Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pick a Pretty Posy

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
A garden bouquet with salvia, chives, poppies, and a peony.
[This was going to be a quick-and-dirty blog post: snap a couple of pictures, add a narrative, and Bob's-yer-uncle. It didn't work out that way because I rushed the photography and had to redo my shoot TWICE more. Three hours later, I'm just starting to write.]

I love cut flowers. I know that some people believe them to be frivolous or even wasteful (they just die, right?), but I love bringing that splash of colour into my home, to enjoy as long as it lasts. And judging by the number of "likes" my arrangements receive on Facebook, I'm not alone. 

I read a blog somewhere that proposed a "bunch and fluff" method of arranging your flowers. I was to grab the bunch, stuff it loosely in the vase and just "fluff" it and let things fall as they may. It didn't work very well for me. Today, I share my tips for arranging flowers, using plants from our garden.

Start in the garden.

The first step to having bouquets that make you smile (without the expense of produce-store flowers) is to plant the flowers you love. I adore peonies, so I've got one plant back there, but I also like pastel colours, so I've focused on the purple-pink range. 

With the exception of my poppies, which are a peachy salmon colour. 
Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
They may move to the front or side yard some day.
The biggest lesson I've learned is to get LOTS of greenery. Consider this the "backdrop" for your arrangement. A lot of inexpensive purchased bouquets use baby's breath or fern branches to do this (because they are inexpensive), but different foliage provides more interest, colour, and texture. And you probably have more of it in your garden than you realize.

Using lots of greenery also prevents you from denuding all the flowers from your beds. 

Here's what I ended up with after a walk around our garden.

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
A purist would have stuck these immediately into a bucket or would re-clip the stems.
While you're clipping, strip off the leaves on the lower half of each stem. You can either put these leaves in the compost or (as I do, in a humid climate) just leave them on the ground. (In arid climates, this does not work as there is not enough humidity to help the dropped leaves decompose.)

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
The lower leaves are often ugly anyway.

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Better without. Any leaves that end up below the water line in your vase will rot in the water. Ick.
I typically have a 2/3 foliage:1/3 flower proportion.

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Note the leaf-free stems for the bottom two or three inches.
Choose your vase. 

For a tall centrepiece, I prefer a vase with about a 2-inch circular opening. (If there's interest, I can do future posts using alternative shapes and sizes. This design would have to be removed from the table during meals as it is too tall to look over.) Make sure the vase is freshly cleaned, with fresh water.

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
One of my favourite vases. (Those are air bubbles on the water, not soap.)
Go green.

Start with the leafy greens. These often have slightly woody stems and broad shapes that will help support your flowers, which more typically have weak stems and compact shapes.
Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
This could use some tweaking, but you see how full it is already.
Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
L-R: oregano, spirea, purple sandcherry, euonymus (which is such a scene-stealer that I made sure to snip three clumps, for balance.)
Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
L-R (and top to bottom): chives, purple sandcherry, lavender, oregano, periwinkle (myrtle)

I used to worry that many of the stems "face" downward, but I find that the undersides are pretty enough that I don't worry about it anymore. Also, some plants seem to droop very quickly, but then pick up after a few hours, so don't panic right away if your oregano looks sad.

Rotate the vase periodically so you will balance your arrangement.

Bring on the colour!

The flowers are the stars of the show. 

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Again, rotate the vase as you stick in the flowers.
Be very careful as you insert the weak flower stems. I often use my left hand to "clear the way" for the flowers.

I like my arrangements to have elements that poke up above the general mass of the bouquet, as well as things that droop below the bulk, so don't clip all your flowers to the same height.

If I were purchasing flowers for an arrangement, I would not likely have put the pink peony with the salmon poppies, but I worked with what I had, and I love it anyway.

Stand back and smile.

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
The moment of truth.
You will likely want to do some fine-tuning, but be careful: those stems are now a knot -- especially the foliage stems. (I'm thinking of trimming that peony just a wee tiny bit shorter.)

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Purple salvia were my vertical accent.
You can see a small bit of periwinkle also in focus.
Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Poppy and salvia in the background, with chives and lavender in the foreground.
Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
A different angle.
And there you have it: a tall, centrepiece bouquet from garden plants.

As a counterpoint to the elaborate bouquet, here is a simple, accent arrangement, using just sage flowers in a sculptural vase.

Pick a Pretty Posy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings


  1. I actually like to pop that the salmon poppy gives with the pinks and purples. Thanks for the tips! I find I'm really awful at arranging flowers.

    1. I used to think I was, too. I would try to create something symmetrical and fancy, and it all ended up just looking like clump-o-flowers. Adding the foliage really helps structure the bouquet. (And it doesn't take as many flowers to create an impact.)

  2. Oh so pretty!! I love that poppy colour. Now I am thinking I need this new shade in with my orange ones. And I love the tip about the greenery -- it really does make the whole bouquet stand out.

    1. I scavenged these poppy seed pods from a garden on my way to work. (It was not a well-tended garden, and I left plenty of seed pods for their own regeneration.) I had assumed they were the classic red-orange poppies and was pleasantly surprised.


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