Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2007

Autumn bouquets

Season’s warm hues, textures at root of striking floral displays

Flowers with rich autumn colors include chrysanthemums, carnations, goldenrod and freesias.

Flowers with rich autumn colors include chrysanthemums, carnations, goldenrod and freesias.

November 1, 2007


Autumn's bounty

Here are some ideas for


¢ Dried snowberries

¢ Acorn branches

¢ Beautyberry branches

¢ Winterberry branches

¢ Dried Chinese Lantern branches

¢ Curly willow branches

¢ Bittersweet branches


¢ Holly leaves

¢ Boxwood sprigs

¢ Cat tails

¢ Corn stalks

¢ Seeded eucalyptus

¢ Cabbage and kale

¢ Coleus

¢ Hardy Dusty Miller

¢ Dianthus foliage

¢ Liriope

¢ Dwarf cypress


¢ Pansies

¢ Creeping verbena

¢ Johnny jump-ups

¢ Dried hydrangea blooms

¢ Chrysanthemums

¢ Dahlias

¢ Kalanchoe

¢ Solidago (goldenrod)

¢ Asters

¢ Sedum blooms


¢ Japanese bloodgrass

¢ Maroon grass

¢ Any ornamental grasses growing in the garden

¢ Any native grasses growing in the wild

I hope you're not storing your vases, urns and pots away just yet. Autumn is a wonderfully creative time of year to mix and match some of nature's most interesting items. Your garden and the wild landscape are full of inspirational items that anyone can combine for an eye-popping creation.

Often autumn bouquets are the most stunning, whether that's because we know it's the last hurrah before winter or because we have a vast array of fascinating objects and textures at our fingertips. Pumpkins, gourds, acorns, seedpods, grassy plumes and the last of the colorful blooms all signify the bitter sweetness of another season passing.

But you don't have to let it fade away without a bang.

The key to interesting fall and winter outdoor boxes and pots is texture. You can use grasses for spikes, branches for knobby contortions, flowers for roundness and softness, and foliage for glossiness and variegation. Maximize the longevity of these displays by incorporating plants and flowers that tolerate light frosts and biting winds. Keep in mind that you'll still need to water these outdoor beauties a few times a week, but also consider that much of autumn's bounty is just as gorgeous when the blooms, plumes and branches dry.

Dolores Beckwith, manager of Skinner Garden Store in Topeka, says autumn boxes need not just be filled with mums and pansies.

"Bundles of wheat stalks, dried field corn and either native grasses or cut bouquets of grasses from your own garden can be added for filler or a tall backdrop," she says. "Fill containers will pumpkins, gourds, crookneck squash and red honeysuckle berries to add a great extra boost of color."

The container that you choose for an indoor or outdoor bouquet can be as interesting as the flora that it showcases. Try hollowing out pumpkins and lining them with florist's foam that holds water. Scour your garden sheds for old watering cans, pitchers, buckets, baskets, crates, wagons, antique suitcases or old milk jugs - the key is to look for the unexpected.

"Pine cones and acorns can go right from the natural fall display to the holidays by simply spray-painting them gold or silver and displaying them in glass containers," Beckwith says.

Once you've selected an interesting container, simply add four ingredients: flowers, foliage, branches and grasses. This basic recipe to highlight autumn's harvest will mix upright, mounding and trailing flora to keep the viewer's eye moving and create interest. Start with the largest items, then fill in with the medium and small materials, constantly rotating the container to create three-dimensional balance.

Pat Lechtenberg, a Douglas County Extension Master Gardener, is already bringing the outdoors in.

"I have a little bouquet with two beautiful dark red roses and a plume celosia in one room, and in the kitchen in a white ceramic pitcher there is an assortment of flowers and foliage from the garden, including sedum, penta, salvia, coleus and basil," she says. "I like to add contrast in my outdoor containers to the fall bloomers like mums, kales and cabbages by mixing in dried flowers and grasses."

Some of the most impressive arrangements for fall don't even need to have flora in them, Beckwith says.

"At this time of year, every part of the country has its own particular roadside treasures, and one of my favorites is Kansas-grown hedge balls or hedge apples," she says. "They look fantastic piled in pots surrounded by evergreen branches and twigs. Make sure to use a piece of felt or wax paper under them so as not to ruin the finish of your table."

So don't leave your porches, entryways, dining tables and foyers bare. Pull on a wool hat, grab your clippers and scan the garden or take a drive in the country to see what fabulous surprises Mother Nature offers to prolong the season.

Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.


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