Plants Worth Growing for Flower Arrangements

Flower arranging makes gardeners of us all even if, having no garden, we grow only a few indoor pot plants or have a couple of overflowing plant tubs on the balcony of a town flat. For the flower arranger who has a small garden the best advice certainly is ‘Grow shrubs and foliage plants.’ It is nearly always possible to buy flowers, but few shops stock the leaves which are so essential.

I do all my own gardening, so I can nurture the queerest-looking plants without question. All kinds of flowers and leaves are allowed to grow as they will, to give unexpected bends and twists which are an inspiration when I cut them for arranging.

Whether your picking garden is large or just a short border, be selective. Grow only those things which will be of value; ruthlessly throw out plants with poor quality blooms or inferior lasting properties. Below are briefly listed some plants well worth growing. This is not a comprehensive list (for almost anything which grows can be useful to the flower arranger), and nurserymen’s descriptive catalogues will supply you with countless other suggestions and give you information about cultivation.

Abutilon Megapotamicum (Flowering Maple). Rich red and gold dangling flowers through the summer months. A small shrub, rather tender, and must be taken indoors for the winter.

 

 

 

Achillea (Milfoil or yarrow). Has round heads of golden flowers, which are excellent when dried for winter decoration. Gold Plate is a good, big variety.

Alchemilla Mollis (Lady’s Mantle). Has little green blossoms borne in airy sprays. The flowers are perfect for miniature arrangements, and the leaves ideal for masking pinholders and wire netting.

Allium. There are many varieties of allium, providing pleasant flowers. My favourite is A. cernuum, which has blooms of exquisite tiny richly-coloured bells on arching stalks. There are well-shaped seedheads. Grow too, if you have the room, A. albopilosum, which has flowers that grow in lilac spheres, A. azureum, which is cornflower blue, and A. giganteum, which carries magnificent globular heads of pale violet-rose. A. triquetrum bears looser flowers in white with a green stripe.

Alstrcemeria (Peruvian Lily). Has lily-like flowers with attractive markings, in many colours including pink, flame, coral, and orange. There are useful seedheads.

Amelanchier (Snowy Mespilus). Has three seasons of beauty, first when the opening leaves show pink, next when every branch is hung with white flowers, and finally in the autumn when the leaves turn a rich russet. A good variety is A. canadensis, which flowers in April or early May.

Anemone Coronaria. A snowy-white flower on a tall stem, which blooms in spring.

Angelica. Large flower bosses, highly desirable for ‘all green’ arrangements when the creamy flower has gone to seed. The seedheads can be dried.

AriSjEma Candidissimum. A bulb plant; flowers in

 

 

June or July. The blooms are like small arums, striped with pink and green inside.

Arum Italicum (Italian Arum). Has large spear-shaped dark green leaves, handsomely marbled, which are most valuable in winter.

Begonia Rex. I rear many varieties in pots in the windows of my home. All have magnificent foliage which adds richness to any flower design.

Berberis. There are a number of varieties of this shrub. Some are evergreen and blossom in spring, some colour well in the autumn, and others have attractive fruits and berries. Any is worth a place in the garden. Cut the mature growth for arranging.

Bergenia (Megasea or Giant Saxifrage). Has leathery evergreen leaves which colour yellow, rose, or mahogany. Heads of rich pink blossoms in spring. The variety B. cordifolia was Gertrude Jekyll’s favourite; its leaves take on purple colouring in winter. Another variety, B. ligulata, has near-white blossoms with rosy calyces.

Bleeding Heart. Often called Lady’s Locket, Seal Flower, Dutchman’s Breeches, or Lady-in-the-Bath. Has a heart-shaped bud the colour of peppermint pink rock. This variety is Dicentra spectabilis. Smaller variety is D. eximia, while D. alba has white flowers.

Bocconia (Plume Poppy). I prize this plant more than orchids. It has grey-green indented leaves with grey-white undersides, and spires of peach-coloured buds and flowers.

Bougainvillea. My plant of this has grown happily, flowering every year, in my bedroom window. Each tiny flower has three lilac-coloured bracts, which make it

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highly desirable to the flower arranger, aad which last very well. A climbing plant.

Catananche Gerulea (Cupid’s Dart). Has small mauve-blue long-lasting flowers. Its silver calyces dry on the plant and keep their colour for winter use if cut before autumn rains rot the stems. Unusual, if gilded, for the smaller Christmas arrangements.

