Flower Arranging with Leaves and berries

Decorative leaves and berries can be as effective as flowers in arrangements, and can make a surprisingly attractive display .


For an interesting arrangement of foliage you will need contrasting forms and colours – leaves of flowers such as Peonies, the large heart-shaped leaves of Bergenia, tall, slender Iris, and ornamental Vine, the leaves of which turn crimson, pink or orange in the autumn.

Hostas, with their big, ribbed leaves, are always useful in arrangements, Hosta glauca has large grey-green leaves and another variety has white margins around the leaves. Mahonia, with its hollylike leaves, also provides useful foliage with evergreen leaves and bluish-black clusters of berries. Euony-mous (Spindle Tree) has varieties with green, gold and white leaves with bright pink or red berries and autumnal foliage.

Trees provide basic material throughout the year, giving the fragile green of spring and the rich red and yellow colourings of autumn to contrast with the deep tones of evergreens. In winter the hips of Wild Roses are available, and so are the fruits of many hardy ornamental shrubs.


Herbs should never be overlooked for their use in arrangements, with or without flowers. Their charm lies not only in the subtle shades of green but in the delicate perfume of the fresh herbs. Silver Sage and Rosemary, Bay stems with their dark, shiny leaves and Lavender are delightful.


Decorative berries include the scarlet berries of Crataegus corallina, all the Berberis have luscious bunches of berries, ranging from orange, yellow and purple to the translucent pinky-white berries of Berberis jamesiana, The Pyracantha species, Firethorns, produce enormous quantities of yellow, orange or scarlet berries. Also useful in foliage arrangements are the feathery seed heads of Clematis and the metallic blue heads and silvery stems of Echinops banaticus (Globe thistle); Physalis franchetii (Chinese lanterns or Cape Gooseberries) with their inflated orange-red calyx; Cornus alba ‘Sibirica (Red-barked Dogwood) with its brilliant crimson shiny spiky stems; Coton-easter and the big yellow or crimson clusters of Sorbus (Mountain Ash).


Other things to use in these kinds of arrangements include Horse Chestnuts, enclosed in their thick spiky protective cases and twigs of Oak with the acorns still attached. Gather these before they fall from their cups. Catkins last for several weeks in the home. Salix (Willow) in its many varieties produces long.gold or silvery tassels in very early spring, and so does the Hazel and Alder.

Preserving leaves and berries

The leaves of various trees and shrubs can be preserved with glycerine. To do this, bruise the stems at the base and place them in a mixture of one part of glycerine to two parts of water. After about three weeks the stems will absorb sufficient liquid to preserve the leaves in varying shades of bronze and brown. This should be done before the end of the summer while the leaves are still fresh, as they lose their power of absorption in the autumn. Oak, Magnolia and young Eucalyptus are particularly suitable for this treatment.

Berries can be preserved by brushing them with a mixture of clear shellac and £ alcohol. Hang them up to dry in an airy place.

The simplest way of skeletonizing leaves is to immerse them in water for several weeks until the leaf tissues can be gently rubbed off the vein structure. Do not change the water as this slows up the decomposition. Another way is to boil the leaves very slowly in detergent to soften the tissues and then remove the pulp carefully with a knife.

Whichever method you use, the skeletons can then be soaked in ordinary household bleach solution to remove the colour. Take care not to leave the skeletons in the solution too long as the bleach will eventually make the leaves disintegrate. Dry the leaves gently and either press flat between two sheets of blotting paper or allow to curl.

Leaves, fruits and berries for decoration

Fern shaped leaves Sanguisorba – fresh green Senecio – greyish white Filipendula – green shades Thalictrum – shiny green

Rush shaped leaves Crinium – light green Galtonia – dull bluish green Tradescantia virginiana – dull green

Heart shaped leaves

Bergenia – green in spring, crimson in winter

Macleaya – green, white underneath

Doronicum – light green

Crambe – greyish green

Berries and fruits

Celastrus orbiculatus – orange ‘pods’ with scarlet seeds

Viburnum – evergreen varieties – red, blue and black, sometimes translucent berries

Sorbus – varieties have fruits ranging from white, creamy yellow, pink and white to bright red

Skimmia japonica – scarlet berries

Cotoneaster – different varieties produce yellow, red or scarlet berries

Arbutus – fruits similar to small pendulous strawberries

Ilex – typical form has scarlet red berries in large clusters

Shrubs for coloured autumn foliage

Azalea – deciduous varieties





Viburnums – opulus varieties

Shrubs with scented foliage





Sweet Bay


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