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Category: Flower Arranging & Floristry

Gardeners information on cut flowers and green material for display. A view of gardening to help the flower arrangers and florists.

Sunflowers for Display and Cutting

Sunflowers for Display and Cutting

Sunflowers look great in a vase but are heavy drinkers and need conditioning in a dark place overnight after cutting.

Valentine Sunflower

I have tended to drift away from growing Sunflowers but now I think my reasons may not be correct.
I tended to grow tall varieties which produce one or few flowers. They were showy but needed support from the wind in our northern hills.
The knew the space was better dedicated to other plants and the only sunflowers that grew this year were self sown from our bird feeders (and the flowers were small weedy efforts that I should have pulled up).

North Carolina University Sunflower trials

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Tips From Gardeners to Flower Arrangers

Tips From Gardeners to Flower Arrangers

10 Comments from Gardeners to Flower Arrangers

  1. Prior to collecting material get your gardener to spray an insecticide to prevent pollen beetle and other insects being imported.
  2. All flowers will last longer if a foxglove is included in the arrangement. If they are not desired or available make a tea by pouring boiling water on foxglove leaves. When cool use the liquid with water.
  3. For delphiniums and larkspur add sugar don’t bother with the old Wive’s idea of an old penny (give it to the gardener).
  4. For daffodils and narcissus add charcoal or camphor to the water and preferably keep them from other flowers.
  5. Topmost buds should be nipped from gladioli, snapdragons and delphiniums.
  6. Heathers without water will last for weeks in the house without withering or dropping needles.
  7. Many spring flowering shrubs will last longer if picked in bud rather than full flower and stood in hot water first. Try this with Forsythis, Wintersweet, Witch hazel and willows.
  8. If flowering shrubs must be used the whole shoot should be taken down to two buds above old wood.
  9. Leave enough leaf material for plants to regenerate.
  10. Old flowers may be about to set seed and will not last long in the arrangement.

What Makes a Good Cut Flower

What Makes a Good Cut Flower


A Gardener’s Perspective of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. A flower that need little specialist care or treatment and is easy to harvest.
  2. Reblooming often and for a long season so it looks good even when left uncut.
  3. Grows quickly and true from seed.
  4. Can be forced, so it flowers when required.
  5. Satisfies the recipient for the least consumption of resources in time and space.

Tips to Help a Bouquet Last

  1. Choose flowers with firm petals or buds that sho colour that means they have developed enough feed to flower properly
  2. Fill your clean vase with lukewarm water, that will have less oxygen, to prevent air bubbles blocking the stem.
  3. Strip off leaves below the waterline
  4. Use flower food but not aspirin, bleach sugar or lemonade that encourage bacteria to breed
  5. Treat the flowers with respect, I changed after I stopped calling them a bunch of flowers

A Customer View Point of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. Fragrance that is evocative, strong and distinctive.
  2. Colour or colour combinations that are appropriate. Rich and saturated or soft, contrasting or blendable
  3. Texture and proportion that can provide contrast of shape and form.Suitable length and flower aesthetics to match a display vessel.
  4. How long will it last in a vase or foam and will it need any special treatment or conditioning.
  5. Personal appeal or favourite reflecting a special association, event or season

To grow a generic mix of flowers for arrangements and bouquets check out Thompson & Morgan
A Retailers View of ‘What makes a good cut flower’

  1. Availability for a long period from a variety of suppliers.
  2. Lots of colour and sales Pizzaz
  3. Long life in Florists pre-sale and then in the home
  4. Profitable and able to generate repeat custom

According to Linda Beutler in ‘Garden to Vase’ the answer is not just ‘Mums’ ‘Glads’ and ‘Carns’

Book Cover

Gardeners Tips to Condition and Extend Life by Plant

Fatsia Japonica
Corkscrew hazel

The North of England Horticultural Society.

The North of England Horticultural Society.


The North of England Horticultural Society (NEHS) is over 106 year old and has been the premier gardening and horticultural charity supporting the north of England through out that time. It is independent of the RHS! The NEHS is not to be confused with Northern Horticultural society 1963-1988 or The Northern Horticultural society 1988 – 2009 which were subsumed along with Harlow Carr gardens by the RHS. Their magazine ‘Northern Gardener’ was replace by RHS publication The Garden.

