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Suzy Bales sums up garden arrangements like this: "Life is best lived in sync with the seasons." She brings a new angle to four-season garden bouquets—gather the blooms, but don't overlook the leaves, branches, and vines you find in the off-season. Her fresh-from-the-garden arrangements celebrate the ever-changing landscape and feature unique combinations of flowers and foliage for floral creations in every style.
Lifelong gardener and lifestyle writer Bales also takes on the role as inspirational designer to educate gardeners about the latest research on conditioning individual garden flowers, how to care for them immediately after cutting, and the length of time they can be expected to last. Garden Bouquets and Beyond: Creating Wreaths, Garlands, and More in Every Garden Season has compiled complete instructions for prolonging the bloom.
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SUZY BALES is the author of 14 books and countless articles on gardening.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
When the daffodils bloom, I'm as invigorated and happy as a child with a pocketful of change at the candy store. Daffodils signal that spring has burst out of winter's corset, a charming reason to welcome them into your garden. Once the daffodils dance on the hillsides, the spring parade of flowers marches in. Generally, spring blooms are in bright crayon colors that can hold their own against the others, so I let the flowers I cut almost arrange themselves. I break all of my own rules of flower design and throw everything into an arrangement. But isn't that what rules are for--to break?
SPRING FAVORITES AT A GLANCE
Spring is a season of strong, quick growth culminating in radical changes in the garden from one week to the next. Since most change is led by the colorful parade of blossoming bulbs, I continually look for more places to plant them. I tuck them into nooks and crannies, open lawn, under cover of trees, and among sleeping perennials. They bring cheer wherever they bloom, then disappear quickly to lend the ground to the later-flowering perennials and annuals. In my list of favorite spring plants, I have only touched on a few of the flowering trees and shrubs that bloom in spring. There are so many more that you'll enjoy seeking out.
Azalea (Rhododendron species)
Bishop's hat (Epimedium grandiflorum)
Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
Bluebell, English (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
Bluebell, Spanish (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
Bluebell, Virginia (Mertensia virginica)
Cherries, ornamental (Prunus sp.)
Clematis (Clematis sp. and cultivars)
Cowslip (Primula veris)
Crabapples (Malus cvs.)
Daffodils (Narcissus sp. and cvs.)
Dogwood (Cornus cvs.)
Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)
Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa luciliae)
Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis)
Hyacinth, grape (Muscari sp.)
Iris (Iris sp. and hybrids)
Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris)
Lilacs, Preston (Syringa x prestoniae)
Lily, trout (Erythronium americanum)
Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)
Peonies (Paeonia cvs.)
Peony, tree (Paeonia suffruticosa)
Rhododendron (Rhododendron hybrids)
Snowflakes (Leucojum sp.)
Solomon's seal, variegated (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum')
Tulips (Tulipa sp. and hybrids)
Viburnum (Viburnum cvs.)
Wisteria (Wisteria sp.)
Winter hazel, spike (Corylopsis spicata)
A copper pot hanging on the garden gate holds Virginia bluebells, assorted daffodils, and snowflakes. The flowers stayed fresh for more than a week in the cool spring air.
Get the Joint a-Jumpin
As the woods awake from their long winter sleep, I clip a collection of the returning perennials and bulbs and bring them in to celebrate the life cycle of the garden. The clippings don't lend themselves to an arrangement, yet each placed in its own vase and then grouped together brings indoors the message that the garden is awakening from its winter nap. I find it fascinating how fern fronds stretch up like curled fingers. And I can't resist the trout lilies in white and yellow, miniature versions of summer's Oriental lilies--they seem to be heralding what is to come. Bishop's hat waves in the breeze as I pass. So many delicate tiny flowers line its airy stems that I have to cut a few. Snowflakes and hellebores are the transition team, easily moving from late winter to spring to join in the merriment.
Spring is the original quick-change artist; each week is so different from the next as the marathon of bloomers races by. Bulbs carry the season along smoothly and offer lush color to bouquets. By planting spring bulbs that reliably return, your blooms multiply year after year. Let the natural beauty of bulbs shine by clustering them in groups--whether in the garden or in the vase. A generous grouping of stems in your hand spreads out naturally in a vase. Of course, the smaller the bulb, the more stems you'll need to make a statement.
A handful of individual bloomers-- daffodils, dwarf iris, tulips, pansies, glory of the snow, crocus, and hyacinths--each in its own glass basket.
The champions of spring, daffodils and tulips, turn up in courtyards as well as country meadows. Have you noticed that there are so many other spring bloomers that are just as pretty, yet not as well known? Grape hyacinth, hyacinth, bluebells, checkered lilies, and snowflakes all have easygoing ways and a tendency to return year after year. They are worth the investment.
