There may be space in the churchyard which could be cultivated with shrubs or flowers to provide some material for wedding flowers. If this is impossible, a local resident might allow a part of his garden to be used for this purpose. Sometimes there is a pensioner who has moved to a flat and misses his own garden who would be happy to help with a project for growing flowers for the wedding.

I know a marvellous old lady who not only cleans the gravestones but also gardens for weddings because, she says, ‘The young are far too busy and I have little else to do!’ So it is worth enquiring. Once you know how much enthusiasm there is you can plan accordingly. How much is grown depends, of course, not only on available volunteers but also on the type of soil and siting of the garden. I am therefore not attempting to give any detailed gardening advice, but I suggest that any of the following would be useful to a busy flower guild, and that climbers should be included for pillar arrangements.

Shrubs and foliage plants

C = climber

E = evergreen

G = suitable for preserving in glycerine

L = Long-lasting in water

P = perennial

S = shrub

Arum italicum marmoratum-. beautiful leaf with cream markings. Bergenia cordifolia purpurea (elephant-leaved saxifrage): P; large round leaves G Camellia japonica: E S; dark glossy green leaves L; also beautiful pink, red and white flowers. Choisya ternata (Mexican orange): E S; glossy green leaves; white flowers. Cotoneaster: S; red berries in autumn.

Cynara scolymus (cardoon): superb green leaves for large groups. Eleagnus pungens variegata-. E S; strongly marked yellow bordered leaves L

Escallonia: E S; useful curving branches, dark green leaves G. Garry a elliptica-. E S; hardy evergreen catkins (January-March). Hedera (ivy): C S

H. canadensis, silvery grey.

H. colchica dcntata variegata, yellow/green.

H. helix, buttercup yellow. Helleborus corsicus-. E P; large creamy green trusses; needs careful conditioning G. Hosta (funkia):

H. albo-marginata, green leaves with white border. //. fortunei-albo-picta, in spring, bright yellow edged with pale green.

H. sieboldiana elegans (H. glauca), blue green. Hypericum (St John’s wort): S gold single flowers. Ligustrum ovalifolium aureo-marginatum (golden privet): E S; superb golden and green foliage for both tall and small arrangements. Lonicera (honeysuckle): C S Philadelphus (mock orange): S; white/cream flowers, avalanche of delicate curved sprays.

Single: Bcauclerk, 6-8 feet. Double: Virginal, 8-10 feet. Polygonatum multiflorum (Solomon’s seal). Pyracantha atalantioides-. S; orange berries in autumn; good for harvest festivals. Senecio greyi: E S; silver grey leaves with almost white backs; easily propagated from cuttings; arrange to show both sides of foliage. Skhmnia japonic a: E S; dark green leaves L. Symphoricarpos albus laevigatus (snowberry): S; white berries in autumn; superb curving stems for all arrangements. Syringa (lilac): S S. sweginzowii, grows up to 12 feet, fragrance of flowers distinguishes it from other lilacs.

S. vulgaris, double and single white, cream, mauve, pink to dark purple. Veronica pectinata-. E S; slow growing, dark green leaves, thrives in shade L. Viburnum tinus (laurustinus): S; winter flowering, pale pink flowers, dark foliage. Viburnum opulus (guelder rose): S; useful white flowers. Vinca major elegantissima (periwinkle); E S; useful variegated white/ green trailing foliage, which lasts well only if conditioned.

Roses for weddings

There are endless varieties of roses. The following are a few of those which I have found particularly useful in churches.

Climbing plants for weddings

These look well if they are trained over a church wall and they provide long bending stems which are superb in pedestal and other arrangements. Church flower arrangers should not only use roses singly, but should include long trails which will last provided that they are well conditioned. ‘New Dawn’ is a perpetual flowering climber which flowers in profusion throughout the summer. It has lovely pale shell pink flowers. Height 10-12 feet. ‘Zepherine Drouhin’ is a Bourbon variety, strong and hardy with good deep pink flowers. The leaves seem to be prone to spot, so I often remove some of the foliage when arranging in water. It is thornless, which makes it very popular for flower arranging; lasts only if well conditioned. ‘Golden Showers’: a useful golden-yellow semi-double rose; it flowers freely at intervals; height 7-8 feet.

Floribundas ‘Queen Elizabeth’: pink, one of the easiest roses to grow and very prolific, splendid if grown as a hedge, when it will reach up to 6 feet, or as a bush; it will provide a continuous supply of beautifully shaped buds and flowers of a good pink which mixes well with all flowers. ‘Iceberg’: white, tinged with pink; an excellent rose, perfect for flower arranging as the stems bend conveniently and the buds open well at all stages. ‘Dearest’: salmon pink; it makes an effective bed; it is free-flowering and lasts very well in water.

Hybrid Teas

When I started as a florist 35 years ago the best pink roses for commercial use were ‘Madame Butterfly’, ‘Lady Sylvia’ and ‘Ophelia’. They travelled and lasted well. They then disappeared from florists’ shops, but fortunately bushes are available in some nurseries. If they can be found, they are superb for the flower arranger and for the gardener. ‘Peace’: a superb rose for churches, deep yellow stained with cerise pink, opening up into large flowers; it is best if kept as a shrub and lightly pruned. ‘Grandpa Dickson’: lemon yellow fading to cream; huge heads; excellent in large pedestal arrangements. ‘Pascali’: white; opens into a beautifully shaped flower; perfect for weddings and christenings, it grows well in cold areas.

Dahlias as wedding flowers

If there is space available it is worthwhile to give it over to a bed of dahlias. They are useful, flowering into late September and early October. There is an enormous choice. If there is a good dahlia nursery locally, look at the plants in flower and choose some with large heads, which are good in pedestal arrangements, and some of the cactus variety, which have pretty star-shaped flowers with pointed petals, and the smaller pom-pom. This mixture will give good varied large and small shapes for the church’s use.

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