Bringing the Outdoors In

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Bringing the Outdoors In

With temperatures soaring, how can you enjoy your garden when you can’t remain outside for longer than ten minutes?

If you still want to take pleasure in your handiwork, cut some flowers and bring them indoors. Any garden can be a cutting garden, and it’s often good for the plants. With many cultivars, cutting encourages them to bloom even more, and although hydrangeas (other than reblooming types) don’t bloom more than once a year, cutting a few from a large shrub won’t hurt.

What makes a good bouquet? Those same elements which make your garden special such as: layering, texture and color. Start with the best flowers, stems and leaves in your garden. I pick the biggest flowers first like roses, phlox and gladiolas. These will be the stars of the bouquet, but they aren’t at their best without the supporting members of the cast, i.e., smaller flowers and stems.

Cut flowers in the morning when they are at their best. If you plan to stay outdoors for any length of time, place cut stems in a bucket of water to keep them fresh.


Your container can be anything from a French florist’s bucket to the most beautiful cut crystal. Rectangular and square vases lend a more modern air than round ones although floral designers break the rules constantly. Your home’s decor may also be a factor in choosing what type of container to use. Is it country like mine, or do you like a more contemporary feel? Because of such beautiful faded blue or green glass, I think antique Mason jars make especially nice containers. Whether it’s a wildflower bouquet picked by your children, or the most beautiful and complicated rose, either looks good in a Mason jar.


To arrange your flowers, have shears nearby to re-cut the stems. The cells in a flower stem close almost immediately after cutting. You want your flowers to be able to take up as much water as possible, so cut an inch or two off of the bottom of the stem at an angle before placing them in a vase of tepid, not hot or cold, water. When I buy cut flowers, I prepare them the same way. With commercial flowers, you’ll receive a powder to add to the water. This stops bacterial growth and helps the flowers last longer. Recipes for homemade additives abound on the Internet, and you can try them if you wish. If not, change the water everyday cutting _ inch off the stems each time. Be sure no leaves are beneath the water’s surface as they rot faster and will spoil your bouquet.

If you’re longing for flowers in the depth of winter, or if you don’t have a garden of your own, don’t worry. You can assemble flowers from the store into something almost as beautiful. One hint: always buy more flowers than you think you’ll need. A fuller arrangement is a better one, and sometimes flower stems are broken which you can’t see until they are taken out of the cellophane wrapper.


Some of the best flower and foliage plants in my garden for cutting are:

  • Hydrangeas like H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’ or H. paniculata Pinky Winky™ or ‘Limelight.’ All make a stunning centerpiece with other flowers or only a bit of fern or asparagus foliage.
  • Roses, of course. In the south, they are best in the spring and fall, but some of the landscape type bloom throughout summer.
  • Sunflowers, especially pollenless varieties.
  • Hybrid or Oriental lilies, but gently remove stamens so pollen won’t stain your clothes or tabletop. Lilies are also very fragrant so make sure you like their scent before bringing them indoors where it will be magnified.
  • Phlox paniculata makes an excellent cut flower and looks very elegant in the vase.
  • Asparagus. Cut a bit of the foliage, and you have instant glamour especially with white flowers.
  • Ferns. Many of the larger ferns are excellent in a cut arrangement as are hosta leaves.
  • Verbena bonariensis with its crazy growth and purple button-like blooms is great filler.
  • Rudbeckia spp., black-eyed Susans, are sunny flowers and with all the new varieties, they can be used in so many ways.
  • Zinnias, especially taller flowers in seed mixtures, make wonderful cut flowers and last a long time in the vase.
  • Echinacea spp. make great cut flowers peeking around others within an arrangement.
  • Gladiolas and Dahlias. Grow extra bulbs just for this purpose.

Although daylilies last only a day, they can be floated in a bowl or shallow vase and will remain beautiful until the next morning. It’s a good way to enjoy your flowers at work instead of faded faces when you return home.

Two of the bouquets, above, were crafted from flowers entirely from my garden, and they reflect two garden styles I really like, overblown and prairie. A bouquet is simply a garden in a vase, and only limited by your imagination. Where will yours take you?