As we are approaching the end of summer there is still plenty of blooms in the garden to make a bouquet of fresh flowers. A great way to create a stunning arrangement is to go out to the garden and see what’s in season. Some flowers that will last longer than others as cut flowers, but they all can create lovely arrangements.

Just remember, floral design is an art, and with all art, composition, texture, and color is important. A good arrangement generally consists of a focal point (largest flower blooms), smaller flowers for contrast and some fillers. There are several filler options available at local florists, or you can grow those ferns as houseplants (they tend to be more tropical). The best option is the beautiful ferns that grow naturally in our yards, try Polystichum munitum (Sword fern) or Blechnum spicant (Deer fern) for foliage.

In addition to ferns there are numerous shrubs that grow well in the Pacific Northwest that can be used for filler foliage. Euonymus is a likely selection, with an array of yellow-green leaves. Euonymus japonica ‘Aureo-marginatus’ (Golden Euonymus) would add interest as an evergreen filler with bright yellow foliage. Another very common filler is ‘Cider Gum’ Eucalyptus gunni which helps create texture and greenery for any arrangement.

Roses are usually associated with Valentine’s Day as a symbol of love; nevertheless, many varieties tend to bloom in our area until mid-September which makes them great candidates for floral arrangements. There are 300 species of rose known, and many are known for character and fragrance. A traditional rose arrangement has crisscrossed ferns, with a touch of Gypsophila (Baby’s Breath) or Limonium sinuatum (Statice).

Of course, a big and bold flower that brings a smile to everyone is the Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus. They are perfect for a rustic décor as a center piece or outdoor gatherings in a mason jar, with a touch of greenery. Furthermore, Helianthus annuus, includes more than 70 varieties of sunflower seeds and plants! These range from annuals to perennials, as dwarf to tall varieties in purple, red, orange, and yellow hues. Gardeners have an abundance to choose from. Wild Helianthus annuus is a widely branched annual plant with many flower heads. The domestic sunflower, however, often possesses only a single large flower head at the top of an unbranched stem. The name Sunflower may derive from the flower’s head’s shape, which resembles the sun. Sunflower varieties ‘Ring of Fire’ or ‘Snacker’ are also good choices.

Sometimes the simplest bouquets are the best, so keep this in mind when selecting what flowers to use. For best results always cut flowers early in the morning when they are at their best quality before the heat of the day begins. Also, keep flowers away from heat sources such as direct sunlight and these flowers will remain beautiful even longer.

A few good practices to make bouquets last longer:

  • Flowers with multiple buds should be cut with at least one bud beginning to open, and single stem flowers in full bloom
  • Place flowers immediately in water after cutting
  • Placing cut flowers in lukewarm water then moving them to a cool location for 1-2 hours (referred to as hardening) allows for maximum water uptake which prolongs the life
  • Add fresh water each day and add completely new water at least once a week
  • Prune the ends of stems/stalks ¼”- ½” every few days (this helps open the plant tissue to uptake water)
  • Strip the foliage towards the bottom of the stalk (especially ferns)
  • Use a clean vase to prevent bacterial and fungal diseases

Written by Karen Smith, Lane Forest Products Plant Specialist