Dear Garden Florists, don’t forget herbs!
Many herbs can be used in fresh-cut flower bouquets, some add amazing texture while others are abundant bloomers. The trick is knowing what variety to grow and the best timing for a long vase life. Here are a few of my favorites that hold up well in fresh cut bouquets.
Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis) tough leaves and sturdy woody stems make this perfect as an outer wrap for a hand held tussie mussie or a woodsy-theme bouquet.
Bee Balm (Monarda) Grow the tall, leggy ones like ‘Gardenview Scarlet’ and ‘Prairie Night’. Cut the flower stems just as the petals are in full color, but not starting to age and dry up on the edges.
Coneflowers (Echinacea) ‘Magnus’ and ‘Ruby Star’ are two good varieties for cut flowers because of their long stems and large flat–topped flowers.
Eucalyptus I grow eucalyptus even though I know it may or may not survive our wet Pacific Northwest winter so that I can have it for fresh-cut bouquets. Perfect for flowers arrangements, but also as a hanging bouquet in the bathroom. The heat and steam from the shower will release the fragrance for a natural aromatic spa time. (Check out the chapter “Get Steamy” on page 98 of The Herb Lover’s Spa Book for more on herbal steams)
Hops (Humulus lupulus) When the long rambling vine produces the “cones” it becomes the perfect addition to bouquets and garlands. The flower is a small yellowish bloom that ripens into papery bracts called strobiles. Pick long branching stems when the strobiles (cones) are just opening up and not over-aged, or they will shatter easily.
Lavender (Lavandula) The intermedia’s like ‘Grosso’ and ‘Provence’ are two popular varieties for flower growers. They produce hundreds of long flower stems per plant. Young stems will wilt quickly, so pick older sturdy ones for flower arranging. Cut stems when the petals are just beginning to open and showing full rich purple color.
Oregano (Origanum) The varieties ‘Hopley’s Purple’ or ‘Rosenkuppel’ are perfect as cutting flowers for their airy deep rosy-purple flowers. The stems are lengthy and hold up well in a vase. They even dry beautifully. The showy variety ‘Kent Beauty’ is a short-stemmed oregano but so beautiful when the flowers are dripping over the sides of a flower vase.
Parsley (Petroselinum) I think parsley deserves a spot in flower arranging for its textural green filler effect. The common curly variety is like a green lace ruffle that fills and finishes flower arrangements.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus) The spiky stems and pointed leaves add a contemporary look to flower bouquets while the fragrance adds its special note of freshness. Cut the older stems that are long and woody. Young stems tend to droop at the tips.
Sage (Salvia) The common garden sages add good color and texture to bouquets. Use the variety ‘Berggarten’ for its plush silver leaves. ‘Icterina’ is splashed with green and gold. Both have long, full multi-leaf stems than most common garden sage.
Scented Geraniums (Pelargonium), ‘Old Fashioned Rose’ or ‘Lady Plymouth’ are the two best varieties to use in flower arranging. In mid-summer, they are usually long-stemmed with big clusters of leaves. Cut the sturdy stems for a long-lasting, fragrant filler.
Yarrow (Achillea) The variety ‘Moonshine’ beams with big intense yellow flat-topped blossoms. It dries very well too. ‘Paprika’ and ‘Oertel’s Rose’ are other yarrows with vibrant showy color.
Fresh cut Notes: At harvest time, prepare nice clean buckets of water….cleanliness is the key; dirty water and buckets will clog stems and prevent water uptake to the flowers. Always cut the stems with a sharp, clean knife or scissors. Strip all the foliage off the stems that will be below the water line. When working in the garden, it is easier and less weight to have a basket large enough to lay herbs into, work quickly and keep them out of the hot sun. When finished cutting, take stems to the buckets and re-cut on an angle and place in cool water. If cutting a lot of stems at a time or it is a hot day, consider taking the water buckets out to the cutting garden to immediately plunge into cool water. Plant stems and flowers that can absorb water and stay plumped up with moisture will stay fresh longer. If possible, keep the stems in buckets of cold water in a cool place overnight to “condition” them. As you become familiar with particular varieties of herbs, you will become knowledgeable about how they should be treated to last longer. Woody stems need to be smashed at the ends to take up water and some stems with milky sap need to be re-cut under water or just as they are being placed it the arrangement.