Centaurea. A large-leafed perennial cornflower, quite distinct from the ordinary annual cornflower. I grow the variety C. pulchra major, not only for its dull-green leaves with near-white undersides but also for the paperlike calyces which, when dried and included in autumn arrangements, never fail to set people talking. The blooms are purple-pink. C. ruthenica has citron-yellow flowers and fern-like leaves.

Clematis. Did you know that it is possible to have one or another variety of clematis in flower, with luck, every month of the year ? For January flowers plant C. calycina, which has single creamy-white bell flowers. C. cirrhosa has creamy-white hanging blooms which are produced in mild weather from February to April. Summer flowering varieties include Duchess of Edinburgh, a double white, tinted with green. C. tangutica has golden-yellow flowers and, like all clematis, a second period of charm when in seed. November and December may appear to be months without a clematis flower, but try C. paniculata in the shelter of a warm wall. Its small white blooms are vanilla-scented.

Cob^ea Scandens (Cup and Saucer Vine). A normally quick-growing annual. Its purple and green flowers are shaped rather like those of the Canterbury Bell.

Convolvulus Cneorum (Shrubby Convolvulus). A

 

 

small bush of pleasant silver-grey foliage, with satin-white flowers finely striped with pink in late summer.

Corkscrew Hazel. The stems are treasured for the strange contorted shapes into which they twist and bend. Ideal for line arrangements.

Crinum Powellii (Cape Lily). A superb bulb plant, which has large trumpet-shaped blooms of pink. C. powellii album has white flowers.

Cyclamen Neapolitanum. Everyone is enchanted with the miniature cyclamen flowers of this little beauty. Grown from corms, it is perfectly hardy and throws silvery marbled foliage.

Daphne. The variety D. Mezereum, a compact shrub, has purple-pink flowers and red berries. D. Cneorum is much smaller; has evergreen foliage and delicious shell-pink flower clusters.

Dierama (Wand Flower or Venus’s Fishing Rod). Has arching wiry stems which tremble in every breeze and carry little rose-pink flowers in clusters. Good seed-heads.

Digitalis. The common foxglove—and I wouldn’t be without it in my garden. Apart from the blooms, I use its green seed capsules in late summer to create interesting outline shapes, and in the autumn the spent seedheads can be dried. The seedheads can also be gilded for Christmas designs. The variety called Ambigua has lovely yellow flowers.

Doronicum (Leopard’s Bane). This golden flower is among the first herbaceous plants to bloom in spring and stays in flower for several months.

Eleagnus. I grow the variety Pungens Variegata, which

 

has glossy evergreen leaves splashed with gold. E. macro-phylla and E. ebingii are also grown for their richly-coloured foliage.

Epimedium (Barrenwort). Has sweet little flowers like tiny columbines, in various colours and many varieties. E. perralderianum has yellow flowers and leaves which tint in autumn and winter; E. rubnun has crimson blooms and foliage tinted in spring; E. versicolor sulphureum presents its spring leaves blotched with brown.

Eremurus (Foxtail Lily). A good variety is E. robustus, which grows to six or eight feet tall. Its flowers are pink; other varieties have blooms of white, apricot, maize yellow, and soft orange. The flowers grow on in water after cutting.

Erica. It is impossible to list all the hardy heathers, all useful for flower arranging, but a worthwhile variety is the popular H. E. Beale, which has lengthy spikes of double flowers of a soft rose colour. The various winter-flowering heathers are a ‘must,’ and at least one tree heather should be grown.

Eryngium maritimum (Sea Holly). Has grey calyces which can be dried. The variety Giganteum, popularly known as Miss Willmott’s Ghost, is a biennial with blue flowers and a grey-white prickly rufT.

Erythronium Dens-Canis. Like me, you’ll probably know this better as Dog’s Tooth Violet. It flowers in the springtime and makes an attractive addition to the rock garden. Snowflake is the name of a white-flowered form. E. revolutum (White Beauty) has mottled foliage and big white flowers with yellow centres. E. tuolumnense produces taller stems with deep yellow blooms.

Eucalyptus. Grown for its beautiful grey foliage and

 

 

young leaves flushed with pink. The variety E. gunnii is the hardiest, but E. globulus is also worth growing.

Euphorbia (Spurge). Has rather strange yellow-green blooms. E. wulfenii has handsome foliage and large stems thickly massed with flowers. E. characias is bigger, and also shows its croziers all winter. In the spring its green flower has a maroon eye.

