Out of the Ordinary Fried Flower Arrangements

 Nancy Gmeiner
Adams County Master Gardener

I always enjoy collecting flowers from my garden; I use whatever happens to be in bloom and sometimes, what is left after the bloom! Even leaves take on a special look when they are mixed in vases alone or with garden vines. My garden is not perfect but I can always find something with which to decorate no matter what the season.

For instance now in October, my Echinacea (Coneflowers) and Rudebeckia (Black-eyed Susans) have ended their season. I enjoyed them immensely over the summer as they came to bloom when the poppies were over. The poppies were fun to look at with their bright oriental red faces as are the brightly colored Echinacea and Rudebeckia at their special time. Now the lovely lavender color of the Ageratum (Paintbrush) is here; they are a pleasure to look at and can be very useful as colorful filler in arrangements.

I am almost never without plant material for my vases during the growing season as I try to utilize everything imaginable - in some cases I use stems that others making arrangements might discard. For example, I use what is left of the Echinacea and Rudebeckia after the bloom is spent. The dark brown center that remains after the petals are gone can be cut and saved to fill in arrangements with either dried or fresh flowers such as mums. In fact, you can use these dried centers all year around. You can mix them with dried pee gee hydrangeas, dried dusty miller or dried sedum. To get started, just look around the garden and explore combinations of various plantings you have not considered in arrangements before. Don't scoff at my use of dead stuff until you have tried it -let your creative juices flow !

As autumn draws to a close, those who enjoy the art of flower arranging often move from fresh flowers and dried cuttings to the materials representative of the holiday season. Living materials from the winter landscape are perfect for creating arrangements for your home and for gift-giving as well. Traditional choices include holly branches with bright red berries or magnolia leaves - as a bit of a twist I may even rhododendron.

Pine branches like juniper, spruce, and cedar not only provide a lovely texture for wreaths and centerpieces, but also an opportunity to bring the fresh, clean scent of pine of indoors to enhance the overall holiday atmosphere. Adding a preservative to the water when arranging with pine, then placing in a cool location far from heat sources will allow your creation to last throughout the holidays. Remember that pine dries once cut and can be a safety hazard if placed near an open flame - consider carefully the contents and placement of fresh pine holiday arrangements.

After winter is over, daffodils come alive and the sweet aroma of hyacinths take their place. Tulips will follow if you remembered to plant the bulbs the previous autumn. These traditional spring beauties are accompanied by equally lovely choices like snowdrop, crocus and lilies of many varieties, all from bulbs planted in a previous season. These prolific bloomers should be considered as subjects for vase arrangements for those inclined to bring the outdoors in, as winter fades to spring.

I am going to digress from indoor arrangements to a unique window box application I think you will enjoy. I am currently re-creating a lovely focal point in the outdoor landscape I witnessed firsthand in Ireland early this year. The boxes were planted with daffodil bulbs and the result was simply striking in this walled garden of Kilrush, Ireland.

The gardens there sported a lovely assortment of self-standing window boxes perches on sawhorse-like bases. The window boxes themselves were intricately carved with a variety of designs on the top. Both the window box and the base were painted in a brilliant red color which enhanced the contrast of the yellow daffodils. These blooming stands were placed throughout the gardens in Kilrush.

I took a picture of the free standing window boxes and found a carpenter locally who was able to re-create them from the picture; I followed with a coat of red paint so they are almost identical to those in the picture. To continue the yellow theme right now I am using mums until my newly planted daffodil bulbs underneath emerge to produce the original Irish look of spring (in bright red boxes)!

My advice to you is to take another look around your garden; use your imagination when cutting materials for vase arrangements. By the same token, as you travel near or far, bring ideas back and re-create those same looks you loved at home in your landscape!

Read other articles by Nancy Gmeiner