A winter bouquet: arranging flowers from the January garden
January 9th, 2011
Earlier this week, my collaborator David Perry and I were the “program” for Woodinville Garden Club’s first meeting of 2011. It was an auspicious beginning for what we anticipate to be a great year gathering stories both visually and with words for our book project, A Fresh Bouquet.
Frequently, the feedback to our “seasonal, local and sustainable” mantra has to do with the argument that one can only follow this practice in the peak growing seasons when annuals and perennials are in their glory (you know what we mean – roses, peonies, dahlias, even sunflowers….they don’t usually sing in January!)
That’s true, but living in the seasons means that of course you don’t want a vase filled with August bloomers in the dead of winter. That’s like eating a mealy hothouse tomato out of season. Yes, it’s red in color, but that’s about as much in common the January grocery store tomato has with the off-the-vine, warm, juicy, flavorful heirloom you grow in the garden and add to your late summer salads.
So after our illustrated lecture on “A Year in Flowers,” featuring some pretty incredible images that Dave has captured on our joint and his solo excursions, we set out to design and demonstrate some great ideas for winter bouquets. Suffice it to say, David created an uniquely “David” arrangement. Yes, it involved power tools and an unexpected combination of leaves and blooms. When he blogs about it, I’ll add the link here.
For me, I wanted to fill a vase with winter beauty. Some of you may know that our family is in a bit of transition. We finally sold our house in Southern California, but we are still living in a rental house in Seattle, while house- and garden-hunting for a permanent residence.
I yearn for my previous Seattle garden where I could gather more than enough ingredients for any impromptu bouquet (does this come close to admitting that I’m an over-planter? YES! But I don’t own that garden anymore, sadly). I’m a bit limited with the offerings at our rental house and I don’t want to denude all the plants my landlords consider theirs!
So, on Tuesday, I went “flower shopping,” which means I visited the amazing gardens of two friends, clippers in hand. It was sunny out, and very cold. Some of the shrubs showed signs of frost damage. After all, It was January 4th! But I was not disappointed and my garden designer friend Jean Zaputil walked me around her backyard and entry garden, encouraging me to take a little of this and a little of that.
Her bounty included Fatsia, which has huge, palm-like foliage. Green and glossy, this is good stuff – perfect for adding drama to a vase. We clippped branches of green Boxwood, another hardworking shrub that is just as hardworking in an arrangement. Oh, and the Sarcococca, or sweet box – divine. If you have never grown this evergreen shrub, which has little pointed leaves and hard-to-see, super fragrant white winter flowers, think about planting it now. It’s hardy in the Pacific NW….not in the midwest, unfortunately, according to my friend Danielle.
I also left with a few stems from Jean’s Acuba shrub, which is another one of those plants you sometimes ignore in the summertime when everything else looks so swell. But even the famed Christopher Lloyd admired this plant – its bright yellow foliage is splashed with green flecks. And there’s nothing like something golden to offset all that greenery. It ended up as one of the magical ingredients that perked up my bouquet. I also talked Jean into letting me clip two branches from her about-to-bloom Helleborus argutifolia – with its leathery, serrated, olive-green foliage and the pale green flower in bud.
After leaving Jean’s, I headed to Lorene Edwards Forkner, plantswoman, designer, blogger and fellow writer — another incredibly talented friend (I am blessed with many of them!). Lorene’s garden is very close to Puget Sound, which is often a bit milder than the rest of Seattle. That’s the only reason I can come up with to explain why her Oakleaf Hydrangea shrub was still hanging onto several deep burgundy leaves in pretty sets.
Like the golden Acuba, the wine-colored Hydrangea foliage added great contrast to the bouquet. Oh- and the ‘Jelena’ witch hazel – yes, this glorious, fragrant shrub is just beginning to flower in Lorene’s front yard, so she allowed me to clip a few branches. The blooms of the witch hazel are little puffs of burgundy-copper – and it doesn’t take many of them to perfume a room. I made this bouquet on Tuesday and four days later, the dining area where I set the urn was still heady with the scent.
