By Becky Copenhaver
I’m not a florist or even a floral designer, but I love and appreciate the craft. I’ve always had a secret desire to create awe inspiring centerpieces and stunning table arrangements.
I’ve dipped my toes into the water on a few occasions for friends and most certainly to provide indoor beauty in my own home, but I’m far from being an expert on floral design.
I have, however, after years of successes and failures, figured out what plants and flowers I can trust to look pretty, give me great balance and last for more than a few days, all the important stuff. Funny thing is, the most successful and beautiful arrangements I ever created came from things I cut in my own yard, and I’m not talking roses and carnations.
Unlimited Supply of Foliage
We have such an unlimited supply of foliage and flowering plants year round that the possibilities for unique arrangements are endless.
About 10 years ago I decided to have fresh arrangements in my home all the time. Every Sunday I go out and cut whatever is looking good.
I have one really large vase, easily 18 inches tall and flared at the top. My favorites for this one have been long shoots of bougainvillea blooms combined with seagrapes and a few macho fern leaves for filler. But when the bougies aren’t blooming, several pink crinum lily blooms surrounded by variegated ginger leaves and Areca palm fronds cut to length as a filler work great too.
Smaller vases might have nothing more than copperleaf cuttings, lots of them, to make it full and colorful. There are so many varieties of the copperleaf plant with colors ranging from the traditional mottled copper color to leaves with pinks, cream and green. You’ll want to plant all of them in your yard.
Three very small vases on the dining room table often contain native red salvia, coreopsis and new growth sword fern. So simple and so sweet.
Pretty much all of these vases of fresh cut flowers and foliage last for at least a week, (probably longer if I actually changed the water every few days like I should).
Landscape Plants Work Too
I’ve used common landscape plants like ixora, coleus, caladium leaves, heliconia, canna lily and crepe myrtle (although with the crepe myrtle, be prepared to pick petals off the floor, they have a ton of them and drop at least a third every time you touch them, but oh so worth it). All of these are south Florida plants and all of them are available locally.
Some of the best home arrangements involve using tried and true re-seeding annuals. Zinnia, coreopsis, and cosmos immediately come to mind but there are so many others.
When I was growing up, my mom always had narrow bed along the length of the driveway reserved for flowering annuals and perennials. Daylilies were the anchor but the gladiolas snapdragons and other annuals were the show. In south Alabama this bed was planted in early March and the whole thing continued to re seed and bloom until at least mid November. It was the prettiest spot in the whole neighborhood and, as a youngster, in my mind, the prettiest spot in the whole world.
We can do that here, most successfully from October to easily June, although a year round annual-perennial garden is not out of the question.
Clear out a sunny spot in your yard, and make it garden of annuals. Plant tons of them, fill it up. Include perennials like pentas, vinca and blue salvia, add a bird bath or some yard art and you’ve got yourself a great little cutting garden that will be the envy of your street. Unlimited supplies of cut flowers for yourself and plenty to share. Learn to recognize the seedlings of the annuals you plant so you don’t mistake them for weeds. You’ll most definitely want to encourage these plants to reseed.
Having a wide variety of plants in your garden gives you so many options for arrangements.
Foliage plants like ti plant, gingers, heliconia and ferns offer both accents and fillers for almost any arrangement and all are available in a wide range of colors, leaf shapes and leaf sizes. Areca and lady palm, coontie and cardboard palm all have attributes that, mixed with other elements lend themselves to creating stunning arrangements.
Bird of paradise, both blooms and leaves, in a tall glass vase can almost make the statement all by themselves. Muhly grass, purple fountain and even fakahatchee grass have great blooms that work well in so many different arrangements.
For fragrance, add sweet almond, gardenia or any jasmine variety.
I guess they’ll be a time when only roses will do, so unless you grow your own, then a trip to the florist is in order. I’ll admit it, every once in while you need a little baby’s breath so just get it while you’re there. But make them a small part of what you’re doing, a minor accent, to the arrangement from your garden.
So here’s the gig: You can create continuous beauty on the inside of your home by cultivating long term beauty on the outside. Plant a wide variety of plants in your yard. Look at the potential of the plants you choose, bloom, foliage and even seeds. Heart warming, soul pleasing arrangements don’t have to come from a flower shop; they can come from your own yard.
Becky Copenhaver is a Certified Master Gardener, Certified Horticulture Professional and former Certified Landscape Designer. She is the owner of Becky’s Garden Shoppe at 6450 Elliott St. in Punta Gorda and can be reached at 941-621-8551 or firstname.lastname@example.org