Category Archives: Flower Arranging

The Flower Arranger’s Garden

I’m not anywhere near an expert at flower arranging, but I do love bringing greenery and flowers into the house, especially in the dark months when we’re spending so much time inside. That leads me to wonder about the best plants to grow for that purpose.

I recently saw an article on poet’s laurel (Danae racemose). It made me think, in the true manner of the compulsive plant accumulator, that’s something I must have.  It’s a slow growing, elegant, glossy green evergreen, native to Turkey and Iran. Currently Italy supplies most of the branches to the florist trade. Florists love it because it is graceful and long lasting. It’s good for the small garden as it stays petite with a weeping habit, can take deep shade and has orange red berries in the fall. It’s hardy to zone 7. This is the plant the Greeks and Romans used to weave the laurel crown reserved for victorious athletes. Hence the saying, “resting on one’s laurels.”

Another plant I wish to accumulate for indoor arrangements is Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avallena ‘Contorta’). It’s a filbert that has contorted branches making it interesting in winter when its non-descript foliage has fallen. It’s named for an early 20th century Scottish comedian who used a branch as his walking stick.

Of course if you accumulate, like me, there’s Winterberry and Beautyberry, Aucuba and Nandina, Juniper and Boxwood; all useful in winter arrangements. Don’t forget all the other laurels: cherry and mountain and sweet bay.

Walking around the winter garden, when only shy hellebores turn their pretty faces toward the earth and a few brave pansies hang on, eyes are opened to the quiet beauty of bare branches, grasses dancing in the wind and stalwart evergreens. Of course, looking closely, one gets a peek at the stubby tips of bulbs about to flourish in another month or two.

First, Get Chicken Wire

Kitty's Flower Shop

Ocean Pines Shop

Robin Gravenor, owner of Kitty’s Flowers,  spoke to our garden club this month. The talk was billed as flower arranging for the holidays. I considered not going. Well, thank God that thought was banished. Because Robin taught us the practical nuts and bolts of the task at hand: putting together a winter arrangement. Those same nuts and bolts apply to arranging all through the year.

First, get chicken wire. Robin came prepared. She had chicken wire by the foot. Who wants to buy a bale of chicken wire that would forever gather dust in the garage.  Not me. In fact I wish I had bought more pieces from her.

A little background on Kitty’s Flowers. This is a family business of three generations. They’ve been providing flowers to the Delaware/Maryland Eastern Shore for seventy years.  With a main shop in Salisbury, Maryland they have three satellite shops in Laurel, Delaware; Millsboro, Delaware and Ocean Pines, Maryland. From Robin on down they are friendly, gracious and ready to help with whatever you need.  Of course they make arrangements for every flower-necessary occasion, but they also sell flowers, berries and branches by the stem. They are generous. When I order three of an item I often get more.

I bought these stems for my Thanksgiving arrangement:

Arrangement 2


Winterberry: This is a deciduous holly native to North America. It’s considered a bog plant (perfect for my poor drainage) and is berry-heavy in winter.  I’ll look for a male and female plant next spring.




 Bittersweet: This is a fall beauty with yellow skins that pop open to reveal brilliant orange seeds. Beware. It’s an invasive Asian plant that can actually strangle large trees if given a chance. Use in arrangements but do not plant. There’s a native American called false bittersweet that’s not invasive with berries only on stem tips.

Arrangement 6a







Hypericum : This beautiful berry is commonly known as St. John Wart. It’s native to the Mediterranean and produces berries in pinks and reds and burgundies. So romantic, it’s popular for winter wedding bouquets.



Sorghum: This is a cereal grain (also called broomcorn) related to corn that has many uses: livestock food, ethanol, sweetener. I like the natural color but floral designers often spray it to compliment arrangements.  It’s perfect for fall as is shown in a blog entry in Dirt Simple: observations of a landscape designer.

Beautyberry: This grows in my garden and I’m thrilled to be able to make use of the deep amethyst gems native to the Eastern U.S. Last January I received ten plants that looked like nothing more than skinny whips. But they thrived and grew into pretty shrubs laden with purple berries.

Back to chicken wire. Robin believes it’s better than Florist Oasis at holding woody stems in place. Just form a piece of wire into a sphere large enough to fit in the opening of your container. The bonus is that, unlike Oasis, it stays clean and fresh for use over and over.


Arrangement 6

Finished Thanksgiving Arrangement

I can’t claim to knock it out of the park in flower arranging, but what a pleasure to hear from a pro and to benefit from the years of experience of a dedicated local businesswoman. Robin gave us many tips on flower arranging. Ever heard of “negative space?” That’s important in the final product.