I am delighted to have been asked to contribute a guest post to Garlic & Sapphire – a favourite blog that I have been reading for some time now. I love all the topics covered: growing vegetables, gardening, recipes and flowers, but I have decided to concentrate this post on my number one passion which is using flowers from my garden to decorate my house…
Some years ago I came across Sarah Raven signing copies of her book ‘The Cutting Garden’ at a Country Living Christmas Fair. In those days I was very much a novice gardener and had never heard of the concept of a ‘cutting garden’. We were just planning our move from London to the country and so I bought the book and devoured it on the tube journey home. An idea was born to create my own Cutting Garden and have flowers for my house on a year round basis.
It has been a steep learning curve – many of the flowers Sarah talked about I had never come across before and I had certainly never ‘arranged’ flowers. Gradually over the last 10 years I have perfected growing the flowers that I want to cut and learnt many tricks and techniques for making the most of them in my home. My aim is to have arrangements made from my garden in the house for twelve months of the year and today I would like to share with you a few of my ideas for garden flowers in February.
Hellebores are the floral beauties of my February garden. They are one of the many flowers I had never come across before reading Sarah’s book and are now a winter essential. I add to my collection every year and plant them in sunny beds and my small woodland area where they seem to thrive in both environments.
Floating hellebores in a shallow bowl of water is one of my favourite ways to display them. Their normally drooping heads are revealed in all their perfection and they seem to last well in the water. Here I have used a footed glass bowl on a large Morrocan style tray. This is an ideal arrangement for a buffet table with desserts, crudités or soups in shot glasses arranged on the tray.
Whenever I make a large arrangement, I have learnt to make a smaller one from any oddments left over to give a sense of scale. Here I have arranged a few unused flowers in a bud vase. As hellebores can droop quickly I have seared the stems in boiling water before putting them in the vase. This arrangement takes all of about 15 minutes to make, so is ideal when you have guests for supper. Although simple it always adds a wow factor to the evening!
For my next arrangement I have used the foot soldiers of my winter flowers – narcissi Paperwhites.
These days I grow Paperwhites in bulk for use throughout December, January and February. Whilst they are not a cheap bulb to buy and need replacing each year, they are considerably cheaper than buying cut flowers and have a freshness and scent that is unbeatable in the dark months of winter.
The first few times that I grew them I kept them in the house and they grew leggy and weak. Now I grow the bulbs outside in my greenhouse and then cut the flowers for arrangements or replant a few bulbs into an attractive dish to bring inside as they flower. My first batch are planted in early November in black plastic pots, then another batch in mid December and finally in mid January I plant the remaining bulbs in the bed in the greenhouse. My January planting is just coming into flower.
For this arrangement I took a small footed bon bon dish and cut a circular piece of floral foam from a brick shaped block. After soaking I filled it with the cut heads of the Paperwhites and pushed a thin candle into the centre. I used to be a great minimalist with possessions, but flower arranging has brought out the pack rat in me and I now horde supplies of fabric, ribbon, tissue paper etc. From my supplies I found a scrap of fabric that complimented the colour of the Paperwhites and used it to cover the base of the dish and so hide the ugly floral foam.
As with the hellebores I have displayed this arrangement on my silver tray, with the intention of using it as part of a buffet table. This could also be used on a hall table or coffee table. I would avoid using Paperwhites on a dining table as you do need to be sensitive to your guests – not everyone will appreciate their heavy scent.
In my final arrangement I am using my favourite winter flower, the snowdrop. In many ways this is winter flower arranging at its best – simple and pure. Petite flowers like this need a very small vase and these tiny crystal bud vases that I found in a charity shop last year could not be more perfect. In such small vases you do have to watch the water though – it will disappear very quickly!
I hope you have enjoyed my post and are inspired to head out into your garden to see what you could bring in today. Please do add your ideas to the comments below – flower arranging is all about sharing ideas and inspirations!
This guest post came from the lovely Julie of Peonies & Posies. View her blog for gorgeous arrangements, flower tips and stunning photography.