Everlasting Pea (Lathyrus latifolius). A perennial which blooms in rose-pink or white and climbs like a sweet pea.

Fritillaria (Snake’s Head Lily). Grown from a bulb, its distinctive white and purple flowers have strange chequered markings. F. citrina is a more unusual form stocked by some nurseries; it has dainty yellow flowers.

F.    meleagris alba is pure white.

Galtonia (Hyacinthus candicans).) A stately plant which provides white flowers. The hyacinth-like blooms grow all round a graceful green stem. Individual florets can be cut.

G.    princeps has flowers of soft jade green. Interesting
seedheads.

Garrya Elliptica. An evergreen with dangling green catkins useful for winter arrangements. Its common name of Silk Tassel Bush is a good description.

Gladiolus. Do grow the smaller gladioli, such as the Butterfly and the Primulinus. The bigger varieties are usually too large for everyday use, but the smaller ones are more than useful. Butterfly varieties which I like include Femina (a delightful peach-pink with scarlet markings to the throat); Ice Follies, one of the best whites (it has an amber blotch); Jolly Jokers (creamy yellow); and Desiree (deep scarlet). The ruffled miniature gladioli are not so tall as the Butterflies and they bear smaller flowers.

 

 

Bo-Peep is one of the oldest and is buff-pink with a touch of red at the throat. Peter Pan is orange, apricot, and yellow; Parfait is salmon and cream; and Tony Boy is rose and creamy-white. Emily’s Birthday is an early flowering variety with petals of apricot-pink. The Primulinus hybrids include Massasoit (bright scarlet); Pegasus (creamy-white with a red line); Rainbow Falls (lilac-pink with a white throat); and Ocean Spray (creamy white with an amber blotch).

Helleborus. The Lenten Rose comes in several varieties. H. Corsicus has handsome evergreen leaves and spring clusters of pale green blossoms. H. viridis also has green flowers. The name Helleborus orientalis covers many hybrids varying from plum colour to blush, usually spotted with maroon within the petals. The petals thicken and turn green as summer comes, and the slow-forming seedheads make fascinating additions to choice designs. The variety H. niger is the well-known Christmas Rose.

Heuchera. Sometimes called Coral Bells, but can also be obtained with white, green, pink, and red flowers. H. rubescens has dainty sprays of greenish flowers and young leaves of a copper colour.

Himalayan Poppy (Meconopsis). A plant of outstanding beauty. Its azure flowers cause a stir when used in an arrangement.

Honesty. The disc-shaped silver centres of the seedpods are well-known, and these are also useful in their green state. A perennial variety, Lunaria redivava, has lilac flowers.

Hosta (Funkia or Plantain Lily). Has many lovely varieties, one of which has leaves of clear yellow-green. Another is gaily striped with white like an awning, and a third has foliage of butter-yellow and green.

 

 

Houseleek. There are well over a hundred varieties of the Sempervivum. My collection of about 20 ranges in colour from sulphur yellow through bronze, purple, and green to a rich ruby-red.

Hoya Carnosa (Honey-plant). I grow this in my sunny bedroom window from spring to autumn, and in the heated bathroom in the winter. Has wax-like blooms in early summer, each individual bloom carrying a single drop of nectar which reflects the light.

Ivy. Grow any of the many varieties of ivy indoors or outdoors—they are always welcome, especially the variegated kinds. Trails of small leaves picked in autumn or winter will dry perfectly, retaining their infinite variations of colour.

Kalmia Latifolia (Calico Bush or Icing Sugar Bush). Has indescribably lovely ‘iced’ rosettes of pink, white and rose-red.

Lachenalia. A graceful indoor plant flowering in spring with spires of tubular-shaped blooms. Colours range from green to coral and gold, and most are jade green in bud. The flowers last for many weeks in water if picked when in bud.

Lavatera. Useful blossoms, like mallow, of a rich pink. The annual lavatera will grow in almost any soil in an open sunny place.

Lavender. Two pleasing varieties are Hidcote Pink (a clear pink colour) and Vera, which has blooms in a very pale lavender tint.

Leucojum Vernum. The Spring Snowflake, produces white flowers which are tipped with green. L. aestivum is called the Summer Snowfiake.

 

 

 

Lewisia. A rock plant with fine flower sprays. Colours include pink, peach, and apricot.

