Guys – I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since Mother’s Day, and I’m still floating on a flower cloud over here from all of your amazing support! By the time Saturday morning rolled around, my kitchen and most of my living room was literally full of bright jars of blooms ready to be delivered to your loved ones. I am so grateful to you all for trusting me to create something special, and it was the best way to kick off my floral design work here in Central Florida!
While I was working on the arrangements last Friday night, I started thinking about the types of flowers and fillers I grow in my own garden and work with routinely in my designs. Many of these are common to the flower farming/cut flower industry, especially in the northeast/NYC area where designers are always using unusual, ethereal, or bold blooms in their designs; however, you might not see these being used by commercial florists or in fresh bouquets sold at big name grocery stores. Coincidentally, many of the flowers we as consumers routinely buy and keep in our homes are imported from overseas or other areas of the country/world where they might be in season.
When I lived in the city, I was able to communicate with clients, coworkers and friends about the flowers I grew and designed with, and answer questions in person. With the quarantine and social distancing in effect here in Florida, I thought I’d be proactive and take the opportunity to share with you all some of the more unusual flowers and fillers I grow and work with, why I enjoy them, and a few unique qualities of each that affect usage and how they may act in the vase.
It’s possible if you live in the suburbs, you’re most likely to have come across Celosia at your local garden center as an annual flower to include in decorative container plantings or flower beds. These varieties stay quite short; however, when grown as a cut flower, they develop long, strong stems that make them perfect for floral design. I grow quite a bit of Celosia in my own garden, as there are many beautiful varieties and hues to choose from—including those that have deep magenta stems and flowers, pure golden plumes, and peachy coral iridescent crests that are heavenly for special occasions and wedding design. It can be used both fresh in arrangements and dried in seasonal wreaths and other projects. The flowers are not what you might think of for a cut flower and can have a feathered or crested shape. Like most of the cut flowers I grow in my own garden from seed, Celosia is extremely heat tolerant and does well in Florida’s harsh climate. Because they can be used fresh or dried, they are long lasting in the vase, as well.
One of my absolute favorites, it’s hard not to be charmed by this seemingly delicate flower as it sways and dances happily on the breeze! In appearance, Cosmos are actually in the same family as the common daisy but have a few important differences. Their foliage is unique and feathery, and the petals are more delicate. The plants develop long stems stretched toward the sun and are considered a “cut-and-come-again” variety, as the more you harvest, the more they bloom! For some varieties, the flower heads react to the changing light, nodding slightly in the evening and opening fully during the day. The flowers do the same in the vase, and it’s important to note they’re not wilting! Cosmos come in an incredible array of color, from bright orange, to candy-striped maroon and white, to blush pinks. Some have a traditional daisy shape, while others look like cupcake wrappers or have tubular petals called sea shells. They are very easy to grow, love the heat and are a beginner-friendly cut flower to experiment with in your own gardens!
3. Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth)
I have so much love for this tiny garden workhouse and use it in many of my summer designs, because who doesn’t love a flower than resembles a literal ball of ever-lasting color?! Gomphrena, or more commonly known as Globe Amaranth (though its name is the only thing it shares with its grain-bearing garden companion), is another wonderful cut flower that just blooms and blooms the more you harvest. Like Celosia, it has a unique form that can be used both in fresh arrangements as well as dried in wreaths, and comes in a rainbow of bright pink, red, orange, and magenta hues. It has a distinctly playful appearance but can be elevated in the right context. If included in fresh arrangements, the flowers can be saved indefinitely once the rest of the bouquet has lived its useful life. Like all flowers I’m describing here, it thrives in Florida gardens and can handle the surface-of-the-sun type conditions that make growing many other types of plants here a challenge.
More commonly known as a food staple in many countries, Amaranth is also one of my favorite cut flowers to include in arrangements, especially in the fall. The plants grow to an enormous height (sometimes 4-5 feet!) and have feathery plumes and trailing fountains of color that add a rustic, antique, romantic feel to arrangements. The plumes come in shades of rusty orange, pale green, deep maroon, and rosy pink and are a great, long-lasting addition and filler to many arrangements. Like Celosia and Gomphrena, Amaranth can also be plucked out of spent bouquets and saved as a dried flower and used in seasonal wreaths. Loves the heat – surprise, surprise!
Raise your hand if you live in Florida and either currently grow or have grown a variety of Salvia (sometimes known as garden sage) in your garden? Salvias were always a mainstay of my mother’s garden here in Orlando, and living in the northeast, I grew hardy perennial versions, as well. While some varieties stay short and compact, many are perfect additions to the cut flower garden and do well in the vase. I grow several varieties of Salvia farinacea (‘Mealy Cup Sage’) and Clary Sage from seed and like to tuck a few springs into arrangements to add a pop of color. These varieties hold their flowers well and are long-lasting. Being in the same family as common garden sage, the leaves can be aromatic but typically are not as strongly scented. Some varieties do have a faint scent that certain folks might not find appealing, but I’ve personally never found it to be offensive.
6. Aromatic Herbs and Grasses
Besides smelling amazing, aromatic herbs like lavender, basil and mint, as well as decorative grasses make fantastic fillers or can be tucked into bouquets to add a little dynamic “sparkle”. I grow quite a bit of these common herbs and grasses in my garden, and they’re prolific, easy and heat-loving. The trick with using aromatic herbs as cut flowers is to keep them from wilting once they’ve been cut. When I use basil in my designs, I dip the cut stems into boiling water which keeps the leaves and stem firm and upright in the vase. If you ever receive an arrangement from me that smells heavenly or seems to dance a little, it likely has a healthy few bundles of these lovely herbal allies and sparkly grasses included in the design.
While these are far from the only things growing in my garden, they are some of the flowers and fillers I get asked about most frequently when I deliver to clients, and I hope this information is helpful, whether you’re receiving flowers or growing them yourself!
The reality is - if it grows in my garden and holds up in the vase, it's likely that at some point or another I'll use it in my floral designs.
I’ll do a part two post next week highlighting some of the big flower players in the garden (Zinnias, anyone?), but until then – have a flower-filled Friday and weekend, lovers!
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