Bringing the Garden Indoors Through the Seasons
Flowers and foliage to plant for cut arrangements year-round.
by P. Allen Smith
Did you know that gardening is good for your mental health? Research indicates that nature has a positive influence on our psyches and can reduce stress and increase health and happiness.* I know my soul is soothed when I’m surrounded by the great outdoors, even when I’m inside.
To me, a room just isn’t alive without something “wild,” so I’m always on the lookout for odds and ends in the garden to bring indoors. I do this year-round, because all four seasons offer something that I can use for arrangements.
The keys to having fresh bouquets in any season are an open mind and planning. First, think beyond summer and spring flowers; foliage, berries, interesting stems and even vegetables all give you something to bring inside no matter the temperature. Next, think ahead a season or two for what you what to use and plan accordingly. If you want dahlias in autumn, get the tubers planted in the spring.
Here are a few ideas on what you can grow to give you things to bring indoors all year long.
Violas and pansies are perfect for dainty bouquets on a side table or night stand. Plant these cool-weather bloomers in Fall and early Spring. I like to plant them in large drifts of the same color family.
For interesting branches, choose winter-flowering shrubs. These cuttings really add life to a house in the chilly months of February and March. The flowers are produced before the leaves come in, making for an arching branch laden with golden yellow flowers. The best time to plant any shrub, including forsythia is Fall.
Bring berries inside for a pop of bright red to complement fresh cut greenery in your winter décor. Try growing possumhaw (Ilex decidua), a deciduous species of holly that produces loads of berries. Similarly, the red twig dogwood shrub has deep red bark. In winter after its leaves have fallen off, the wood makes quite the accent to fresh greenery or on its own in a simple vase.
A few of my favorite spring cut flowers are spring bulbs, Japanese camellias, peonies and larkspur. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are lovely as cut flowers or pot them up in plastic containers you can slip into a decorative vessel once the blooms start to appear. Spring-flowering bulbs such as these need a cold season, so plant in Fall. Japanese camellias, often called roses of winter, are large evergreen shrubs that bloom spectacularly in Spring. I like to cut the stems short and float camellias in a bowl of water. Peonies feature extravagant, romantic blooms with a light scent. Plant these perennials in Fall. I love larkspurs for adding a tall and spiky element to arrangements. Scatter seeds in Fall or very early Spring for May blooms.
Hydrangeas, roses and lilies are Smmer standbys, but don’t forget about foliage and some of the more unusual blooms. Hydrangeas are classic garden shrubs for partially shaded areas in the garden and they make gorgeous bouquets. The secret to keeping the flowers from wilting is alum. Cut the blooms early in the day and immediately put the stems in water. When you get into the house re-cut the stems and dip them in alum before arranging in a vase. Alum keeps the cut from healing over and allows the stem to take up water.
Lilies are another showy flower. They garner much attention in the garden or in containers, where they also thrive. Plant the bulbs in Autumn or Spring and choose early, mid and late flowering varieties to extend the blooming season. They work well in both naturalistic and formal arrangements. Their pollen is bad to stain so snip off the stamens before you bring the flowers inside.
One of the perks of growing roses is using the flowers indoors, and since there are so many different forms, there is a rose for virtually any garden. You can plant dwarf, climbing, shrub-like varieties, trees and more.
Marigolds are easily recognizable with their iconic, vivid flowers. Plant these annuals in beds, containers and the vegetable garden where their scent will help repel insect pests.
For something unusual, plant allium ‘Globemaster’ bulbs in Fall for early Summer blooms. The purple baseball-shaped flowers are also suited for drying. Calla lilies are not true lilies, but they make a statement in the garden with their distinctive wrap around bloom. They are annual or perennial depending on your climate.
I like foliage as a bouquet filler or alone for a contemporary look. Try hosta leaves and ferns for a monochromatic arrangement or coleus for bright color.
Autumn is all about using richly-hued flowers, harvests from the vegetable garden, dried gourds and ornamental grasses. Dahlias really shine this time of year with bold colors that are stunning in arrangements. Plant the tubers in Spring. Goldenrod adds bright yellow spikes of blooms to bouquets and attracts butterflies to your garden. The aster is a quintessential autumn perennial. The sprays of daisy-like blooms work well to fill out arrangements. Sedum ‘Maestro’ features large flower heads of pinkish purple and plum grey foliage and maroon red stalks. For foliage accents inside the home, plant red mustard greens and ferns. Gourds are a Fall must-have, valued for their unique shapes, colors and sizes. An array displayed on a tablescape brings the garden indoors.