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Unusual Bouquet Fillers for your Cutting Garden

Robin Trott
Photo 1: Limonium sinuatum.
Minnesota gardeners struggle to balance a short growing season with a diverse garden. Many beautiful floral varieties just don't work in our Zone 4 (with pockets of zone 3) environment. This means that we have to rely heavily on annuals for our cut flower gardens. Zinnias and sunflowers provide bright color; annual rudbeckia, helichrysum and snapdragons make wonderful focal flowers in any bouquet; but what to grow for interesting filler? Baby's breath is an option, but is overused, and readily available at your local florist. I tend to look for something unique, fragrant and maybe a little quirky to give my arrangements that unexpected touch that sets them apart from other bouquets. I grow herbs, grasses and smaller flowers to complete my floral arrangements.

Limonium sinuatum (statice) has paper-like bracts that later bloom with delicate white flowers. Once Statice starts blooming it continues to bloom until frost. When harvesting, cut the flower stalks back to the rosette leaves at the base of the plant.
Robin Trott
Photo 2: Ageratum "blue sensation".

Limonium needs no special post harvest care, and doesn't fade as it dries. Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) is perennial to zone 3, which makes it a great choice for our harsh Minnesota winters. It ranges in color from deep red, orange, purples, pinks to clear white; and blooms early summer to frost. Its silver-green lacy foliage is fragrant, and can also be used to enhance your arrangements.

Harvest when all florets are open, place in floral preservative, and store in a cool place. Ageratum houstonianum 'Blue Sensation' features fluffy lavender flowers in flattened to slightly rounded clusters on strong upright (18-30") stems. 30" Gomphrena haageana has brightly colored bunny tails that add whimsy to your bouquets (try cherry red Strawberry Fields, bright pink Fireworks or QIS mix), and contrasts nicely with Celosia's bright spikes. (Try Celosia spicata "Flamingo Feather".) Ageratum, Gomphrena and Celosia produce flowers from summer to early fall and are great for cutting and drying. Gomphrena is fairly drought tolerant

Robin Trott

Photo 3: 'Strawberry Fields' Gomphrena.

Herbs provide fragrance to otherwise unscented bouquets. Basils, such as Sweet Dani, Purple Ruffles and Red Cardinal are long lasting, fragrant and edible. Cardinal Basil plants are well branched, so you will be able to take a number of cuts per plant. Its dark green leaves are topped with maroon rosettes that make it both unusual and tasty. Super hardy mints, such as Lemon Balm, Spearmint and Peppermint, provide colorful greenery and can later be used to flavor teas, and summer beverages. Mint can be somewhat invasive, so keep this in mind before adding it to your garden space. Perovskia atriplicifolia Taiga, (Russian Sage) boasts tall blue flower spikes and silver green foliage.

Robin Trott

Photo 4: Blooming cilantro.

Deep-rooted, heat loving and drought tolerant, it's not picky about soils, and thrives in almost any location. Cilantro, a popular herb widely used in Mexican, Caribbean and Asian cuisine, features delicate foliage and tiny white flowers. One of my favorites, Artemisia annua (Sweet Annie), has abundant, lacy, fragrant foliage. A tall (36"-48") woody herb, Sweet Annie can be cut and placed in cool water, or dried and used to make fragrant autumn wreaths.

For something completely different, include tall grasses, wheat or ornamental eggplant to highlight your fall displays. Perennial grasses, such as Karl Forester, and annuals like millet can complement the fall colors of rudbeckia and wine zinnias. Dried Black tipped wheat, available as seed from a variety of garden catalogs, can be used in fresh or dried bouquets. My absolute favorite, Solanum integrifolium, also known as Pumpkin on a stick, really adds something special to your fall bouquets. The plants are quite thorny, so be careful when harvesting. Cut near the base of the plant, remove the foliage, and use in fresh bouquets, or dry in a cool, well-ventilated location, and use in your dried arrangements. (If you find you have extras, they are edible, and can be used in traditional Asian Stir Fry recipes.)

The keys to successful floral arrangements are color, texture, and imagination. Don't get stuck on the same old, same old. Try something new and different this year. Bring the pleasure of your garden into every room in your house with long lasting floral arrangements chock full of herbs, greens and colorful flowers.

Earth laughs in flowers. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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