#32 The Flower Arranger’s Garden
In my last several columns, I have been focusing on plants, as opposed to design tips. Once again, I’d like to bring together a list, and this one includes my favorite flowering shrubs and perennials for a mixed summer bouquet.
If you know me personally, you know about my love of Old Garden Roses, so I will start with a few of them. Most bloom happily all summer, though the flowers do become smaller in size. When choosing an old rose, be sure that you look at catalogs to determine their full grown size. Many of the older varieties can grow to as much as 6-8 feet high and as wide. Don’t be deterred from growing them; they are a bargain in that one plant will take the place of 3 or more Hybrid Teas. Just give them the room to grow, and enjoy their scented and exquisitely formed blooms.
My favorite class of old roses are the Teas, most hybridized and introduced between 1840 and about 1910. They form large rounded bushes, clothed to the ground in mid-green leaves and medium sized blooms. I love Lady Hillingdon (1910), with its plum colored new foliage and semi-double apricot blooms fading to a pale yellow. Another favorite is Mrs. B.R. Cant (1901), with very double silvery rose blooms with a deeper pink reverse on the petals. Frances Dubreuil (1894) is one of the deepest reds, with a heavy old rose scent. My favorite yellow is the Climbing Tea-Noisette, Marechal Niel (1864), with its globular butter yellow blooms hanging pendant from the canes overhead. For a white rose, there is nothing lovelier than Devoniensis (1838). The creamy white blooms are quartered and folded and carry a rare fruity tea scent.
I mix a variety of other flowers with the roses, usually in a large vase with a narrow neck, which provides support for the stems that are heavy with flower. The old fashioned pale pink to white shrub Abelia x grandiflora is also fragrant. The long stems are clothed with dark green leaves and a few scattered flowers, while at the top is situated a cluster of the tubular blossoms. This shrub blooms from spring through fall, and it’s only fault is that it draws bees along with the desired hummingbirds. Toward the end of the season, the old flowers age into greenish pink bracts (much like Hydrangeas), which also add color to the bouquets.
Another shrub, which is often killed back to the ground but returns each spring, is the blue Plumbago auriculata. The powdery blue flowers are carried at the end of arching stems, and it blooms all through the summer. Unfortunately, there is no scent. I like the contrast it provides to the predominant pinks, whites, and yellows of the roses.
After arranging these more substantial blooms in the vase, I go back and intermix some of the Salvias, or flowering sages. My favorite is the wine colored S. splendens ‘Vanhouttei’. It is frozen back to the ground in winter, but most often returns to build over the season to a 3 foot high and wide bush. It starts blooming in June, and continues until frost. These spiky blooms fit nicely in between the larger flowered roses and Plumbago. The hybrids of Salvia farinacea, or Mealy Cup sage, are also a nice addition, especially the violet-blue ‘Victoria’.
The above listed plants are only a very few of the many shrubs, perennials, and even trees that have blooms suitable for bouquets. My favorite book on the subject is A Garden for Cutting: Gardening for Flower Arrangements, by Margaret Parke. It includes not only flowering plants, but also some of the best ornamental grasses for cutting. There is also a section on cutting and forcing branches for winter bloom in the house, and drying flowers.