” reputations. Of course, not all wild things are suitable for domesticated gardens and perennial borders, but some are quite sensational. When I encounter resistance, I like to pull out a few show-stopping design combos —like the one pictured above— to convince my more dubious clients. Baptisia —sometimes called false indigo or wild indigo— is such a beautiful and well-known perennial that I frequently need to remind even experienced gardeners that it is actually a North American native plant.

Wild Blue Indio and Goat’s Beard Together Again, in Another Garden Room, with North American Native, Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

There are many beautiful species within the Baptisia genus; including some magnificent natural hybrids. The most familiar of the group, Baptisia australis (Wild Blue Indigo or Blue False Indigo), is a long-standing favorite among perennial gardeners. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, Wild Indigo is an easy-to-please, long-lived beauty. Baptisia australis and cultivars (B. australis ‘Purple Smoke’ is one of my favorites) all prefer full to partial sun and deep, moist, well-drained soil. However, I’ve used Wild Blue Indigo in semi-shade and drier sites with great success. Although it isn’t a fast-growing plant, in ideal conditions, Baptisia australis will reach 3-4′ in height, with about a 3′ spread within 3 or 4 years. Do plan well and give it plenty of space; due to its deep root system, it resents transplanting (but is easily propagated, and freely self-sows from seed). The violet blue flowers bloom in June here in Vermont, and they combine well with many other garden plants; including perennial classics like herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), fellow June-blooming natives like the Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus) pictured above, and woody plants such as dark-maroon-leafed Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ (a “nativar”, or native plant cultivar). After blooming, the grey-green foliage adds both color and texture to the garden, and later in summer, blackened seed pods add autumn-garden interest.

In the garden, Baptisia australis —and other species within the genus— is an important native plant for pollinators; including butterflies, bumblebees and other native bees. Although I leave most of the flowers standing in my perennial borders, I grow more than enough to enjoy some spiky blue-violet blossoms indoors as well. Wild Blue Indigo is also one of my favorite cut-flowers; a long lasting, mood-beauty for the vase…

Read More About Fresh-Cut Flower Care by Clicking Here

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Gathering Bouquets Between Raindrops & Simple Tips for Fresh Cut Flower Care

June 12th, 2011 § 7 comments § permalink

Peony blossoms are of course my favorite cut flower, and by growing many cultivars, it’s possible to extend the flowering season for a month or more

After two days of steady rain, I slipped outside this morning to wander around the garden between raindrops and gather fallen flowers for fresh bouquets. Poetic as drooping blossoms look when tumbling from perennial borders, I can’t imagine leaving them on the lawn to be devoured by snails. Oh no. In fact, the main reason I grow peonies is for cutting, and I’ve planted many other perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs with fresh flowers for bouquets in mind. False indigo (Baptisia australis), iris, columbine (Aquilegia), fox glove (Digitalis), old-fashioned roses and  poppies (Papavar orientale), are some late spring favorites for the vase. I love all colors, but I am particularly fond of deep violet, blue and cerise colored blossoms. I also cut foliage for flower arrangements, including entire branches from shrubs and trees. Of course fragrance trumps almost all other considerations when it comes to fresh cut flowers, so lilac (Syringa), fragrant abelia (Abelia mosanensis), roses, lily of the valley (Convularia majalis) and of course peonies, will always be planted in excess throughout my garden…

My studio desk with blue, false indigo (Baptisia australis) cut fresh from the garden

Whenever I see tiny bud vases at flea markets, I snap them up. I also use old spice jars, recycled perfume bottles and salvaged medicine bottles for tiny bouquets

Peonies are, of course, kept as close to nose-level as possible. With blossoms as pretty as these, it seems like gilding the lily to add anything extra to the simple blue-green, glass canning jar

Simple Tips for Fresh Cut Flower Care

Cut flowers when it’s cool in the garden. Morning or evening.

Use sharp, clean pruners or shears.

Carry a bucket with you while cutting and place flowers in tepid water.

Cut flowers in bud or just as they are beginning to open.

Cut stems long, but take care to remember the rules of pruning; particularly when cutting roses, lilacs & other shrubs (revisit this basic pruning post).

Strip off lower foliage and side branches as you go (anything below the waterline of the intended vase).

Sear sappy/milky stems with a flame or boiling water (poppies, hollyhocks, etc).

Hammer the bottom and strip bark from woody stems.

Arrange flowers in a clean vase, filled with tepid water.

Add a tiny bit of sugar and a few drops of bleach (hydrogen peroxide based is fine) to the vase when you arrange flowers.

Check and change the water in vases every other day.

A combination I love: Blue Siberian Iris with Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’ (read more about Physocarpus opulifolius here)

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’, and the branches of many other flowering shrubs are beautiful in arrangements

Beautiful Baptisia australis looks gorgeous atop a dark dresser or dining table

Weigela florida ‘Red Prince’ produces lovely cerise blossoms on strong branches (read more about this beautiful, tough shrub here)

Words & Photographs ⓒ Michaela Medina – The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reposted, reproduced or reused in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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