Green Arrangements

The idea of using green by itself for an arrangement is almost contemporary. Perhaps, it is only recently that people are beginning to see its possibilities (leaves can range from pale lime green and a soft grey-green to the darkest blue-black green of the camellia or holly leaf).

One of the most important factors in the use of green materials is the contrast possible between the different shapes, textures, and colour of the leaves.

The rounded shape and soft colouring of angelica contrasts well with the curves and variegated colouring of Hosta undulata and H. variegata and the thin, dark foliage of Helleborus foetidus. An arrangement using this kind of material not only has the advantage of looking cool during hot weather, but will also last for two or three weeks, as long as it is kept well supplied with water.

Angelica is a most obliging plant to grow in the garden as it flourishes almost anywhere, but grows especially well in part shade and in rather moist conditions. If it has the benefit of a stream or pond close at hand, it will show its appreciation and grow to great size. The kind usually cultivated is A. archangelica (its medicinal virtues are said to have been revealed by an angel during a time of plague).Green Arrangements

All types of hostas, or plantain lilies, are useful for green arrangements, lasting well and providing different kinds and colours of leaves which vary in size and sometimes in shape. (Some are much broader than others and can be ribbed, plain or variegated.) Hostas, on the whole, prefer semi shade in the garden, although H. crispula and H. lancifilia both grow well in rather dry, sunny positions. Unhappily the young shoots, coming up in April, seem to be particularly attractive to slugs and snails.

Hellebores also produce a variety of flowers and foliage, and the large dramatic leaves of the Lenten hellebores are especially useful for arrangement. They are available throughout the year and incredibly valuable when there is only a small supply of material for cutting. I have been more than grateful to cut their shining dark green leaves after a heavy fall of snow when they seemed to acquire an extra lustre. They like a fairly heavy soil, usually in a rather shady position although I have known Helleborus foetidus to flourish in full sun in a garden with a slightly acid, clay soil.

Contrasts in tones of green and shapes of foliage come in the following suggestions: Rue with blue-green foliage, fits into many flower groups providing fullness if it is needed, contrasts well with bergenia.

  • Rosemary gives a lightness to solid material, especially gladioli, wild arum leaves or roses.
  • The dark silver-grey-green leaves of Convolvulus cneorum look charming with carnation foliage.
  • Camellia leaves, sprays of the new light green foliage contrast beautifully with lavender and Cineraria maritima.
  • False fig (Fatsia japonica) the new light green foliage contrasts well with the rock sedum and the blue grey of eucalyptus.
  • Golden privet and holly.
  • Variegated periwinkle with dark green camellia foliage.
  • Hart’s-tongue fern along with small leaved ivy. Garden ragwort, Senecio laxifolius, lungwort and tufts of fennel with dark tree peony leaves.

Another useful ingredient in green arrangements are materials not connected with foliage. These include some flowers either when they are fully out or before they are completely open and some seedheads before they turn brown (in the interim stage between drying as a flower and becoming a seedhead). At first sight there may not seem to be many of these, but it is interesting to realise that, in fact, a good many exist which are not only unusual but come in a great variety of greens. Here are some of them :

  • Poppy heads — when the flowers have fallen and before the seedheads turn to grey-blue or coffee colour.
  • Guelder rose flowers — before they are fully out. Honesty seedheads — after the flowers have died and before the seed capsules have begun to turn to their later brown or buff colourings which eventually become silver.
  • Love-in-a-mist seedheads — after the flowers have died before they turn to their eventual dried colourings of buff or brown. Some of these are especially attractive.
  • Angelica—grows wild in damp ditches and is an attractive addition to the herb garden.
  • Astrantia— a green and white flower of great charm lasting from early May until August. Mignonette—a sweetly scented flower of coppery brown with green.
  • Bells of Ireland—before these are dried they are a bright, fresh green.
  • Fennel—if cut before the flowers are fully out they give an impression of a soft green.
  • Bluebell—spikes of seedheads immediately after the flowers have died.
  • Ivy berries (as soon as the flowers have fallen) before they blacken.
  • Privet berries (as soon as the flowers have fallen) before they blacken.
  • Dock—when the seedheads have just formed before they turn to a deep copper or chocolate. Teasels—when they first come into flower (with small rings of purple) and before they begin to turn brown.
  • Hop flowers fresh and also dried later.
  • Helleborus corsicus—pale green flowers.
  • Garrya elliptica — grey green catkins.
  • Leek (Allium) — green and white flower heads fresh, will dry later.
  • Spurge (Euphorbia species)—green flowers, some with touches of brown or burnt orange and yellow. These include E. wulfenii and E. epithymoides.

A note about the Euphorbia family as a whole might be helpful here. There are many members, but the three mentioned here are outstanding for green arrangements. E. wulfenii is large in comparison to the others, growing to a height of four to five feet. It keeps its foliage throughout the year and is useful at all three stages when the flower is first coming into bud, while it is fully out, and after it is over. E. griffithii has vivid bright orange and red bracts, but is immensely useful when these are not quite so bright. E. epithymoides gives an overall impression of green and yellow when it is in flower, but more green than yellow I should say.

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