P. Allen Smith: Love In Bloom
Three Ideas for Garden-Fresh Bridal Bouquets
From left: blue hydrangeas; a mixed bouquet of roses, tulips and ranunculus; and peonies.
Photography by Hortus Ltd., Donna Evans, Mark Fonville and Kelly Quinn
Wedding season is upon us. The months of May and June usher in a bevy of blushing brides, which means there are parties to plan, menus to create and of course, my personal favorite, bouquets to be made. Whether you’re having a grand affair or opting for a small, intimate ceremony, the most important floral aspect is the bride’s bouquet.
I’ve found fresh flowers from the garden along with a few stems from my local florist make simple, no-fuss bouquets that are equally elegant and fitting for the occasion. By selecting from what is in season and readily available, you will not only create a bouquet that is natural and indigenous to your area, but you may also save a few dollars. Here are a few of my favorite choices for memorable spring and summer bouquets.
If you’re following tradition, you recall from the timeless rhyme that every bride needs something blue. The color symbolizes loyalty and honor. As a child, I loved the beautiful blue hydrangeas my mother grew in a shaded area of our yard. Today, I use the same type of cut stems to create simple, yet stunning arrangements. The lacy blossoms of the large flowers add a touch of femininity, and selecting the true blue color completes the ancient rhyme.
Another great thing about hydrangeas is they are readily available almost yearround. If you don’t grow hydrangeas in your own garden or if they aren’t in bloom when you need them, you’re almost certain to find them by putting a call in to your local florist or even paying a visit to your local supermarket. Because hydrangeas are so full, you’ll only need a few stems to create a lush bouquet.
It’s important to know hydrangeas do have a tendency to lose their vitality, so you’ll want to keep them in a cool place and give them plenty of water after they are cut. If possible, cut them the morning of the wedding to ensure the freshest bouquet. Use floral ribbon to bind them together, and then finish with an elegant satin ribbon in a coordinating shade of blue, green or cream to complete the bouquet.
This time of year there are so many stars in the garden, it can be hard to choose just one. For a mixed bouquet, I recommend blending roses, tulips and ranunculus. Perhaps the most readily available of the three — and perhaps found in your own garden — are roses. With more varieties, shapes, sizes and colors than you can dream, roses are a natural choice for wedding bouquets, whether you’re having a casual backyard celebration or a formal church wedding. If you don’t have roses in your garden, they are one of the easiest flowers to find in a floral shop or grocery yearround. To start this mixed bouquet, you’ll want at least six to eight stems.
Next, I like to blend the roses with tulips. Similar in size, tulips bring a different texture to the mix. It’s also a great way to add in a different color easily. Again, I recommend six to eight stems. You want the bouquet to be full, but not burdensome for the bride. Finally, add ranunculus to fill any gaps or spaces between the larger blooms. The paper-thin petals, which unfold in multiple layers, will coordinate beautifully with the rose stems.
There are a number of reasons to love peonies. For starters, they are one of the hardiest and most resilient plants in the garden. Second, they are also one of the most gorgeous. With large, full blooms, a soft fragrant scent and a variety of colors, it’s easy to see why they often top the list for bridal bouquets. What’s more, their prime time for blooming starts in mid-May and runs through June. It’s perfect for the wedding season.
If you plan to cut peonies from the garden, I suggest selecting half-opened blooms, simply because they will last longer. You also want to cut the flowers early in the morning before the heat of the day. If the heads are heavy with dew, be sure to gently shake them to remove the water. Cut 12 to 15 stems to bouquet length and bind with your favorite ribbon.
No matter what blooms you choose, remember to keep your bouquet away from heat and direct light. If possible, you may want to store in a fridge or cooler. Also, be sure to give cut stems access to water by placing them in a shallow vase or misting occasionally. Know your garden and its blooming times and also be in touch with a local florist or market, and you’re sure to have beautiful blooms for the special day.
Easy-to-Grow Cut Flowers
Whether you’re saying “I do” in spring, summer or fall, there is a bounty of blooms in season andready for the cutting. Here are a few of my favorite, easy-to-grow stems for these three seasons.
If you’ve been to my farm, you know daffodils are one of my favorites. Plant the bulbs in late fall, and you’ll enjoy vases full of the yellow charmers as soon as the temperatures begin to warm.
Perhaps the most sought-after cut flower, no cutting garden is complete without a few rose bushes.
One of the most cheerful blooms in the garden, you’ll want to plant your dahlias around the same time you put tomatoes in the ground. You can expect to have cut flowers from late summer until the first frost.
Lilies will come back year after year and be prolific producers of open, full blooms. White Oriental lilies make for an elegant and fragrant bouquet. For the best color selection, choose an Asiatic variety.
An iconic symbol of the close of summer and start of fall, cut a few sunflower stalks and loosely assemble with ribbon for a tied bouquet, or simply enjoy their beauty in a tall, metal or glass vase.
With a vase life of five to 10 days, cockscomb’s modern look makes for a hardy bouquet. Mix with other seasonal selections from your florist or market, such as button mums, for a fall display.