Backyard Bouquets


For many of us, our daily lives are fast-paced, hectic and demanding. It can often be a challenge to feel like we have time to properly take care of ourselves and our families let alone find time to garden. It is important to realize that gardening is a great way to relax & reduce stress, offers low-impact exercise, creates habitat for wild creatures and provides opportunities to grow food to nourish ourselves as well as flowers to lift our spirits. Considering all of these benefits, how can we not find the time to grow a few things? It’s kind of like eating your broccoli – it’s good for you (and way more fun)!

A bouquet of fresh-cut flowers can brighten up any room and make the ordinary seem special however constantly purchasing store-bought flowers can take a toll on one’s budget. In addition to their high cost, most flowers on the market today are imported, mass-produced and usually not sustainably grown. Growing your own flowers for cutting is the answer! Many of our favorite flowers for bouquets are easy to grow and make amazing, long-lasting arrangements made right from your own yard.

We chatted with a professional event florist from a local company called Seventh Stem about favorite flowers for cutting and tips for keeping flowers looking perfectly fresh. Our mild northwest climate provides prime conditions for some of most prized blooms including spring double-flowering tulips, ranunculus, and peonies, summer sprays of roses, delphinium, lilies, and autumn-blooming hydrangeas, dahlias, and ornamental grass plumes. Even in the dead of winter the garden offers bright colored stems from twig dogwood, budded camellias and hellebores in bloom to be brought indoors for our enjoyment.

Many of the favorite plants for bouquets meet a list of criteria that make them more worthwhile to grow than to purchase:                                                                                                                                   

  • Easy to grow flowers with long bloom seasons and copious amounts of blossoms – like roses, hydrangeas and dahlias.
  • Commercial equivalent is expensive or hard to find; we can’t buy peonies as nice as we can grow them and stems of garden roses tend to be expensive to purchase plus we have access to so many amazing colors and varieties that we can grow right here in the City of Roses!
  • Perennial flowers and deciduous shrubs provide blooms that return year after year while shrubs often lend contrasting or complimentary seasonal foliage, fall color and interesting seed pods or colorful berries.
  • Vines such as clematis, jasmine and honeysuckle offer multiple uses in the garden and when used in bouquets add color, fragrance and whimsical texture.

Gathering materials for bouquets is best done early in the morning while dew is still present; keep a bucket of lukewarm water available to put the cut stems into immediately. Having your cut material last the longest depends on at what stage the flower was in when it was cut and can take some practice and experience to figure out. Spike-shaped flowers should be cut when 25% of the flowers have opened (salvia, snapdragons, veronica) while cluster flowers should be harvested when they are just opening – too early and they never open, too late and they won’t last. When harvesting blossoms with single stems such as a rose, or peony cut when the flower bud is fully plumped and barely beginning to open; often young, underdeveloped flower buds will not open if cut too early.

Once your flowers have been collected, some different types of stems benefit from special treatments to extend their life in the vase. Examine the different kinds of stems that various plants have and experiment with a few cutting techniques including cutting at a 45 Degree angle. Woody stems should be split at the cut end to encourage more water uptake whereas the tips of milky stems need to be seared with an open flame or dipped in boiling water. No matter how your flowers were cut, they should be placed in a clean vase with fresh water and the water should be changed every 2 days with the stem ends re-cut by ¼ inch each time. Remove the foliage from the part of the stem that is below the water line to help keep the water clean and wash flower vases often to combat the buildup of bacteria which tends to cause flowers to wilt. If you want to add a homemade flower food to the water: 1 tsp sugar + 1 tsp bleach + 2 tsp lemon/lime juice + 1 quart of lukewarm water.

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