Every spring and autumn the NEHS organise the Harrogate Flower Shows, widely regarded as the biggest and most prestigious independent shows in the gardening year. In autumn there are ‘shows within a show’ featuring displays by  20 different specialist groups. The autumn veg are fantastic, spring flowers are fine and the shows feature many retail opportunities to help with the charities funding.


Odd Facts about The North of England Horticultural Society

  • The Prince of Wales is the Patron and Jonathan Moseley is the current President 
  • Profits from the Harrogate Flower Shows Ltd are handed back to the NEHS, to enable the charity to continue its important work in promoting horticulture.
  • The NEHS   grant programme is aimed at community societies, friends groups and organisations committed to improving their local landscape. They also support those seeking to build a career in gardening and encouraging schools and colleges to become involved with horticulture through hands-on activity and development.
  • Over the years the Yorkshire thrift has seen an accumulation of  over £1m in investments with £1.3m reserves at the end on 2016.
  • The 2018 show is open 26th to 29th April from 9.30am to 5.30pm Thursday, Friday & Saturday; 4.30pm Sunday.
Contorted Stems for Ikebana Flower Arranging

Contorted Stems for Ikebana Flower Arranging

Winter Interest

Growing Corkscrew Hazel for Flower Arrangements

  • Corylus avellana Contorta is also known as Harry Lauders Walking Sticks or Corkscrew Hazel
  • It is a slow growing deciduous shrub that can grow to 20′ wide and 25′ high when mature.
  • Corkscrew Hazel looks best in winter and from February-March there are pendant male catkins on the bare branches.
  • Propagation is best done by layering branches.
  • When in leaf the mid green leaves give an ugly deformed appearance.

Special Tips for Flower Arranging with Corkscrew Hazel

  • Use the twisted stems and bare twigs in winter arranging.
  • Twigs in bridal bouquets can add movement and interest.
  • Corkscrew Hazel are popular as a base for Ikebana
  • Catkins will gradually lengthen and become more yellow when kept in water for several weeks.
  • Twigs can be dried and used year after year. They can also be painted for Christmas.


A full array of books on Flower Arranging and related subjects is available from Amazon. You will find more advice and artistic inspiration amongst this selection.

Special Tips for Flower Arranging with Contorted Willow

  • I have included Contorted Willow with Corkscrew Hazel as the issues, effects, tips and methods are quite similar.
  • Twigs and stems can be dried and used several times or be sprinkled with glitter for Christmas.
  • The cut twigs will last several weeks and eventually the willow leaves will open on the stem.
  • Contorted Willow is available under several names including Salix matsudana Tortuosa (Salix babylonica tortuosa), Salix x erythroflexuosa or common names Dragons Claw and Tortured Willow.
  • Salix the Willow family are more vigourous than the Corylus Hazels

Contorted Willow
Ikebana by M. Martin Vicente CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ by Stadtkatze CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Spring by David Davies CC BY-SA 2.0
Contorted Willow by touring_fishman CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

To grow a generic mix of flowers for arrangements and bouquets check out Thompson & Morgan

Book Cover
Ikebana: The Art of Arranging Flowers by Shozo Sato and Kasen Yoshimura

Corkscrew Hazel and Contorted Willow are plants that both produce twigs that add movement and style when flower arranging. Mix with just one type of flower as less is generally more with Hazels and Willows.
Turn your arrangements into botanical works of art – here are some examples and clubs you could join.
Corylus avellana Contorta the Corkscrew Hazel aka Harry Lauder’s Walking Sick first discovered in 1863. Slow growing eventually reaching 20′ high and wide unless pruned for flower arrangements. Autumn cob nuts produced. Hazel catkins in spring. Cut twigs last well in water


  • willow leaves will lengthen. Catkins will open and yellow pollen will show
  • twigs can be dried by hanging upside down then used year after year.
  • twigs can be painted
  • use for christmas decorations, bridal bouquets
  • mix with flowers cut at different heights
  • Contorted Willow   Salix matsudana tortuosa aka S. babylonia var pekinensis, Dragons Claw, Tortured or Corkscrew Willow fast growing hardy deciduous tree
  • Salix x eryroflexuosa branches of rich chestnut colour and a ocher -yellow trunk – also hardy
Sunflower Insects Van Gough Missed

Sunflower Insects Van Gough Missed

No flies on Van Gogh

Van Gogh walks in to a florists ‘Hi Van, can I get you a sunflower?’
‘No, thanks, I got one ear.’

Vincent’s fruit loving cousin, Man Gogh

“What does the letter “A” have in common with a sunflower?
They both have bees coming after them.”