Lily. All the many varieties of the lily are beautiful. L. giganteum can grow as tall as a man and has drooping white flowers perhaps up to ten inches long. Its dried seedheads are attractive. L. Martagon has a delicate little flower with turned-back petals in purple or white. L. auratum has golden-rayed blooms, and L. speciosum has crimson-spotted flowers. Try also L. longiflorum (Easter Lily) and L. candidum (Madonna Lily).

Linaria (Yellow Toad Flax). A wild perennial which I like so much that I grow it in the garden. There are also a number of annual and perennial varieties cultivated for cut flowers. The blooms are like tiny snapdragons.

Lungwort (Pulmonaria). Called Soldiers and Sailors because of its pink and blue flowers on the one plant. The variety P. saccharata has marbled foliage. I also grow P. rubra, which has coral-red bells, and in a mild winter I sometimes pick the first flowers in January.

Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata). An evergreen with glossy foliage and fragrant white flowers.

Muscari (Grape Hyacinth). Takes its name from the Greek word for a cluster or bunch of grapes. There is a white-flowered form, Alba, which is not so common to-day but which was very widely grown in Elizabethan times, when it was called Pearls of Spain. The variety M. plumosum bears long-lasting heads of soft violet-purple, and its unusual flowers are like feathered plumes. Flowering is in May.

Myrtle. A useful evergreen shrub with small white flowers. Can be grown indoors.

Narcissus. There are a number of varieties. I like

 

 

Cyclamineus Beryl, primrose-coloured with a small orange cup. Peeping Tom has a long, deep yellow trumpet; Trevithian has a broad pale lemon-yellow perianth and a shallow crown; Silver Chimes carries sweetly-scented heads of six or more flowers, lemon and white. The variety W. P. Milner gives small sulphur-yellow daffodils.

Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist). As well as growing the common blue variety, do spare a little space for a new pink one, Monarch Persian Rose.

Ornamental Cabbage and Kale. Firm favourites with flower arrangers. The cabbages are soft green and cream, rose-pink, fuchsia-pink, and cerise. The kale, in similar colours, can be cultivated as a perennial if cut back and not allowed to flower. I have some plants in my garden which are four years old.

Osmunda Fern (Royal Fern). Beautiful in spring, when arrangements of great distinction can be produced with its copper-tinted croziers. Can be pressed and kept for winter use.

Passiflora (Passion Flower). A distinctive climber whose curious flowers need no description. Worth having is the pure white variety named Constance Elliott.

Phalaris Arundinacea Variegata. A long name for the well-known variegated ribbon grass with the country name of Gardener’s Garters.

Phlomis Samia (Jerusalem Sage). Has yellow flowers which perhaps look most attractive when the leaves are carefully removed from the stems so that the flowers are clearly seen.

Phormium Variegatum (New Zealand Flax). Has striking leaves like green swords with yellow stripes running

 

 

the full length. A wonderful ingredient in really big arrangements.

Pieris Formosa Forrestii. A shrub with new growths of brilliant crimson, rather like poinsettia.

Plumbago Capensis (Cape Leadwort). A wall shrub from South Africa bearing clusters of delicate blue flowers which resemble tiny phlox. I grow it in an upstairs window.

Poppy. Poppies of any variety are never wasted in the flower arranger’s garden, and if left unstaked will assume interesting natural curves. Cut the stems long, and dry the seedheads for winter use.

Potentilla (Cinquefoil). I grow this instead of geum; its flower is similar to geum but the petals don’t drop so easily. Gibson’s Scarlet is attractive.

Prunus Subhirtella Autumnalis (Autumn Cherry). Should be in every garden. My pink one flowers twice in the autumn, during fine spells in the winter, and again in the spring. There is also a white variety.

Roses. You can never have too many roses, especially the varieties with subdued and subtle colourings. Impossible to list them all, but do try Cafe, a pale brown rose which accompanies orange-yellow blooms to perfection. For something really out of the ordinary grow Rosa chinensis viridiflora; its odd (green-brown) petals, which are really sepals are so distinctive and of great usefulness, especially in the autumn when teamed with orange berries, dahlias and chrysanthemums. There are roses with wonderful colourings of amethyst, grey-mauve and rose lilac—varieties such as Twilight, Overture, Lilac Charm, and Lilac Time. The variety Magenta produces heavy trusses of magenta-hued blooms, the shades of which change every day as the rose matures. I grow this with one

 

it complements so well, Lavender Pinocchio. Among a small collection of old shrub roses I have Louise Odier and Madame Pierre Oger, both of which have curving shell-like petals of great beauty; Cardinal Richelieu (deep mauve-grey flowerheads); and another favourite of mine, Pink Grootendorst, which often obliges with a second flowering in the autumn. Some roses are worth cultivating for their leaves, fruits, or thorns. For example, Rosa rubriflora has long sprays of remarkable little leaves of a soft slate-blue shade and little dark cherry-red hips. Rosa Moyesii has dusky red flowers followed by shapely hips, while Rosa omiensis is noteworthy for its translucent red thorns. Miniature roses grow in the garden and will provide dozens of perfect little blooms throughout the summer.

