Flowers Make Good Companions

This simple bouquet features smoke bush and phlox.

If you’ve stood in line at a nursery lately you know everyone is doing more gardening these days and that’s a good thing- a very good thing. In addition to growing more edibles be sure to add flowers. Scented flowers attract pollinators to the vegetable garden plus they’re beautiful and lift the spirits during these crazy times.
Last year I was able to purchase huge mixed bouquets from a neighbor. She posted on Facebook when she and her daughters put together lovely arrangements and sold them on the honor system along with eggs in a cooler by their front fence. Whether you have limited sun or lots of it, here are some suggestions to add beauty to your garden.

Roses and alstroemeria in this bouquet.

For starters it’s always good to grow perennial plants that come back every year but self sowing annuals are also great so don’t forget to plant some of those also. Self-sowing annuals that have a long vase life are bachelor buttons, clarkia, cosmos, flax, love-in-a-mist, nasturtium, cleome and calendula. Zinnia, snapdragon, statice, lisianthus and marigolds also make good cut flowers.

In shady gardens, fragrant daphne odora is a wonderful small shrub that provides interesting variegated foliage as well as flowers. Sweet olive (osmanthus fragrans) flowers smell like apricots. Oakleaf hydrangea foliage and flowers look great in bouquets and the leaves turn red in fall which is an added bonus. Our native shrub philadelphus (mock orange) has blossoms that smell like oranges. It will grow in some shade as well as sun. Pittosporum ‘Marjorie Channon’ will add white with a hint of lime to your bouquets.

A mixed bouquet with roses, gerber daisies, carnation, crabapple branches and leather fern.

For sunny spots grow kangaroo paw with their unusual fuzzy tubular flowers. Coreopsis attract butterflies and are long lasting in bouquets. Coneflowers attract butterflies. The showy flowers of alstroemeria attract hummers and butterflies. Dahlias, gloriosa daisy, delphinium, foxglove, scabiosa, aster, shasta daisy and yarrow also make good cut flowers. Penstemon are good for cutting and the tubular flowers attract hummingbirds.

Native flowers that last for a week or more in a bouquet include clarkia and sticky monkeyflower. Yarrow and hummingbird sage will last 4-6 days in a vase. Our native shrub philadelphus, also called mock orange, has flowers that smell like oranges and will grow in some shade as well as sun. Lewisia bloom spring and summer, California poppy and Pacific Coast Iris are beautiful in a mixed bouquet as well.

The secret to a fabulous bouquet is not just the flowers but the interesting foliage and that is something we all have in our gardens. Foliage from shrubs such as abelia, breath of heaven, California. bay, ornamental grasses, grapes and other vines, herbs, woody tree branches like smoke tree and Japanese maple also look handsome in a bouquet.

A Filoli Garden bouquet photographed a couple years ago.

To make cut flowers last, pick them early in the morning before they are stressed by heat. Pull off any foliage or flowers that will be below the water level in the vase. Fill a clean vase with 3 parts lukewarm water mixed with 1 part lemon-lime soda, 1 teaspoon vinegar and a crushed aspirin. Another recipe for floral food is 2 teaspoons sugar, 2 tablespoons white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon bleach in 1 quart water. The sugar helps buds open and last longer, the acid improves water flow in the stems and the bleach reduces the growth of bacteria and fungus. Change the water and recut the stems every few days to enjoy your bouquet for a week or even longer.