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Last week I started a new gardening series here on Threads & Blooms. As I mentioned in my first post of the series, having a background in landscape and floral design, I have an appreciation for plants and their use from two perspectives. My goal with this series is to share with you my own gardening journey as I make my own cutting garden and talk about some of my favourite perennials and shrubs to use in the garden and why. The plants I share here are going to be ones that are great in any viewing garden (low maintenance, multi-seasonal interest) and also have the added bonus of providing great cut flowers for use in floral design. A double win in my books!
Using plants from the garden in your floral arrangements gives you an opportunity to use materials that may not be available at your local wholesaler. These different materials are what make your work stand out as different from the norm. With the first post in this series we focused on flowering shrubs and this week we are looking at perennials for the cutting garden. Perennials, like shrubs, are plants that will come back year after year without you having to dig up tubers, store bulbs, or start seeds indoors. It’s a low maintenance way of growing your own flowers. The plants that I share here will provide you with nice texture, form, and seasonal interest which is just what I like to achieve through plant material in a garden.
I love hellebores. They are NOT hella-boring as Dan likes to call them. Although, I admit that there are a few downsides to them in the garden (erm, maybe not the best one to start with…oops!). They are a small plant that doesn’t cover a great deal of area (therefore more $$) and they have little visual interest besides the time they are in bloom. However, they are so darn pretty and one of the first spring flowers to bloom in the spring. For those simple reasons I plant them and love them anyway! They’re like that naughty kid in the class that can do everything wrong and still be the teacher’s pet, you know?! However, the good thing about hellebore is that they are a perennial so you plant them once and they do their thing each spring and look damn good while doing it.
Ah peonies. Everyone’s favourite! For the few weeks that the peonies bloom each year they are worth it for their flowers – to cut and use or to just visually enjoy in the garden. Unfortunately, peonies also die back to nothing in the winter so I suggest planting them in a spot in the garden that will not feel too bare when it is just dirt for the colder months. From a cut flower perspective, once the flowers are finished, their greenery is excellent in bouquets and centrepieces. Peony leaves are long lasting and have a nice deep green colour. To boot, there are so many beautiful varieties of peony that you can plant in your garden – ones that you won’t find at your local supermarket during peony season!
Astilbe is a beautiful summer perennial known for their rich plumes in reds, pinks, whites, and purples. In the garden it is beautiful when mass planted and it also has lovely winter interest because it keeps the dried seed head all winter long. Be sure to wait until spring to cut it back. As a cut flower, it can be sensitive once cut (at least I find). Try to cut it close to when I want to use it. You can usually tell within a couple of hours which stems are going to be temperamental and which will be strong. If you have the right stem this is an excellent flower for bouquets, boutonnieres, and arrangements. I also like to use the dried out flower seed heads in the fall and winter on wreaths and for extra texture in arrangements.
Lavender is a garden favourite of mine. I love it planted around a patio so that you can enjoy the smell while it is in bloom. It is also lovely in a pot on a patio as long as it has full sun. Lavender makes a nice dainty hint in bouquets and is a great addition to boutonnieres, corsages, and hair pieces. It is long lasting out of water and the flower is subtle. In the fall you can dry it out to enjoy for months (and even years!) to come.
Astrantia is a lovely fill in cut flower bouquets. It can be white, soft pink, or burgundy. I especially like the burgundy as a little hint of darkness in an otherwise soft bouquet. It adds a nice texture to both bouquets and in the garden with an airy feel.
Echinacea are another excellent flower in the perennial garden. They have a long summer blooming time and great winter interest because they keep their seed head. The flowers are great in arrangements and, when dried out at the end of the season, they are lovely in wreaths and as a dark hint in an arrangement. Echinacea comes in many colours of orange, pink, and white and black eyed susans which come in yellow have a similar structure too and are a fall favourite.
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