Mixed Bouquets with Foliage & Flowers

Every year I vow to grow flowers to cut for those fabulous mixed bouquets I see on my friend’s tables and arrive in their arms to grace my own house. But alas, between the lack of enough sun, the soil and those annoying gophers, I have not been very successful in the cut flower department. 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. I’m still going to plant more perennial flowers this fall that are good for cutting but I’ll use them as accents in my bouquets and concentrate on more foliage.

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Smoke bush with Franz Shubert phlox paniculata

Great foliage plants come in all shapes and sizes. In shady gardens, fragrant variegated daphne odora is a wonderful small shrub for both flowers and foliage. Sweet olive or osmanthus fragrans is a large evergreen shrub or small tree with blooms that smell like apricots. Pittosporum ‘Marjorie Channon’ will add white with a hint of lime to your bouquets. 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, also called mock orange, has flowers that smell like oranges and it will grow in some shade as well as sun.

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Hydrangea Limelight with Marjorie Channon pittosporum

While just about any plant material that strikes your fancy will work in a mixed bouquet there are four types of plant forms that naturally look good together: Spires for height and architectural properties with flowers like liatris, snapdragon, gladiola, salvia, Bells-of-Ireland as well as the strappy leaves of flax or cordyline. Round for focus such as roses, dahlias, long-stemmed marigolds, peonies. Lacy for fillers- ferns, baby’s breath, dill. Foliage from shrubs such abelia, breath of heaven, Calif. bay, and ornamental grasses. Don’t forget grapes and other vines, herbs, woody trees branches and prunings from smoke tree and Japanese maples which also look handsome in a bouquet.

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Mixed bouquet- Filoli Garden

What can you still plant this time of year for cutting? Some flowers that lend themselves to cutting with long stems and a long vase life are:

Kangaroo paw- Low-water use perennial with unusual fuzzy tubular flowers of pink, orange, red or yellow.
Alstroemeria- showy flowers attract hummers and butterflies.
Penstemon- Tubular flowers attract hummingbirds
Coreopsis- Double yellow flowers attract butterflies.
Gloriosa daisy- Bold gold, orange and mohogany daisies 5-7″ across with a brown center. Pick when center is
just starting to get fuzzy. Double forms have a shorter vase life.
Coneflowers- Pinkish,white, orange or yellow flowers attract butterflies.
Snapdragons, planted now will bloom long into fall and provide spiky accent that attracts butterflies. Pick off lower
blooms as they wilt.
Pink muhly grass- Airy plumes of feathery, deep rosy-pink flowers on tall stems.

I have a great list of California natives that are good for cutting also. Email me if you would like some of these suggestions.

The best time to cut is early in the morning. Cut non-woody stems on a slant for maximum water absorption. Cut woody stems straight across and smash the ends. Plunge immediately in a bucket of tepid water. Indoors, recut each stem under water so an air bubble doesn’t keep the water from being absorbed.Then pull off any foliage or flowers that will be below the water level in the vase. Fill the vase with lukewarm water. You can add cut flower food but I find that changing the water every two days, recutting the stems and making sure no foliage is under water works just as well.