One of the great joys of the summer garden is bringing bits and pieces of it indoors to enjoy close-up.
CHANCES ARE YOU have everything you need for pretty, fragrant bouquets right outside your back door. So why do we buy flowers in the summer, hesitating to cut from our own gardens, or perhaps not even recognizing the richness of possibilities?
One of the great joys of the summer garden is bringing bits and pieces of it indoors to enjoy close-up. Just go outside with an open mind and a pair of sharp shears. Gardens offer up so many unexpected treasures once you start looking for them, like green raspberries dripping off the vine; the fat, striped-seed heads of love-in-a-mist (Nigella); and arugula or fava beans gone to flower, all of which fluff out a bouquet in unexpected and beautiful ways.
I started gardening to have material for flower arrangements, and while my planting over the years has evolved to include grasses, pods, branches and leaves as well as blooms, my intent is still the same: to have something to cut and bring indoors every day of the year. And that’s an achievable goal in our climate, despite the puny size of my garden.
Don’t worry that cutting from your garden will denude it — in fact, judicious pruning stimulates growth and flowering. Cut crossing or hanging branches, or flowers drooping low or growing where you don’t see them. Many old-fashioned flowers, like sweet peas and snapdragons, zinnias and delphiniums, produce more flowers the more you cut them. Isn’t that a happy synchronicity?
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Consider these three secrets to getting the most enjoyment out of homegrown bouquet-making:
• Plant fragrant flowers, as scent is more intense indoors, adding a further, more visceral, dimension to any arrangement. For fragrance through the seasons, grow plenty of daphne, scented daffodils, viburnum, lilacs, roses, honeysuckle, lilies, sweet peas, lavender and heliotrope. Smell is our most primitive sense and is deeply connected to memory. A flower’s perfume is as deeply satisfying as its color and shape.
• Leave elaborate bouquet-making to the pros. Little handheld bouquets plunked into a vase speak more eloquently about the garden than any attempt at floristry, and are much more fun to create.
• And, perhaps most important, forget efficiency. Like any other art, you need lots to work with. Cut plentifully, and then mess around with your raw materials. There’s no recipe or set formula for bouquet-making. Make a cup of tea, play some music, give yourself plenty of time, try different vases with different flowers, and you’ll find flower arranging a great pleasure as well as a meditation on color, shape and form. As you consider your options, you’ll exercise your eye, and find a connection to your garden that you might never find otherwise. And your house will be filled with flowers.