A collection of bottles holds white and yellow trout lilies, a red and yellow species tulip, orange bishop's cap, white snowflakes, green fern fronds, and green hellebores.
DAFFY FOR DAFFODILS
Daffodils, the large and gifted Narcissus family, are among the most self- sufficient bulbs. A plethora of daffodils in different sizes and shapes and with different bloom times brightens spring from late March to mid-May. Although it is easy to identify a "daff," there are so many variations, running the gamut from large trumpet flowers with swept-back petals to double flowers that form rosettes rather than trumpets. And then there is the distinct and powerfully scented pheasant's-eye (Narcissus 'Actaea'). This is similar to a dogwood bloom with large white petals surrounding a small, red-rimmed yellow cup. Daffodil colors vary, too, from all white or yellow to mixtures with orange or pink. But all daffodils have stiff, straight, hollow stems--which means a bouquet, tied at the neck, can stand up on its own. This makes it a cinch to carry a cluster to a friend or to ship a bouquet.
I've sent armloads of daffodils to my parents in Florida for half the price of ordering from a florist. Living in Florida, my parents miss seeing them in the garden. I condition the daffodils before shipping them via overnight delivery, coddled in plastic bubble wrap. I always let my folks know when the flowers are coming, so they can put them in water immediately. (Most longer-lasting flowers ship easily out of water.) Although I have nothing against shipping flowers from a florist or mail-order source, a bouquet from your own garden is much more personal, and you have the pleasure of knowing exactly what your recipient is getting. There are no disappointments with this kind of gift!
A bunch of daffodils tied with a ribbon is an easy-to-give gift from the garden.
The most desirable daffodils trumpet the season with a lovely perfume. Scentless daffs are in the majority, however, so choose carefully for sweetly scented ones. With careful selection, it is possible to plant successive scented varieties for a 3-month perfumed display. A few favorites to consider for season-long scent include Queen Anne's double jonquil (Narcissus 'Albus Plenus Odora-tus'), 'Trevithian', and 'Tete-a- Tete' for early bloom; 'Carlton', 'Big Gun', and 'Baby Moon' for mid- season; and 'Sir Winston Churchill', 'Yellow Cheerfulness', and 'Thalia' as a finale.
Daffodils increase yearly, yielding lots for picking, while tulips need to be replanted every few years.
Fragrance aside, it is impossible not to be infatuated with many other unique characters in the Narcissus family. 'Peeping Tom' and 'Nosie Posie' lead by a nose with long yellow but, alas, scentless snouts. 'Avalanche' is a bouquet in itself with from 3 to 20 flowers to a stem, and 'Baby Moon' has several scented, nickel-size golden yellow flowers per stem. All of these stand out in arrangements.
I plant for a long progression of daffodils with early, mid-, and late- season bloomers. The first daffodils, usually 'February Gold', open in March and integrate well with winter hazel, hellebores, and a little later with forsythia. Then mid-season daffs open up to complement hyacinths and tulips. Within a few weeks, there will be late-blooming daffs to welcome the lilacs and peonies. In fact, there isn't any flower that daffodils don't flatter. Despite their charms, though, daffodils ooze a toxic sap when they're cut. In a vase, this sap mixed in the water can clog the stems of other flowers. (In the garden, the sap serves a good purpose: It keeps deer and other pests away.) So you must be sure to first condition the daffs by placing them in their own container of water for 6 hours or overnight before transferring them to a vase with other blossoms. Or, keep the daffs in their own vase but position it with a mix of other containers. I often group several glass baskets together, each holding its own family of flowers.
Daffodils, winter hazel, and hellebores are arranged in floral foam in an ice bucket.
A bouquet of tulips, checkered lilies, cowslips, hyacinths, bleeding hearts, and daffodils is poked into floral foam hidden by a basket.
Tulips are the most popular flowers of spring. It might be because they can be had in so many different colors--from cotton-candy pink to "punks" in purple and orange flames. Whatever your mood, they'll make it better.
If I had lived in the 16th century during Tulipomania, when single tulip bulbs were selling for more than the price of a house, I might have traded my house for a tulip, too. Today, thank goodness, we can all own hundreds of the Rembrandt tulips that caused all the fuss and keep our houses as well. These spectacular flowers, familiar subjects in Dutch paintings, are flamed with scarlet, plum, white, bronzy yellow, and cream. Looking back, one can understand how such uncommon beauty made ordinary people do crazy things.
Tulips are still pricey compared with daffodils and most are not likely to return after a few years, although there are exceptions. Darwin hybrid tulips in single colors are often sold as "perennial tulips," because they return consistently year after year in the garden. We have had solid yellow ones for decades. They were planted by my husband in the sandy, well- draining soil at the edge of the beach and they are very content. Even those that don't reliably return, I rationalize, are cheaper by a long shot to plant and enjoy for a few years than to buy a bouquet of them as cut flowers.
