If I had a tiny garden and had to choose what to grow that would help me most in flower arrangement I would grow foliage plants first and then make what space I could forfor . The reason for this is that it is always possible to buy some cheap but the kinds of you can buy are limited. More than this, you can make delightful the year through by using with the occasional branch of blossom, heads, fruits and grasses, but it is not so easy to maintain a consistent standard of charming and original by using flowers alone.
If you have a large garden you have no problem so far as a continual supply of materials is concerned. But even so, you should grow as much foliage foras possible. It is interesting that since flower arrangement became so popular in this country the sale of plants such as hostas, bergenias, Solomon’s seal, alchemilla have increased and also that almost every flower arranger with a garden now has a selection of ‘green’ flowers. ‘They are so kind to other flowers’, one told me.
Fortunately as far as some species are concerned these plants are not only handsome furnishings for both house and garden but have other values too. Some are good ground covers, others grow well in the shade. They need no staking. So first a review of foliage plants.
Silver and grey foliage
There are many grey or silver plants which are delightful for use with soft pastel tints and ideal for all foliage arrangements. One word of warning: some of these are very downy and if theportion is not properly stripped it will act as a wick when in water and cause a siphon. So when you strip the leaves from the portion to go under water, take some also from the portion above the rim for at least 1 in. Another tip. Some of these plants, ballota for example, are reluctant to take water when cut. However, if you avoid picking only the young growth and take a little of the old wood as well you should encounter no difficulty. Split the hard end and harden the piece in the usual way.
Many of these silver plants dry well and with little trouble. Some of those which grow in rosettes, such as verbascum, can be dried whole. Otherwise leaves can be pressed and here the downy kinds need to be brushed lightly to fluff them out again and eliminate the flatness when they are arranged.
Artichokes and cardoons can be grown in large gardens and these provide great leaves and giant flowers for those who are likely to wish to make large scale decorations.
There are also artemisias, santolinas, phlomis, senecios, olearias, anaphalis, helichrysum and many others. Of them all I use Centaurea candidissima andmaritima the most, pressing the largest leaves for dried arrangements. Seedsmen sometimes offer varieties of these ‘Dusty Millers’ and they are easily grown from seed. Most silver plants are also easily raised from .
Incidentally, one of the pleasant things about these plants is that they are evergreens—or greys. Some cannot tolerate our long wet winters and most do better in a sheltered place. However, I have little time to fuss over my own plants and my own silver border is always well furnished, even in mid-winter. Some plants can be lifted and potted in winter. A cloche will protect others. Give them really well-drained soil.