Quick Facts about Allium christophii

Quick Facts about Allium christophii

Allium christophii, common name Star of Persia or Persian onion. Perhaps they have dropped the religious ‘h’  to become Allium cristophii as a nod to the Iranian roots.

Three Quick Facts about Allium christophii

  1. The clusters of ‘stary’ flowers look good in a vase, dry beautifully and hold their form for years.
  2. This allium is attractive to butterflies but not pests.
  3. Grow your own Allium christophii, by collecting seed sowing them when just ripe or  remove offsets in autumn. You get three seed capsules from each star flower.


Royal Bridal Flowers

Royal Bridal Flowers

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White was the order of the day for Kate Middleton’s bridal bouquet.

Previous Royal Weddings

  • The Queen chose white Orchids in 1947.
  • Diana The Princess of Wales had Gardenias and Stephanotis the waxy strongly scented white flowers.
  • Princess Anne stepped most out of line with cream Roses, White Heather for luck and Scotland, plus the strongly scented Lily of the Valley.
  • The Countess of Wessex had Arum lilies, Fressias for scent and again Roses.
  • Sarah Ferguson carried a bouquet with perfumed Gardenias, cream Lilies, pale yellow Roses, Lilies of the valley and a sprig of myrtle.
  • Camilla Duchess of Cornwall was slightly different in adding grey and cream Auriculas to a traditional bouquet.

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Turn your arrangements into botanical works of art – here are some examples and clubs you could join.

For a recommendation that is a bit different but scented and locally grow Kate could try Phlox. Something for her future father-in -law to talk too during the lengthy ceremony.

Pittosporum for Leaves & Flowers

Pittosporum for Leaves & Flowers

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Pittosporum is a large genus of evergreen shrubs or small trees. The foliage is in demand for floristry and the shrubs make an excellent evergreen plant if the conditions are mild.
Most varieties have small scented white flowers and produce better flowers in warm conditions.

Pittosporum are also called Japenese Cheesewood

Cultivation of Pittosporum

  • Pittosporum Dallii and Pittosporum patula and Pittosporum tenufolium are more hardy species in the UK.
  • Pittosporum will grow well in seaside locations if the climate is mild.
  • Most plants originate from Australasia and like hot dry conditions.
  • Some varieties of Pittosporum produce small red berries.
  • Pittosporums can also be grown indoors as bonsai.
  • Larger plants can be used as a climbing-frame for lightweight late-flowering clematis.
  • Pittosporum tenufolium can have leaves with wavy margins and most have interesting colour, from bronzed plum to the bright butter-yellow of `Golden King’.
  • Tenuifolium ‘Purpureum’, has purple-bronze foliage and rapidly makes a decent-sized small tree

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Selected Varieties

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Get Flowers For Mother’s and Wives

Get Flowers For Mother’s and Wives

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Alstromeria are one of the longest lived cut flowers I know. Several weeks of flowering are possible if the bunch is bought with colour just showing. Ensure there is plenty of bud and you will be delighted.


Mixed bunches can look exceptional but it is harder to cater for each type of flower in the bunch. Within a couple of days the tulips in this bunch had grown taller than the flowers they were arranged with. Tulips do tend to elongate as they mature.
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Daffodils are a seasonal must and this year is no different. Whilst these flowers were picked from the garden on mother’s day the photographs show who should have been thinking of mother.
Remember to keep daffodils in a separate vase as the sap can poison other flowers and encourage them to deteriorate rapidly.

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Carnations give Alstromeria a run for their money when it comes to longevity. The small flowered perpetuals are going to last at least 15 days and potentially far longer. The water will be changed and the bunch rearranged with a bit snipped off the end of the stalks every 5-7 days.

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Do a Selfie and Treat Yourself

Treat yourself now and regularly, you do not need a special occasion for a floral uplift. Spring is a time to be cheerful and there are many houseplants that can provide good value.
Primroses and primulas can last a couple of weeks in the house as long as you give them light and water.They also come in a bigger variety of shades, stripes and colours or you can pot up a plant from the garden.
Shops and garden centers are selling pot grown bulbs that are just about to flower. They are often crammed into a small pot but you can arrange them into your own display for visual effect.


This striped version caught my eye and had me digging in my purse for my own plant. After sometime in the house I will plant it out in a damp semi-shaded area and hope for the best next year.
primroses often have a growth spurt in autumn after dying back a bit after flowering.