Yawning tulips are combined with Kerria japonica, lilacs, and daffodils in a glass vase.
An urn outfitted with floral foam holds a formal arrangement of tulips, daffodils, azaleas, flowering quince, and hyacinths.
Some of the unique tulips are worth seeking out. 'Queen of Night', with its deep purple cup, is one of the last to bloom. It has reappeared at our place for more than a decade. Oddly enough, this tulip is more effective in a cut arrangement than in the garden, adding depth and interest to a bouquet with its dark purple, almost black, color. I love to partner it with the white-edged purple blooms of the lilac 'Sensation.' For a different look entirely, pair 'Orange Parrot', a deliciously fragrant tulip cultivar with flared petals that resemble a parrot's wing, with lilacs in a vase. The tulips positively jump out and dance against the purple of the lilac sprays.
White lilacs are the perfect backdrop for the gorgeous, late-blooming 'Semper Maxima' tulips.
Species tulips are not as well known as their hybrid cousins but they are more likely to naturalize. Plant them once, and they'll show up yearly for a decade or more if they are happily situated. The first dividends arrive as early as late March when species tulips combine with daffodils and early spring bulbs. A favorite species tulip is Tulipa clusiana. If multiple nicknames are a sign of love, then this one is adored by many gardeners. Quite popular in long-ago times, you still can ask for it by several common names: lady tulip, candy tulip, and peppermint-stick tulip. Alas, it isn't grown much now but it should be! Among the oldest tulips in cultivation, it was first discovered in a garden in 1606. Named for the botanist Carolus Clusius, who did much to popularize his find in Europe, this pretty tulip has long narrow flowers with candy-striped white petals. It's long blooming, reaches 8 to 12 inches high, and has a heavenly fragrance. It has been returning in my garden for a decade or more. A sister cultivar, 'Cynthia', bears creamy-yellow flowers with red stripes. Although species tulips are slightly shorter with smaller flowers than the hybrid tulips, these qualities become assets when plants are artfully mingled in the garden or the vase with other smaller, early-blooming bulbs such as checkered lilies (Fritillaria meleagris), hyacinths, and daffodils.
Above : Lilac 'Sensation' combines beautifully with purple azalea and orange tulips.
If you've planted early, mid-, and late-season varieties, hybrid tulips continue blooming through May and can enliven lilacs and early roses in the vase. The red-and-white striped double tulip, 'Semper Maxima', makes quite a show when combined with all-white flowers of two different varieties of lilacs. 'Angelique' is another double tulip beauty with pink flowers, especially pretty with pink lilacs.
Strangely, tulip stems continue to grow an inch or two in the vase, even after they are cut. They also relax into curves rather than standing ramrod straight like daffodils. That is why some florists wire them to sticks to keep their posture. I prefer to let them loose, loving their curves. Even indoors, tulips open and close with the light. If the light is bright, the tulip opens its mouth so far that it looks like it is yawning. This can throw the balance off in a bouquet but it really doesn't matter: If you look into the mouth of a tulip, you notice nothing else.
Chasing the Blues
Blue is a favorite color in the garden as it easily combines with all others. I do plant as many easy-care blues as I can find. Pansies, when planted out in fall, will bloom in early spring and keep going into early summer until the high temperatures drive them away. If winter is mild, they might make their faces known as early as late winter. Their short stems necessitate tiny arrangements, so I tuck pansies into mini vases and at Easter into colored eggshells.
Among the earliest spring bulbs, there is an array of blue bloomers like glory of the snow, scilla, crocus, and dwarf iris that spans the season from winter to spring, when grape hyacinth, hyacinth, and English, Spanish, and Virginia bluebells appear.
Grape hyacinth is my garden's sentinel, standing at attention in its small peaked cap, all the while perfuming the air around it. It comes in many different guises, from the most common, Muscari armeniacum, all dressed in blue, to M. latifolium, with its two tiers of flowers--the bottom one violet and the top bright blue. On their short stems, grape hyacinths fill smaller containers beautifully.
A LITTLE HOUSEKEEPING
All bulbs benefit from having their flowers cut. Harvesting blossoms halts the production of seeds, so energy is conserved for the next season's blooms. Be careful, however, to take as few leaves as possible. Foliage is needed to replenish the bulb with stored food and to form the embryo for next year's flowers. Once the embryo flower is formed, the bulb's foliage ripens and decays. Only then should the foliage be removed.
Lily-of-the-valley and grape hyacinths bunched in a glass.
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Book Description Rodale Books, 2010. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111605290106
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