You can look closely to see most of these ingredients in the photos here. One more thing I want to share about this abundant bouquet. Notice the draping vine? That’s a cascading and twining length of a rugged honeysuckle, also from Lorene’s property. I wanted it to spill elegantly from the mouth of the cream-colored urn, but it was a little too stiff to give me the look I envisioned. So I started wrapping it around the base of the urn and – well, that looked better. I employed a trick I learned from a Portland floral designer we recently interviewed, Jennie Greene. She uses tiny lengths of twine-wrapped wire to secure branches and stems in place. Easy t0 find at craft stores, I pulled out a roll of the wire, cut off a couple inches and secured the honeysuckle in place.
Now who says there’s nothing to put in a vase in January? This creation illustrates just one way to gather from the winter garden. Go see what you can create!
January 9th, 2011 at 7:01 am
Love it! I assume by sustainable, you also mean locally sourced if possible?
Right now I have a vase of Redtwig Dogwood branches from my own garden on my sofa table and it is gorgeous, so appropriate for my local Mid-Atlantic winter light.
January 9th, 2011 at 8:45 am
Yes Kathy – locally sourced, which also usually means in- season. Love using red twigs this time of year!
January 9th, 2011 at 10:44 am
Hello dear Deb,
First things first. The story you wrote about our garden is beyond magical. You flourish your words the way a magician flourishes his wand. Thank you, thank you. I hope that Country Gardens magazine gets a great response.
I love this piece and feel that it fits today’s lifestyle perfectly. Not stiff and fussy, but natural and flowing, in tune with the landscape and the garden.
I think you need to meet Molly Chappellet who is one of the pioneers of this style. In about 1994 Jeff and I trekked up to her home and winery and spent an afternoon shooting photos and talking with her. Perhaps you can source an old copy of her huge Vineyard Gardens, which I think evokes the same feel as your bouquet and what you are aiming for. You and David should be able to find a wellspring of talent and creativity with her.
Sending love from my California garden,
Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island
January 9th, 2011 at 11:03 am
Gorgeous!!! Your beautiful bouquet perfectly embodies our PNW winter gardens…only without the rain. Thanks for showing how to snip and clip our way to “indoor gardening” until the weather calms down and we can get back outside again.
On a personal note…can I just say how COOL it is that you’re back in the ‘hood. Good times my friend; I am blessed as well.
January 9th, 2011 at 1:07 pm
Looks like you had a blast in friends gardens! Certainly makes you look at the garden with different eyes this time of year. No elephant ears!!! Sad but true.
January 10th, 2011 at 4:26 am
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January 10th, 2011 at 9:57 am
Love it Deb!
January 11th, 2011 at 1:05 pm
I wandered over here from the Seattle bloggers fling website – I thought I recognized your name – I’ve read your book on sheds and surely some others, too. Thanks for working on the fling! I might actually make it this year from Spokane.
That arrangement is beautiful. Ah, you’d be sadly lacking in greenery, even, around Spokane. Better do an ice sculpture instead, we have plenty of that around.
January 11th, 2011 at 1:05 pm
I don’t mind at all that we’re covered in 8 inches of white here in Iowa, but I do wish I had at least a *little* bit of the beautiful foliage you collected in your bouquet. It’s dramatic, earthy, and elegant, all at the same time. It’s also an exemplary display of generosity–both from Nature and from your friends.
January 16th, 2011 at 10:03 am
I think I shall have to invite my girlfriends over for pick a bouquet gathering! They can think of the offereings as filler or finished. Thank you for the inspiration.
Your future home may not have met you yet: but when it sees you- it will be love at first sight.
January 24th, 2011 at 11:39 pm
I love your appreciation of the subtle colorings of winter. You’ve made me realize that I really don’t take advantage of what’s around this time of year! Time to take a step outside tomorrow to see what’s really going on in my garden… 😉
February 2nd, 2011 at 8:15 am
Beautiful arrangement! Not that gorgeous shrubs like sarcococca and aucuba are a hard sell, but my clients who love cutting gardens and have the mixed blessing of a lot of shade are going to see a link to this post in their email today. Thanks for the inspiration!
February 10th, 2011 at 1:27 pm
Most be nice to have flowers like these in January. living in Ohio and freezing temps makes me long for warmer climates. But spring is just around the corner and looking forward to it
May 27th, 2011 at 8:28 pm
Love it.It’s so beautiful to have beautiful flowers in January.Thanks for your sharing