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I am not a flower arranger. I am a gardener and sometime garden designer but when it comes to arranging flowers, I belong to the school of “cut and cram.” Well maybe it’s not that bad, but typically I rely on whatever looks good in my garden, cutting some of this and that, be it foliage, flowers or fruits to bring indoors, not just for holiday arrangements but for lifting my spirits throughout the year. Over time I’ve discovered that there are many plants that I cultivate that work well for use in arrangements. Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking at your garden from a different perspective. You might be surprised at how many plants you already grow that lend themselves for indoor decorations too.
One of the benefits of gardening in Zone 7 is our long growing season. Last year I discovered that Fatsia japonica, a plant I grow for its foliage, also produces curious flowers and interesting seeds. The flowers appear in late fall, followed by the berries.
Just one stalk in a vase and you have an instant arrangement. I’m not sure how the berries will hold up but I look forward to trying them this year.
Berries that persist for a long time and are great for holiday decorations include hollies of all types, both evergreen and deciduous, with fruits that range from deep red to orange and yellow. Although I would not recommend planting burford holly, Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii,’ if you inherited some with your garden as I did, its evergreen foliage and masses of red berries hold up well. Beware of the terminal spine on each leaf, not a friendly plant to work with in the garden or in arrangements.
Some of my garden friends have banned the common Nandina domestica also known as heavenly bamboo, from their gardens and seek out the more unusual selections, but I find I look forward to the reliable red fruits and the delicate looking foliage, both long lasting as cuts. I also like the variety, Nandina domestica ‘Alba’ with cream-yellow fruits.
Camellias come in myriad flavors, with a wide range of bloom times and colors. When we moved to our current home six years ago, I inherited two large mature specimens of Camellia japonica, one with pink flowers and one with red flowers. They provide me with glossy evergreen foliage and months of blooms. They look good on their own or in combination with cut foliage of conifers like arborvitae and Chamaecyparis.
While pine cones are an obvious choice for creating decorations, seed pods from bald cypress, Taxodium distichum, may not be.
This is also true for the fruits of hardy orange Poncirus trifoliata. If you’re brave enough to work with the thorny branches, they offer dark green stems and yellow sweetly scented fruits. A simple way to use the aromatic fruits is to fill a bowl with them.
There are a few plants like rosemary and lavender that are ideal for adding to bouquets, providing evergreen fragrant foliage. I use them in combination with my heirloom roses when they bloom, with summer annuals or on their own.
Next time you want to make a flower arrangement, take a look at what’s growing in your own back yard.