Rue (Herb of Grace). Grow the variety Jackman’s Blue, a superior grey-blue shade. Leaves, flowers, and seedheads of rue are all valuable. The Meadow Rue (Thalictrum, Hewitt’s Double) has graceful stems and showers of tiny lavender-tinted pom-poms.

Sarcococca. A small shrub with narrow, erect leaves, and tiny pink flowers in January.

Shasta Daisy. These days the double and semi-double forms of the ordinary garden ox-eye or dog daisy are a ‘must’ for flower arrangers. They last extremely well when cut, and have a long flowering period. The variety named Esther Read is the most commonly grown, but there are others. John Murray is an excellent one, as is Ben Lomond.

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum). Sometimes called Jingling Johnny. Has gracefully arching stems carrying small creamy white tubular flowers which hang downwards like little bells. The lovely green leaves which accompany the flowers are sometimes removed by flower arrangers who

 

 

find that the delicate bell-hung stems take on a more fragile appearance without them. A big and very striking variety is Polygonatum multiftorum.

Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose). A house plant which can be ‘struck’ from a leaf. Fleshy-leafed and velvet-petalled, it flowers for months. It has trumpet-shaped blue, pink, or white blooms in loose sprays. The white and pink varieties bear a marked resemblance to orchids. My favourite is lavender, veined with royal purple and colouring suddenly at the throat to primrose yellow.

Tellima Grandiflora. A green flower for spring use. Delightful fringed bells on foot-high stems, and appealing leaves of green with bronze markings in winter.

Tiarella. The variety T. cordifolia has spikes of white flowers like little bottle brushes. T. wherryi has flowers of a soft apricot colour, and is scented. Both varieties bloom in spring.

Tulips. The name is said to be derived from the flower’s resemblance to the Eastern headdress called ‘tulipan’ or ‘turban,’ though the resemblance is not so strong in some of the newer varieties. Perfect for flower arranging are the long petalled lily-flowered varieties, which have an elegant manner of growth. New strains bred from the green, flowered Tulipa viridiflora have been quickly acclaimed by flower arrangers. I find that the variety called Artist flourishes well in my garden, where six bulbs have made nearly three times as many in a few years. This sturdy tulip is coloured terra-cotta and green. T. Formosa is almost green, while Greenland has a flush of deep rose. Notable for their brilliant interlacing of colours are the Bybloem, Bizarre, and Rembrandt tulips. The variety called Bright Interval has a large flower of cherry-pink overlaid with creamy white splashes, while Insulinde

 

 

has a charming contrast of colours—yellow, bronze, deep purple and various shades of mahogany on a primrose ground. Another Bizarre variety, named Zebra, combines soft crimson with primrose-yellow, and its open blooms are rich mahogany with streaks of clear yellow.

Wild Flowers. Many wild flowers are becoming more difficult to find in their natural state; keep a corner of the garden for growing roots of any you can find. A treasure is Wild Arum (Cuckoo Pint, or Lords and Ladies) with its dark green arrow-shaped leaves which are often spotted with purple or streaked with a lighter colour. The flowers are handsome and are followed by orange-red berries. Even the flower arranger without a garden can pick a great many interesting leaves, grasses, seedheads and berries from the hedgerows, waste ground, common, or heathland, or just the roadside verges. Wild fungi can be very colourful and shapely, and can be dried in borax and used over and over again. Some wild plants worth looking out for are yellow toad flax, dock, wild roses, foxgloves, wild hop, wild privet, honeysuckle, dead-nettle, scabious, purple loose-strife, heather, and the leaves, flowers, and fruits of many trees.

No one can give you a full list of the natural material it is possible to use in flower arranging; the important thing is to develop your own ‘seeing eye’ so that you always visualise the potentialities of the material you have at hand.

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