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Dahlias and zinnias

DIY Florist: Create a Bouquet From Your Garden

Darla Antoine
8/11/13

Most of my gardening tips have been about planting, harvesting and preserving (or cooking) fruits and vegetables. This week I’d like to dedicated this column space to something a little more beautiful and delicate, something with a touch more impermanence: bouquets.

Arranging a bouquet can be as simple as gathering a bunch of flowers and sticking them in a vase or a mason jar. And guys? Stepping out into the garden and returning with a thoughtfully plucked bundle of flowers is much more romantic then coming home with a half-wilted, plastic-covered handful of flowers with a grocery store price tag. And gals? Guys like to get flowers from their sweethearts too . . . they just may not know it yet. 

Beautiful, low-maintenance flowers that make awesome bouquets include hydrangeas, zinnias, dahlias, sunflowers and feverfew. There are also the classic bouquet makers: roses, daffodils, daisies and lilies. Really you can put anything into a bouquet but these flowers are great choices with a hardy vase life. Hydrangeas, roses, zinnias, feverfew and certain kinds of daisies also make great dried flower arrangements for a more permanent arrangement. 

If you want to up your game and create something that really stuns, or perhaps you want to make your own bouquets for a special event like a wedding, there are a few simple tips to remember.

First, you can make beautiful bouquets with just one type of flower. Gather a bunch of zinnias or peonies, for example. Gather a lot more than you think you’ll need because you are going to really want to pack them together. Strip off all of the leaves and cut the stems so that they are lush with the jar or vase that you are going to place them in, you’ll want the outside flowers to be resting on the lip of the vase. Viola! This is also a great option for a simple, elegant and contemporary bridal bouquet. Cut the stems to your desired length and then secure them together with florist tape or several large rubber bands. Conceal the rubber bands with a wide, beautiful bow.

If mixing and matching several types of flowers it may help to do a little planning before you start cutting. Bigger flowers can be accented with smaller flowers, for example. Also think about the colors you’ll be using. Light pink zinnias would pair well with dark pink gerbera daisies.  Red dahlias would pair well with other red or orange flowers. Yellow daffodils and yellow roses may not look so great together—that’s a lot of yellow and their shapes are so different that it would be hard to create any cohesiveness for the eye to follow.

Cut all of the stems for your arrangement at the same time and slightly longer than you’ll think you need them, making room for error. Cutting the stems at an angle helps the flower suck up water. The flowers at the back of your arrangement should have longer stems than the plants towards the front. And don’t forget that you can use things other than flowers in your arrangements! Ferns, leaves, a curly thin twig, and ornamental grasses all make great additions to a bouquet and help fill in space while creating visual interest.

And don’t forget your greatest resource: the Internet. A quick images search will earn you thousands of pictures for inspiration. With a little practice you may even find yourself with a new hobby or a new job as a florist!

Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.

Darla Antoine on a recent visit to Washington State (Courtesy Darla Antoine)

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