Tag Archives: cutflowers

Sunflowers

Sunflowers. Beautiful, cheerful sunflowers. Flowers that resemble the sun with their rays of golden yellow petals. Aside from roses, sunflowers are perhaps the most recognizable and friendliest of flowers.

At the sight of sunflowers, people are often transported in their minds to driving past fields of sunflowers in the Midwest or seeing the mammoth sunflowers that grandma grew in the backyard – you know, the ones that towered over you as a child. Or, there is a memory of picking the ripe sunflower seeds of the spent flower. I can also remember watching birds swarming around ripe sunflowers – perched on the fence, tree branches, wherever and taking turns flying to the flowers, pecking off some seeds, landing on the ground to eat them, and then back again, with the occasional altercation or squirrel.

Here are some interesting facts about sunflowers.

sunflower2_eatbreathegardenSunflowers are Helianthus annuus, from the Greek words ‘helios’ for ‘the sun’ and ‘anthos’ for ‘flower.’ ‘Annuus’ for ‘annual’ references the flower’s complete life cycle in one growing season.

Sunflowers are native to North America. Though several of my favorite plants are native to other parts of the world, sunflowers are native to this continent. Native Americans traditionally used sunflowers for culinary, medicinal, and dye-making purposes.

sunflowerringoffire_eatbreathegardenSunflowers come in a variety of colors and sizes. The “traditional” sunflower has mustard yellow petals surrounding a dark center, atop a tall sturdy stem. There are a multitude of different flower heights and colors. ‘Mammoth Russian’ sunflowers are as big as the name suggests and grow up to approximately 15 feet tall (Renee’s Garden). (Check out more tall sunflower varieties.) There are dwarf types, including ‘Elves Blend’ which grows 16 inches to 2 feet tall (Botanical Interests) – and then everything in between. There are also sunflowers with the creamy yellow – almost white petals of ‘Vanilla Ice’ (Burpee), burgundy petals of ‘Chocolate’ (Johnny’s Selected Seed), and the bicolor flowers like ‘Strawberry Blonde’ (Johnny’s Selected Seed) or ode-to-Johnny-Cash ‘Ring of Fire’ (Seed Savers Exchange). Check out the unusual, “shaggy blooms” of ‘Teddy Bear’ (Johnny’s Selected Seed) or the beautiful blend of fall colors of ‘Autumn Beauty’ (Seed Savers Exchange). New in 2016 – ‘Sundancer’ grows quickly to 4-6 feet tall and blooms early in the season (Renee’s Garden).

The tallest sunflower measured at 30 feet 1 inch tall. The Guinness World Record holder was grown by Hans-Peter Schiffler in Germany in 2014. That’s about 2.5 stories tall! (Check out a video of the tallest sunflower.)

Sunflowers are hyperaccumulators – or “soil cleaners.” Sunflowers aren’t just pretty faces. They are used in phytoremediation to help rehabilitate soils and groundwater that contain heavy metals, such as lead, uranium, and cesium. In fact, sunflowers were planted near Chernobyl and Fukushima to remove the toxins after the nuclear plant disasters.

Young sunflowers track the sun’s movements in a process called heliotropism. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about sunflowers is the young plants’ ability to follow the sun as it moves in the sky throughout the day. A young plant starts its day greeting the sun as it rises in the east. Then the tip growth moves during the day, “following” the angle of the sun before ending its day facing west at sunset. During the night, it resets itself to once again face east by sunrise in the morning. Eventually as growth develops and flower buds form, the stem hardens and becomes rigid, not allowing for further movement. The sunflower ends up facing east, generally speaking, and no longer tracks the movement of the sun. Read more about these flowers’ circadian rhythm and why the it tracks the sun. watch time lapse video of a sunflower seedling tracking the sun.

sunflower3_eatbreathegardenHave you ever noticed the Fibonacci patterns on the sunflower? Look closely at the center of a sunflower, and you’ll notice a spiral pattern. You may have also noticed this pattern on agave, cactus thorns,  snail shells, the Milky Way, hurricane formations, the bottom of a pine cone, and more. The sunflower florets are arranged in a unique mathematical pattern as to create a series of interconnected spirals. Read more about what causes this.

sunflowercutflowers_eatbreathegardenActivities with Sunflowers

  • Watch time lapse video of a sunflower seedling tracking the sun.
  • Sow sunflower seeds, either by direct sow in the garden or in pots to transplant later in the garden. Try growing the giant sunflowers in your garden – research how to grow the biggest, tallest varieties in your garden.sunflowerarrangement_eatbreathegarden
  • Create sunflower arrangements using flowers cut from the garden or purchased from the florist.
  • Examine a sunflower up close. Notice the rigidness and height of the stems, the texture of the leaves and stems, the soft fuzziness of the point where the back of the flower meets the stem, the Fibonacci patterns of the flower’s “eye,” the colorful petals, the sticky part of the flower’s “eye” (at least on cut flowers, that is)…what else? This can be quite a grounding sensory experience.
  • Notice the Fibonacci patterns of the sunflower florets and study other plants and objects in nature that also contain this pattern. Learn more about the Golden Ratio – this could possibly be a bridge, or lead into a conversation, about the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.sunflowervase_eatbreathegarden
  • Examine pictures of Monet’s sunflower paintings or Van Gogh’s series of sunflower paintings painted in anticipation of a visit from his buddy Paul Gauguin. Think about how nature has inspired the masters’ work, particularly Van Gogh who painted sunflowers in all stages – from young flowers to those past their prime. Create your own floral arrangement featuring sunflowers and then have the group sit in a circle around the arrangement. Then encourage them to paint or sketch a still life from their perspective. Paintings and sketches will most likely be different from all angles and can be a good topic about perspective in a group discussion.
  • Harvest sunflower seed once ripened. Pick the sunflower seeds out of the flower head by hand – this challenges fine motor skills.
  • Scatter sunflower seed, with other birdseed, outside for the birds. Or, fashion birdseed “cookies” with seed, flour, water, and corn syrup. Hang outdoors using a piece of twine as a hanging bird feeder. (Birdseed ornament recipe here.)

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What Florists Know [And What We Wished We Knew] About Floral Arrangements

By Lesley Fleming, HTR and Sarah Bayat
Photos: Floris Flowers Co.

Nothing is more breathtaking or celebratory than a gorgeous flower arrangement. For those of us who love flowers but lack the experience and training of floral designers, there can still be hope. Thinking like a florist may guide our decisions when we arrange flowers, be they from the grocery store, our own garden, or a gift bouquet received from dinner guests.

whiteflorals_SarahBayatReason to celebrate

Flowers are a beautiful bundle of joy. Floral arrangements, elaborate or simple celebrate many moments: the bounty of a garden, an engagement, a friendship, a wedding, and yes, even a funeral honoring a life lived. One important consideration is how the arrangement will be used and the optimal time it needs to last. Special events for example, are often of short duration and can use flowers that evoke transient beauty and fragility, but may not last long. The arrangement pictured below was made with dahlias, clematis, gardenias, and Dusty Miller.

handheldbouquet_SarahBayatOther arrangements, meant to be enjoyed for longer periods of time – days and even weeks – are designed with stems that have staying power. Think of an arrangement sent as an expression of sympathy or gratitude using roses, orchids, mums, and magnolias, pictured below. Hyacinths, tulips, ranunculus, viburnum, and lilies could be other choices; blossoms that wilt can be removed from the arrangement, as needed.

tabletopflorals_SarahBayatSelecting a design style

Years ago florists followed strict rules on design, shape, color, and flower combinations. These principles of floral design – balance, proportion, contrast, focal point – continue to be important, as are the elements of design – line, pattern, size, texture color, and shapes. While fundamentals of floral design continue to play an important role, newer trends tend to be more flexible in their interpretation. Broadening the options, current design styles are described as:

floralarrangement_SarahBayatEnglish garden – typically composed of annuals, arranged to look natural, as if they are still growing in the garden.

bird-of-paradise_eatbreathegarden
Photo: Susan Morgan

Modern or modern exotic – the use of tropical flowers and foliage like bird of paradise, gingers, monstera, and banana leaf, that distinguishes this style; arranged as both linear or bountiful designs.

gerbera-daisy_eatbreathegarden
Photo: Susan Morgan

Whimsical – described as romantic and fun using flowers with pronounced petals like zinnia, gerberas, and dahlias; this style often uses flowers that bloom in late summer.

Clean lines – as the name suggests, the linear design is the dominant and dramatic focus, using  geometric forms, the vertical axis, a binding point, and often with minimal flower variety.

floralarrangements_SarahBayatMatching the component parts

The relationship between component parts – the flowers, vase, and design style – takes talent or practice. Observing arrangements at functions, flower shops, or online can provide ideas for DIY florals. Take notice of how the pieces complement on another.  The Victorian trend, popular with today’s brides, uses antique containers like mint julep cups, china bowls, Limoges vases, and flowers that complement the colors, shape and size of the container. Classic glass cubes, mason jars, and ceramic containers, which offer flexibility for use with a wide array of flowers and foliage, are popular for arrangements for the home as well as weddings any time of year.

Setting the stage

Having the right tools goes a long way in successfully arranging flowers. Have garden cutters, paring knife, water on hand to immediately immerse cut flowers, and containers are the essentials tools. (Scissors can crush some stems preventing them from absorbing water.) Floral foam, either the best or worse tool depending on your perspective, can hold stems securely in place during design and transportation but are laden with chemicals some choose to avoid. Floral tape and chicken wire used as a grid on the container mouth can be effective alternatives. Stems should be conditioned; each stem cut individually and immediately placed in water. Shave bark off branchy stems such as lilac, hydrangeas and viburnum, and make an upward cut in the middle of the stem.

Getting it right 

The most foolproof floral arrangement is the hand-held monochromatic or tone on tone [color] bouquet (same or different flower but in the same color wave).  Hold the stems in your hand shaping them into a uniform height. Cut to all the same length, placing the stems into fresh water, perfectly fitting the stems into the diameter of the container’s mouth so that the hand-held shape is maintained.

For those intending on using flowers from their garden, think ahead. It is critical to plant the types and colors of flowers and greenery (often cut from shrubs) that compliment the preferred style. All of this is personal preference. And experience. Testing, trying, and enjoying different arrangements will lead to what suits your home, occasion, and sensibility.

floralinspiration_SarahBayatInspiring yourself

Gone are the days of only three shapes for floral arrangements—line, line-mass, and mass. Tall, full, minimalist, luxurious, and linear styles – all are acceptable. Unconventional pairings like pastels with saturated colors, larger blooms such as dinnerplate dahlias, hydrangeas, and peonies, juxtaposed with smaller blooms of craspedia, scabiosa, tulips, and ranunculus reflect current trends. So, please yourself. Use the blossoms or foliage that speaks to you, perhaps growing in your own garden (lilac or cherry branches, for example).  Consider foliage a secret weapon. Flush out arrangements with foliage of all shapes and colors. Remove leaves below waterline, which will not last very long due to bacteria. Replace with foliage that has been prepped.

Express yourself with flowers…florists can be your back-up.

References

Hillier, M. Ed. (1990). Flower Arranging. New York: Reader’s Digest Association.

Packer, J. (1998). The Complete Guide to Flower Arranging. New York: DK Publishing.

 

Authors Lesley Fleming and Sarah Bayat combine their talents for this series. Lesley is a registered horticultural therapist who uses flowers for therapeutic activities. Sarah is creative director of Floris Flowers Co.

This is the fourth and final article in a series on tips from florists.

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Plants for a Cutflower Garden

Floral arranging is a favorite activity for many gardeners, especially in therapeutic horticulture programs. If you’re on a tight budget, you may not be able to buy fresh cutflowers for your arrangements. So why not grow your own cutflowers? This provides a great opportunity to utilize your outdoor space and enjoy the fruits of your labor that much more. (And…this gives you an opportunity to splurge on buying a bouquet of the “fancy” flowers to mix into your arrangement of garden-fresh flowers.)

Additionally, when the first freeze threatens later in the year, it’s a great time to harvest flowers from the fall garden and hang them to dry. For clients with sensitivity to the cold elements, use these dried flowers in a myriad of indoor crafts during winter and other times of inclement weather.

Now I think that you can cut virtually most plants to keep in a vase for at least a few hours. But I do have a few favorites that top my list. Here are a few plants that I grow in the garden and use as cutflowers, fresh and dried. Don’t forget to research the toxicity of these plants before incorporating them into your therapeutic garden.

(Editor’s Note: Check back at this article, as I anticipate updating this list as time goes on.)

eatbreathegarden_ACsunflowerSunflower

I often say that sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are the second most recognized flowers with my clients. Which is the most recognized? Roses, of course! Sunflowers are easy to start from seed, either in small pots or direct sow outdoors in the garden. For HT/TH practitioners, “go vertical” with the topic of sunflowers – talk about how they inspired Monet’s garden at Giverny and his artwork or watch time lapse video on how young seedlings track the sun’s angle in the sky, and more.

Hardygerberadaisy-eatbreathegardenHardy Gerbera daisy

So there are the beautiful annual cutflower types being sold at the garden centers right now (at least where I live), and then there are the slightly less showy, but still beautiful, perennial gerbera daisies that are generally hardy to USDA hardiness zones (7)8. Look for the ‘Patio’, ‘Garvinea’, ‘Drakensberg’, or ‘Garden Gerbera’ series. Note: these are a bit pricy in the garden centers. Invest in at least three plants, and if they’re hardy to your growing area, you won’t be disappointed. Their foliage is evergreen. Mine have been blooming their heads off since late February (probably earlier than that, actually!), and they’re still blooming in late March, with more buds setting.

Daffodils_eatbreathegardenDaffodil

Plant a variety of daffodil bulbs (Narcissus), with other bulbs like tulips and hyacinths, in the fall. Then harvest a few blooms out of the garden in the spring and mix with spring flowering tree branches like cherry or peach trees in your seasonal arrangements.

Iris_eatbreathegardenIris

An easy perennial to grow in the garden, then divide and make more…and more…and more…well, you get the idea. Cut the flowers or even the sword shaped leaves and put into bud vases. This is a great flower to “go vertical” with and share the Greek myths about Iris.

Coneflower_eatbreathegardenConeflower

This drought tolerant perennial is loved by pollinators…and in a floral arrangement. There are so many different varieties of coneflower (Echinacea) with interesting names like ‘All That Jazz’, ‘Coconut Lime’, and ‘Fragrant Angel’, flower colors and shapes, and growth habits.

Cockscomb_eatbreathegardenCockscomb

An old fashioned summer annual, cockscomb (Celosia) can used as a fresh or dried cutflower.

Gomphrena_eatbreathegardenGlobe Amaranth

Often confused as bachelor’s buttons (which is a completely different plant), globe amaranth (Gomphrena) is a great drought tolerant summer annual that can be used as a fresh or dried cutflower. I especially love ‘Strawberry Fields’ (red) and ‘All About Purple’ (purple).

Cleome2_eatbreathegardenSpider Flower

Spider flower (Cleome) is an interesting annual with a towering height. Plug it into the middle to back of a flower border. For some, it grows all summer long. For me in Texas, it fades away in the true heat of the summer. I like the lavender flowers and heat tolerance of ‘Senorita Rosalita’.

Aspidistra_eatbreathegardenCast iron plant

Don’t forget your greenery. Cast iron plant (Aspidistra) is a stalwart in Southern shade gardens or an excellent low maintenance, low light houseplant. Its strappy leaves are an excellent foil for more delicate flowers or mix with tropical flowers.

Fatsia_eatbreathegardenFatsia

Another option for greenery, fatsia is an evergreen shrub in Southern shade gardens. Its large waxy leaves are also paired well with tropical flowers or as a single leaf with a single flower in a bud vase.

Other Notables

Here are a few additional plants that make great fresh or dried cutflowers or greenery. Whenever I purchase cutflowers, I try to buy flowers, such as baby’s breath, statice, or Billy balls, which I don’t grow but know that they make excellent dried flowers if I have leftovers. To dry flowers, I cut the stems, tie together, and hang upside down in an out-of-the-way spot on a clothes line or herb drying rack.

Southern magnolia
Oakleaf hydrangea
Yarrow
Salvia
Russian sage
Sweet Annie
Sedum
Statice
Strawflower
Lavender
Rose
Veronica
Coleus
Baby’s breath
Billy balls
Sea holly
Globe thistle
Rosemary
Peony
Delphinium
Calla lily
Penstemon

Resources
Univ. of Missouri Extension, Drying Flowers and Foliage for Arrangements

Catherine Mix, Fine Gardening, Issue 132, The Best Flowers for Your Cutting Garden

Debra Prinzing (2012). The 50-Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local, and Sustainable Flowers. St. Lynn’s Press

What Florists Know [And What We Wished We Knew] About Spring Flowering Bulbs

By Lesley Fleming, HTR and Sarah Bayat

Bursting with new life, spring flowering bulbs herald in the season of renewal. Recognizing beauty in each stage of growth, florists maximize the versatility of bulbs and use them creatively in a variety of ways.

Bare bulbs are architectural. Stacked as a mass or as a singular specimen, a bulb’s color, shape, and roots intrigue, particularly when presented in glass vessels. Bulbs can be purchased in soil or soil-less. Rinsing off the soil will offer the cleanest presentation and will not hinder sprouting. (Read more about bulbs here).

For dramatic style, place bulbs at the base of a flower arrangement. Juxtaposing blossom with bulb, soft with hard, adds depth and layers of dimension.

eatbreathegarden_daffodil_spring_bulb
Emerging daffodil flower

The crack of the bulb, when the greenery starts to emerge, is one of nature’s wonders. Whether it is a forced bloom or seasonal cycle, observing the bulb’s daily growth is life affirming and beautiful. (Read more about forcing bulbs indoors and forcing paperwhite bulbs.)

eatbreathegarden_allium_spring_bulb
Alliums

Blossoms from spring flowering bulbs — alliums, tulips, daffodils, muscari — are beautiful as cut flowers meticulously arranged or placed simply in a vase.

eatbreathegarden_hyacinths_spring_bulb
Fragrant hyacinths

The fragrance of lily of the valley, freesia, or hyacinths provide immediate pleasure and memories of springtimes past.

The many lives of bulbs…once they’ve finished their show in vases, bulbs can be planted in the ground for another chance at nature’s cycle, in growing zones where hardy. The carbon footprint of a bulb’s journey can be positive and renewable. Note: Bulbs used at the base of an arrangement are less likely to be viable.

eatbreathegarden_iris_freesia_spring_bulb
Client-made floral arrangement using freesia and California iris (alternative for Dutch iris).

For your own spring awakening, try bulbs in any of these renditions. Or consider inspiration from international bulb showcases: Dallas Arboretum in Texas, Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa,  Floralia Brussels at Chateau de Grand-Bigard in Belgium, or the Netherlands’ Keukenhof.

Bulbs planted in fall produce spring flowers. Bulbs planted in spring bring summer blossoms.

Authors Lesley Fleming and Sarah Bayat combine their talents for this series. Lesley is a registered horticultural therapist who uses cut flowers for therapeutic activities. Sarah is creative director of Floris Flowers Co.

This is the third in a series of four articles sharing tips on spring bulbs. The fourth article will offer tips for floral arrangements.

Scintillating Tidbits About Orchids

By Lesley Fleming, HTR, and Jeanne Willis, with Susan Morgan
Photos by L. Fleming

When a man falls in love with orchids, he’ll do anything to possess the one he wants. It’s like chasing a green-eyed woman or taking cocaine…it’s sort of madness…

Norman Mac Donald, The Orchid Hunter, 1939

Orchids attract passion and mystery. What is it that stirs the hysteria for these intriguing plants? Check out this interesting list of orchid facts.

Paphiopedilum spicerianum eatbreathegarden
Paphiopedilum spicerianum

There are more than 25,000 documented species of orchids, making the Orchidaceae family one of the largest families of flowering plants (Kramer, 2013). (Learn how to pronounce Orchidaceae here.)

The word orchis is derived from the Greek word meaning “testicle,” referring to the shape of bulbous roots found in some orchid genera (Flowerweb).

The term orchid, as a shortened version of Orchidaceae, was not introduced until 1845 (Flowerweb).

Many scientists suspect that hybridized orchids would not occur in nature and that there are more species yet undiscovered, especially in tropical areas (Kramer, 2013).

The smallest orchid is believed to be Platystele jungermannioides at 2mm in size (Flowerweb). (Read more about the world’s smallest orchid here.)

Some orchid species can survive up to 100 years (Flowerweb).

Brassocattleya Tangerine Jewel x Bc. Richard Mueller eatbreathegarden
Brassocattleya Tangerine Jewel x Bc. Richard Mueller

Botanists studied “one thousand wild orchids for fifteen years and during that time only twenty-three were pollinated.” Some orchid seedpods are filled with millions of tiny dust-sized seeds (Orlean, 1998).

The world’s first orchid book Orchid Guide for Kuei-men and Chang-chou, written by Chao Shih-ken, was published in 1228 in China (Orlean, 1998).

During the Ming dynasty, orchids were used to treat a range of health issues, including diarrhea, venereal diseases, neuralgia, and sick elephants (Orlean, 1998).

A record setting two-ton Grammatophyllum speciosum orchid was displayed at the first world’s fair – the 1850-1 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, England (Orlean, 1998). (Read more about this large orchid here.)

Brassocattleya Maikai 'Mayumi' eatbreathegarden
Brassocattleya Maikai ‘Mayumi’

Orchids have symmetry similar to a human face. Scientists think that the orchid’s symmetry is one of the reasons for human fondness for this plant (Kramer, 2013). (Read more about the bilateral symmetry of orchid flowers here.)

Rhyncholaeliocattleya Donna Kimura 'Paradise Tami' eatbreathegarden
Rhyncholaeliocattleya Donna Kimura ‘Paradise Tami’

Victorian women were forbidden from owning orchids because the flower shapes were considered to be sexually suggestive (Orlean, 1998).

Suffragettes destroyed several orchid specimens at Kew Gardens in London, England, in 1912(3) (Orlean, 1998). (Read more about the Kew Orchid House attack here.)

Vanilla, the popular flavor and fragrance is extracted from the pod of Vanilla planifolia, a species of orchid (Flowerweb). (Read more about the Vanilla orchid here.)

The Florida connection to orchids began in 1874, when it is reported that avid gardener Jane Kenniburgh moved from Carickfergus, Ireland, to Tallahassee, Florida, with her Phaius grandifolius orchid, often referred to as nun’s lily. This orchid was recognized as the first greenhouse-cultivated orchid in Florida (Orlean, 1998).

Some orchids are considered to resemble creatures from the animal kingdom, like the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera). It lures the males of a certain species of bee because of its appearance and enticing smell (Dearringer). (Read more about the fascinating bee orchid here or watch a video about it here.)

The orchid Dendrophylax lindenii, also known as the ghost orchid, grows wild in Florida and is considered to be one of the most sought after specimens (Orlean, 1998). (Read more about the ghost orchid here.)

Orchids in this article were photographed at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida.

Resources

Dearringer, M. (no date). Seven Little Known Orchid Facts. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2015 from http://www.orchidplantcare.info/a-few-fun-facts-you-might-not-know-about-orchid-plants/.

Flowerweb (no date). 15 Amazing Facts About Orchids. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2015 from http://www.flowerweb.com/en/article/190242/15-Amazing-Facts-About-Orchids.

Kramer, M. (2013). 5 Surprising Facts About Orchids. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2015 from http://www.livescience.com/28547-surprising-orchid-facts.html.

Orlean, S. (1998). The Orchid Thief. New York: Random House.

What Florists Know [And What We Wish We Knew] About Cut Flowers

By Lesley Fleming, HTR and Sarah Bayat

Photos by Susan Morgan

There is nothing better than flowers cut from your own garden (or, the next best thing, from your local floral supplier). Keeping flowers looking their best once cut takes talent, know-how, and experience. What do florists know that we wish we knew? Let the following tips on these cut flowers be your primer!

eatbreathegardenAllium

This flower’s lollipop shape is beautiful and appealing…but the smell not so much. Add a few drops of bleach to reduce onion smell. Adding a few drops of bleach to all vases of flowers are a great inhibitor of bacteria and murky vase water.

eatbreathegardenCalla lily

The warmth from your hands can manipulate and curve stems for even more dramatic architectural lines.

eatbreathegardenDelphinium

Blooms open quickly after cutting. This delicate looking flower can last up to two full weeks in a vase.

Gardenia

Handle petals as little as possible. They brown quickly when touched.

eatbreathegardenGeranium

Select these long-lasting blossoms based on color and fragrance (chocolate, nutmeg, apple, coconut, to name a few!). They perform well as cut flowers and potted plants.

eatbreathegardenHellebore

Dip stems of this perennial plant, also known as Christmas rose or Lenten rose, in hot water to cut. Then place stems in cool water right up to blossom to sit overnight.

eatbreathegardenHydrangea

When preparing the flower, make two cuts – one horizontal and one vertical – so that the woody stem can absorb more water. Dip cut ends into alum powder (also known as pickling spice at grocery store).

eatbreathegardenLily

Don’t like how these can leave a stain on hands and clothes? Just as blooms crack, gently and carefully remove stamen inside the lily with a tissue at this stage, before the pollen appears.

eatbreathegardenPeony

Submerge bud & blossom in water to remove ants, sometimes requiring several dunks, which also hastens blossoming.

eatbreathegarden
Poppy seedpods, shown here

Poppy

Immediately burn the cut end of stems to extend blossom, then place in water.

eatbreathegardenRanunculus

Keep water level low in vase to prevent their hollow stem from rotting. This advice also goes for anenomes, calla lilies, and gerbera daisies.

eatbreathegardenRose

To maximize blossoms for photography or parties, use warm water in vase and blow into their center to open and separate petals. Removing center petals to expose the seeds creates the look of garden roses.

Strawflower

They will dry on their own without additives and are beautiful as cut & dry flowers.  The same applies to thistle and statice.

eatbreathegardenStock

Like ornamental kale, both tend to have smelly stems when submerged. Change water often…they are cousins to cauliflower and broccoli.

eatbreathegardenSucculents

After use in arrangements, place on sandy soil mix to sprout roots and grow.

eatbreathegardenSunflower

Prolong use by incorporating seedheads into arrangements after petals fade.

eatbreathegarden
Sea holly (Eryngium) and hydrangea

Bonus tips:

* Use sharp knives or garden shears to cut stems.

* Select clean vases and place stems in room temperature water as soon as possible.

* To hasten blooming, use lukewarm water.

* Remove greenery below the water line.

* Re-cut stems, especially if they droop.

* Use flower food (preservative) in vase or 1 tsp sugar for every quart of water with a few drops of bleach for both nourishment and bacteria deterrent.

Resource:

The 50 Mile Bouquet Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, by D. Prinzing and D.E. Perry

Authors Lesley Fleming and Sarah Bayat combine their talents for this series. Lesley is a registered horticultural therapist who uses cut flowers for therapeutic activities. Sarah is creative director of Floris Flowers.

This is the first in a series of articles sharing tips on seasonal plants.

More Therapeutic Horticulture Programming Ideas for Spring

My oh my, it has been a busy April! In honor of Earth Day, I am sharing more of my favorite springtime therapeutic horticulture activities recently done with clients. Check out previous  spring activities here. Hope they inspire your work!

Kentucky Derby Floral Crowns therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenKentucky Derby Floral Crowns
Fashion wire into a circle to fit your head and use floral tape to attach mini bouquets of cutflowers. Embellish with ribbon, feathers, wired butterflies and birds, and VOILA – you have a floral crown that honors the tradition of the fancy and whimsical hat fashions from the Kentucky Derby. We used a combination of fresh, dried, and preserved flowers and foliage. Since the Kentucky Derby was a couple of weeks away from the day of this program, I used everlasting flowers – which are flowers that hold their shape and color even after they have dried – so that program participants would still have beautiful headwear after some time had passed.

Kentucky Derby Floral Crowns therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenHere, I used purple statice, sea holly, baby’s breath (I recommend using ‘Million Star’ with its large flower heads – I think it’s the best variety of baby’s breath for drying), strawflower, red spray roses (the red rose is the official flower of the Derby), goldenrod, yarrow, and preserved & dyed eucalyptus. [NOTE: When selecting plant material, be mindful of the toxicity of some of these plants, if this may be an issue with the group you are working with.] Some participants didn’t want to make a crown so they made bouquets, floral arrangements, or mini wreaths. Don’t forget to bring a handheld mirror so that participants can look at themselves wearing their handmade crowns!

During the program, we discussed the traditions and iconic imagery of the Kentucky Derby – mint juleps (I brought sprigs of mint to pass around), the garland of roses (red spray roses were available to include on the crowns), Twin Spires of Churchill Downs, the fashions of the hats and clothing, and Triple Crown. I shared Derby-themed fun facts and trivia. Some sources include KentuckyDerby.com and Wikipedia.

Seed sowing therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenSeed Sowing
Seed sowing is among the most loved activities with my groups, and sowing sunflowers has become an annual event for one group in particular. I think many of the participants like to know that they are planting something so tiny for future benefits, as well as enjoying getting their hands immersed in soil – the phrases “play in the dirt” or “making mudpies” are often heard.

Seed sowing therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenOther reasons: they enjoy the social and collaborative aspects of working with a partner to accomplish something important, like preparing the soil, filling pots with soil, and adding seeds to each pot; the “romance” of a sunflower, which, aside from the rose, is the most recognizable and embraced flower with elder clients; and the change in pace of the daily routine – how often do you get to go outdoors to “play” or stick your hands in soil?

In February we sowed nasturtium seeds, which are the size of peppercorns, and this month we planted the nasturtium plants out in the garden. In March and April, we have been sowing a variety of sunflower seeds for succession plantings. When the plants are ready, we’ll plant them in the garden – hopefully next month. The larger seed, like nasturtium and sunflowers, are easier for many of my clients to work with than small seed. I typically save the smaller seed, like parsley, basil, and black-eyed Susan vine, for challenging the skills and tolerance levels of individuals who are higher functioning.

SpringWreathSpring Wreaths
Use various preserved mosses, wired butterflies and birds, dried florals, and ribbon to embellish grapevine wreaths. To help save on program costs, plan ahead. Therapeutic Horticulture Spring WreathI buy wreaths, ribbon, and other materials when they’re on sale. (I stock up on red, green, and other colors of ribbon after Christmas, when they’re 75-90% off at my favorite craft store.) Or, I use my handy 40% off coupons at my favorite craft store – though, yes, it does require going into the store daily and using the coupon to buy one thing at a time. I also use everlasting cutflowers in other floral arranging activities and save and dry these flowers for future use. Even better, grow and harvest plant material from your own garden.

Spring gardening therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenOutdoor Gardening
‘Tis the season to be enjoying the outdoors! We have been busy planting a variety of seasonal annuals, herbs, and veggies.

Spring gardening therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegardenSpring gardening therapeutic horticulture eatbreathegarden

A Sampling of Spring Therapeutic Horticulture Programming

The first day of spring is right around the corner. It is also Horticultural Therapy Week next week – March 15-21, 2015. So in anticipation, I thought I would share a sampling of activities that my groups have been busy working on already, as well as a few other upcoming programs. (I have planned tutorials for future posts, but please feel free to message me if you have a question in the meantime.)

Kokedama
Create kokedama – moss wrapped plants – in a therapeutic horticulture activity.

Kokedama
This form of wrapping a plant’s root ball in moss is often referred to as the “poor man’s bonsai.” Instead of a fancy piece of pottery to contain the plant, wrap the root ball in sheet moss and secure with thread or wire. Kokedama translates to “moss ball.” Check out this how-to from Bloom Zine, and learn more about the origins and practice of creating bonsai at Bonsai Empire.

Amaryllis bulb plant - Therapeutic Horticulture activity
Plant amaryllis bulbs and watch them transform into beautiful flowers.

Planting Amaryllis Bulbs
The act of planting a dormant bulb, watering it, and watching the amaryllis’ large flower stalk form over the period of a few weeks can be quite powerful. No instant gratification here – ahh, the anticipation of “When, OH when, will they finally bloom?” Though bulbs are generally sold at garden centers for indoor forcing between November through early January, some online retailers may still have inventory left – on clearance (which is how I was able to afford buying these puppies for programs). Bulbs forced indoors in late winter are enjoyed in early spring. When planting the bulb, ask participants to think about their hopes and intentions for the new year. They can write it down – right on their pot even(!) – discuss it openly with the group, or have a quiet reflection on their own. Then as the flower emerges then blooms, it is a frequent reminder to stay focused on the positive intentions sent forth earlier in the year…despite the possible distractions that have occurred since the initial planting. No bulbs available now? Plant seeds like sunflowers, watch them sprout, and then transplant outdoors.

Soil blending - soil prep - Therapeutic Horticulture activity
Blend your own soil to help your plants start off on the right foot.

Soil Blending
OK, so mixing soil may not sound like an activity all on its own. But when carefully presented, it is an important one and can elicit wonderful responses from clients, including a recent exclamation from one of my elder clients, “Oh! We get to make mudpies?” As I say in all of my programs that incorporate soil and planting, the foundation of any successful garden is the soil. If you don’t start your framework for the garden with a solid foundation – with proper preparation – then the plants added there are at a disadvantage and may not flourish as a result.

One more thing – have you ever worked with a compressed disk of coir fibers? Coir fiber disks often come with seed starting kits or bulb kits. They act kinda like those tiny pellets that you got as a kid and didn’t know what they were. Then, when you added water, they transformed into dinosaurs or a Minnie Mouse washcloth before your eyes. Add a little bit of water to these coir fiber disks, and they grow into a tall cylinder of soil-like media, before caving in under its own weight. Even the most skeptical client is in awe of the process, trust me. I try to incorporate a sense of awe into each program and often ask groups – “Isn’t nature amazing?” More to come on the transformative nature of awe and the healing power of awe, supported by recently published research in the journal Emotion.

Floral masks - Pressed flower masks - Therapeutic Horticulture activity
Stimulate the creative juices with these festive masks made out of pressed flowers and feathers.

Floral Masks
Inspired by an awesome book and resource, A Calendar Year of Horticultural Therapy, by HT practitioner Janice Hoetker Doherty, I first did this activity with clients as a Mardi Gras related activity. I was really surprised by the response to this activity. The group loved looking at themselves, all masked up, in a mirror. They even held an impromptu parade through the building, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Pressed flowers were collected and pressed from the garden or purchased at my favorite website, Greetings of Grace (who, by the way, have an excellent customer service team and helped me out with my order in a pinch). Masks and beads purchased at Dollar Tree. Feathers purchased from the craft store. (I heart Hobby Lobby and their 40% off coupon that is bookmarked on my smartphone.)

Floral arrangements - Therapeutic Horticulture activity
Seasonal floral arranging is quite the popular activity in therapeutic horticulture programs.

Floral Arrangements
Making arrangements with fresh cutflowers continues to be a favorite activity for many. Recently I decided to cut a few things out of my home garden to share with a group, in addition to materials purchased at my floral wholesaler. We remarked about the variety of interesting plants still showy despite it being late winter. Showy in my garden – hardy gerbera daisies (Drakkensburg daisy), Lenten rose, pansies, Swiss chard, ornamental kale, Chinese fringeflower, curly rush, Dusty Miller, parsley, nandina, cyclamen, rosemary, daffodils, to name a few. Some clients used the garden cuttings, with the storebought flowers, in their arrangements. Beautiful!

Indoor garden prepwork - Therapeutic Horticulture activity
Plant hanging baskets and sow seeds indoors to get a headstart on your spring garden.

Garden Prepwork
Even though it may still be cold outdoors, we have many things we can do indoors to get ready for spring. We’ve been busy sowing seed in trays and transplanting spider plant babies into hanging baskets. Can’t wait to put these out in the garden!

Other upcoming therapeutic horticulture programs include Spring wreath-making, hypertufa planters for succulents, fairy gardens,  teacup planters for Mother’s Day, garden hat decorating with dried flowers for the Kentucky Derby, coleus propagation, and, of course, working outside in the garden.

Valentine’s Floral Arrangements

Not a professional floral designer? No worries! Create your own easy floral arrangements for Valentine’s Day. Simply place a block of wet floral foam into this red pot sleeve and insert flower stems.

Jan2015 680
Supplies

  • 3.5 – 4″ round plastic pot
  • Red pot sleeve
  • Wet floral foam block, ideally presoaked in water
  • Tray for soaking floral foam
  • Watering vessel with water
  • Lettuce knife
  • Fresh cutflowers in Valentine’s colors
  • Pruners or scissors
  • Valentine’s embellishment, optional (I used heart floral picks from Dollar Tree – 7-count package for $1.00 – and card picks with Valentine cards purchased from wholesale floral supply.)

Step-by-Step Instructions

Fill tray with water, and soak floral foam in water for several minutes.

Once the foam block is fully soaked, use the lettuce knife to cut the block into quarters.

Insert the plastic pot into the red pot sleeve.

Take one of the four cut foam pieces, and shove the foam into the center of the sleeved plastic pot. Push the foam until it is level with the top rim of the pot.

Jan2015 704Cut flower stems and insert stems into the foam. Keep adding stems until arrangement is complete.

Optional step: Add Valentine embellishments to complete arrangement.

Jan2015 324Notes for Horticultural Therapy Practitioners…
As mentioned in a previous floral design post, floral arranging is a high impact, quick results activity for clients and, as a result, is particularly rewarding for my groups in memory care. I am often able to entice reluctant individuals to participate by encouraging them to make an arrangement for a spouse, friend, or family member. Or, for those who don’t consider themselves to be creative or talented enough to exercise their floral arranging skills, I offer assistance and work as part of a “team,” with the client as “teamleader” or “supervisor,” to complete an arrangement. With encouragement throughout the activity, even the most reluctant men, who have never made floral arrangements before and often “pooh-pooh” this type of activity at first, are able to successfully and proudly create their own arrangements. Sometimes the reluctant participants are the most proud of their final products.

Jan2015 575Contraindications
Use non-toxic flowers in situations where clients could possibly ingest flowers. Some of the flowers shown here, including Billy balls, daffodils, and tulips, may have toxicity.

Floral foam has toxicity – use with caution. Consider handling with plastic gloves. Other alternatives for making arrangements include floral frogs (which are typically reusable for future arrangements), pre-washed pebbles poured into the bottom of vase, and chicken wire cut to fit a vase. (*Special thanks to one of our readers, Pea, for offering these alternatives. Pea also recommends consulting the book, The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, by Debra Prinzing, “for great information about using organic flowers and materials.”)

Consider safety needs of clients when determining whether to use scissors, pruners, or none of the above. Use pre-cut stems or flowers that break easily with fingers.

Jan2015 384Program Notes
I usually place foam blocks in the bottom of the flower bucket. This way, the blocks are fully soaked by the start of the program.

Activities using fresh cutflowers can easily get expensive. See my Budget Buster Tips on how to cut costs below. I have also found that sometimes clients have a hard time sharing materials with each other. In some cases, this is a good exercise in encouraging clients to share and cooperate with each other. In other cases, I try to minimize opportunities for major clashing by pre-sorting and bundling flowers or posting a list with flower quantities allotted per person. With the latter, I may pre-sort the specialty flowers, of which quantities are limited, and give these bundles to each person, then the “filler” flowers, of which quantities are more abundant, are made available for all to peruse. In both cases, I encourage clients to share and swap with each other.

Transform this activity to a different season or upcoming holiday by switching up the colors of the pot sleeves or types of seasonal embellishments.

In order to set the tone for the session and encourage the group to open up and start talking with each other, I begin with this icebreaker activity using trivia about Valentine’s Day. Each participant is asked to answer or, rather, guess the answer to one trivia question. In acknowledgement for their responses (correct or not), they win their bouquet of flowers or a heart pick to use in their arrangements. If individuals have already answered a question, then they get to pick which member of the group receives the “prize,” which inevitably puts a smile on the face of the recipient.

Examples of prompt questions:
– What is the most popular flower sold on V-day? (According to 1800flowers, the rose – often named as clients’ favorite and most recognizable flower.)
– How many roses are sold every year for V-day? (Approx. 189 million roses)
– What group of people receive the most valentine cards? (Teachers, then kids, mothers, wives)
– How many valentine cards are exchanged each year? (Approx. 1 billion cards)
– St. Valentine is the patron saint of lovers. To what else is he patron saint? (Beekeepers, epilepsy, plague, fainting. Read here for more info.)
– When was the first Valentine sent? (1415; by Charles, the Duke of Orleans, who was imprisoned at the Tower of London, to his wife. Charles’ valentines are now at the British Museum. Read here for more info.)
– In what part of the state is the town of Valentine, Texas, located? (Located in west Texas, about 2 hours south of El Paso. Population in 2010 census: 217. This question affirms state pride and grounds clients in their location.)
– How many people participated in the world’s largest group kiss? (On V-day 2010, 39,897 people participated in the largest group kiss in Mexico City.)

Other interesting trivia:
– 1st American valentine is attributed to Nyer Robert Elton in 1834.
– The red rose is the flower of Venus, Roman goddess of love.
– California produces most of the roses for the United States.
– The tomato is supposedly known as “the love apple.”
– The shelf life of conversation hearts is 5 years…if they aren’t all eaten before then!

Or, ask clients to name famous couples in history, such as Cleopatra and Marc Antony, Romeo and Juliet, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse (thanks to Isabella for that one!), Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, etc.

Prompt questions inspired by Random Facts and the Examiner.

Jan2015 715Budget Buster Tips
When I splurge on certain items for floral arrangements, such as higher priced specialty flowers, floral picks, and bows, I save in other places, such as using recycled pots, cheaper cutflowers, or spray painted “fillers,” like twigs. In my experience, the different types of mums (notably those referred to as “poms”) and mini carnations (not the “regularly sized” carnations) are consistently the cheapest flowers. Or, I use flowers that are “everlasting,” like statice, baby’s breath, and yarrow, so once the flowers are past their prime and dried, I can reuse them for a future program, therefore justifying their added expense. If you can harvest flowers and foliage from your garden, even better!

Jan2015 300When using flowers purchased at my wholesale supplier, I always pre-cut the stems, not just to keep them fresh, but also to cut the flowers to be more in scale with the size of vase being used. From personal experience, I have found that many clients, no matter their functioning or skill level and my guiding instruction, often cut only about two to three inches off the stem, if at all, before they insert the stem into the arrangement. This can get tricky when you have a stem that is 20 inches long – subtract three inches, and you have 17 inches of stem being placed into a six-inch-tall arrangement – yikes! The longer the stems, the more flowers that need to be used to fill out that vase. The shorter the stems, generally speaking, the less flowers needed.

When possible, have clients work in small teams to create a group arrangement.

Conversation Heart Floral Arrangements

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with this sweet floral arrangement! This vase-within-a-vase centerpiece is sure to spark conversation and offers a new take on the traditional Valentine bouquet.

Jan2015 523Supplies

    • Conversation heart candies (I purchased these at Dollar Tree.)
    • Fresh cutflowers in pastel colors to complement the candies
    • Vase (I used a small “orb,” or fishbowl vase, from Dollar Tree.)
    • Smaller vase that inserts into the larger vase (I used bouillon cube jars, with label removed – and kept the bouillon cubes for my slow cooker.)
    • Watering vessel with water
    • Scissors or pruners
    • Valentine’s embellishment, optional (I used heart floral picks from Dollar Tree – 7-count package for $1.00 – and card picks with Valentine cards purchased from wholesale floral supply.)

*Note: The plastic wrap shown in some of the photos was used to help participants transport their arrangements home, without splashing water onto the candy. The plastic was removed once participants got home.

Step-by-Step Instructions
Insert the smaller vase into the center of the larger vase.Jan2015 773

Add conversation heart candies around the outside of the inner vase. Fill candies to just below the top of the inner vase.

Fill the inner vase about one-third to one-half with water. (Later, you can top off or refresh water as needed.)

Jan2015 783Cut flower stems and insert stems into the inner vase, taking care not to splash the water onto the candies. Keep adding stems until arrangement is complete.

Jan2015 819Optional step: Add Valentine embellishments to complete arrangement.

Jan2015 778Notes for Horticultural Therapy Practitioners…
Floral arranging is a high impact, quick results activity for clients and, as a result, is particularly rewarding for my groups in memory care. I am often able to entice reluctant individuals to participate by encouraging them to make an arrangement for a spouse, friend, or family member. Or, for those who don’t consider themselves to be creative or talented enough to exercise their floral arranging skills, I offer assistance and work as part of a “team,” with the client as “teamleader” or “supervisor,” to complete an arrangement. With encouragement throughout the activity, even the most reluctant men, who have never made floral arrangements before and often “pooh-pooh” this type of activity at first, are able to successfully and proudly create their own arrangements. Sometimes the reluctant participants are the most proud of their final products.

I offered this particular activity to my clients who are active seniors living at home or in independent living communities. For my clients in memory care communities, I offered floral arrangements with a different take.

Contraindications
Prior to using any edibles in activities, double check with agency and medical staff on the appropriateness of their use. In some cases, staff may prefer to avoid using any edibles due to dietary and other restrictions.

Jan2015 853Use non-toxic flowers in situations where clients could possibly ingest flowers. Some of the flowers shown here, including Billy balls, daffodils, and tulips, may have toxicity.

Consider safety needs of clients when determining whether to use scissors, pruners, or none of the above. Use pre-cut stems or flowers that break easily with fingers.

Program Notes
Activities using fresh cutflowers can easily get expensive. See my Budget Buster Tips on how to cut costs below. I have also found that sometimes clients have a hard time sharing materials with each other. In some cases, this is a good exercise in encouraging clients to share and cooperate with each other. In other cases, I try to minimize opportunities for severe clashing by pre-sorting and bundling flowers or posting a list with flower quantities allotted per person. With the latter, I may pre-sort the specialty flowers, of which quantities are limited, and give these bundles to each person, then the “filler” flowers, of which quantities are more abundant, are made available for all to peruse. In both cases, I encourage clients to share and swap with each other.

To transform this activity for a different season or upcoming holiday, substitute the conversation hearts for candy corn at Halloween or peppermint candies at Christmas. Or, swap with non-edible elements, like aquarium gravel, festive table scatter (a.k.a. confetti), or even natural materials like moss, twigs, gravel, shells, and other found objects from the outdoors. (Don’t forget to consider potential safety issues.)

Jan2015 607
Budget Buster Tips
When I splurge on certain items for floral arrangements, such as higher priced specialty flowers, floral picks, bows, and the candies used here, I save in other places, such as using recycled vases, cheaper “filler” cutflowers, or spray painted “fillers,” like twigs. In my experience, the different types of mums (notably those referred to as “poms”) and mini carnations (not the “regularly sized” carnations) are consistently the cheapest flowers. Sometimes flowers that are in season are also cheaper – which is why I used daffodils and tulips in these arrangements. Or, I use flowers that are “everlasting,” like statice, baby’s breath, and yarrow, so once the flowers are past their prime and dried, I can reuse them for a future program, therefore justifying their added expense. If you can harvest flowers and foliage from your garden, even better!

When using flowers purchased at my wholesale supplier, I always pre-cut the stems, not just to keep them fresh, but also to cut the flowers to be more in scale with the size of vase being used. From personal experience, I have found that many clients, no matter their functioning or skill level and my guiding instruction, often cut only about two to three inches off the stem, if at all, before they insert the stem into the vase. This can get tricky when you have a stem that is 20 inches long – subtract three inches, and you have 17 inches of stem being placed into a six-inch-tall vase – yikes! The longer the stems, the more flowers that need to be used to fill out that vase. The shorter the stems, generally speaking, the less flowers needed.

When possible, have clients work in small teams to create a group arrangement.