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Fresh from the garden
Bring the blooms indoors from your cutting garden


April 2010

For fresh bouquets all summer long, plant a cutting garden and reap the rewards well into the fall. Gilbert Yerke of Yerkeís Frog Alley Greenhouse, Mukwonago, says a wide variety of blooms perfect for flower arranging are easy to grow in Wisconsinís climate. "Zinnias are a great cut flower," Yerke says, "and most of the time, they can be started from seed right in the garden."

Zinnias need full sun and space for air to circulate around each plant, he notes. They range in size from relatively short plants to those that grow up to 3 feet and come in a rainbow of brilliant colors.

Snapdragons, with their ruffled heads, are long-lasting cut flowers. Yerke recommends the taller varieties, such as Rocket and Spring Giant. Snapdragons fare better when transplanted, he notes, because they can be difficult to grow from seed in the garden plot. Hues range from delicate pastels to deep burgundy, oranges and bronzes.

Cheery marigolds are a cinch to grow, even for beginning gardeners. Tall varieties, available in shades of cream, yellow and gold, make excellent cut flowers, Yerke says.

An entire group of sunflowers are bred specifically for flower arrangements, Yerke notes, and feature orange, yellow, rust and bi-color blooms.

Cleome, also known as spider-plant, is a tall annual that produces an unusual, spiky flower to add interest to arrangements. The bloom of the celosia, or cockscomb, has a soft, feathery texture and is usually available in burgundy or gold.

Statice, which has papery blooms, can be used as a fresh cut flower or hung upside-down in bunches and used later in dried arrangements.

For striking bouquets, plant a series of gladiola bulbs throughout the summer. Or plant dahlia bulbs in a sunny, well-drained spot in the garden.

"Dinner-plate dahlias are a spectacular flower," Yerke notes, because the blooms can literally be the size of dinner plates.

Perennial delphinium produces iridescent blue and purple blooms on graceful spikes. Easy-to-grow cosmos, with its silky petals, comes in shades of delicate pink to bright orange to chocolate brown.

To add a little twist to your arrangements, try adding some tall grasses for texture, Yerke says. King Tut papyrus, red fountain grass and Purple Majesty millet all work well.

You donít need a large vase full of flowers to make a statement, Yerke notes. Clip a few geranium heads and put them each in a series of small bud vases. They will last up to a week indoors.

Or float some tuberose begonias in a clear glass bowl. A bunch of hydrangeas grouped together in a bouquet can have dramatic results as well.

Yerke suggests that whatever is available in the garden can be turned into a pleasing arrangement if you experiment with containers. If the flower has a shorter stem, such as a pansy, use a smaller container, like a teacup. Just let your imagination bloom.

The art of arranging

To show off the flowers youíve grown in your garden, floral designer Terri Madison of Bayside Garden Center offers a few tips for artful arranging:

Start with a squeaky clean vase. Vinegar dissolves the stubborn remains of long-gone bouquets.

If using a clear bowl, wrap green leaves or grasses around the inside of the container for a professional, finished look. Bear grass and ti-leaf work well.

If the mouth of the vase is wide, use clear tape or oasis tape (available at florists) to create a grid pattern across the top. Be sure the lip of the vase is dry so that the tape sticks. Secure the grid pattern by wrapping a piece of tape all the way around the lip of the vase.

Dissolve floral preservative in water and carefully pour the water through the grid pattern. Preservative inhibits bacteria. Do not use preservative in arrangements that feature bulb plants, such as daffodils or tulips.

Add foliage, such as lemon-leaf salal, leather fern, hydrangea leaves or seeded eucalyptus.

Choose your "focal flower," usually the largest flower in your bouquet. In the arrangement pictured at left, roses are the focal flower. Use an odd number of the focal flower, with a minimum of three.

Cut each stem of the flower at an angle with a clean knife or scissors. Flowers should be about one-and-a-half times taller than the vase.

Add the next largest flower, cutting the stems as noted above. Insert these between focal flowers.

Step back and look for gaps in the arrangement. Use a "filler flower" with multiple blooms on a stem, such as lilac or viburnum, to fill in the gaps.

Change the water and add preservative as needed.

Enjoy your blooming masterpiece. 



This story ran in the April 2010 issue of: