Tag Archives: cut flowers

friday flower studies

Is it Friday already?

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Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Mahogany’

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Large furry leaves of Plectranthus argentatus, spiky red orbs are Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple, lacy gray leaves from Senecio viravira

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Tiny, almost-black flowers on tall stems of Pelargonium sidoides

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All together now, sing!

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Let’s hope the most difficult decision to be made this holiday weekend is what to bring in for vases..

sweet peas at the community garden

Seems all I bring home from my little 10 X 10 plot lately is sweet peas and fava beans. Not exactly a practical daily diet, but nourishing enough each in their own way.
More on the mysteries of fava beans later.

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Record-keeping is not my strongest suit. That’s a paragraph on its own in the as-yet unwritten post “Why I Blog.’ But I dashed off an email to myself with the date I planted these sweet peas, 11/29/12, noting only one of the names of the three varieties I planted, ‘Nimbus.’ White petals flushed and veined in indigo.

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They were bought as small plants of named varieties. Stormy ‘Nimbus’ is quite the change-up from the loads of deep wine-colored sweet peas that have been filling Mason jars and vases since late March from a seed mix by Renee Shepherd that I direct-sowed in November. It’s called ‘Velvet Elegance,’ an early-blooming, day-length neutral strain. I like this mix for fall planting, when the plants can take advantage of a long, cool growing season and the winter rains. And ‘Velvet Elegance’ does bloom extra early in the short days of spring. It’s all about getting as long a season of cut flowers as possible before the heat of summer kicks in. I’m using “cattle panel” as trellis to support the vines.

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Much as I love the ‘Velvet Elegance’ mix as a sure-fire source of flowers, I’m really glad I took a chance on a few named varieties to shake things up in April. I wasn’t sure the soil in my garden plot could grow decent sweet peas at all yet, after construction equipment from a municipal drain project left it in such a compacted mess. Splurging on a few fancier kinds seemed a bit reckless at the time. If gambling away 10 dollars can be considered reckless.

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The gamble paid off. The moral: Sow sweet peas, lots of them. You will probably be tired of cutting them for vases before they are bloomed out. Starting plants from seeds is best, but don’t ignore an opportunity to bring in some exciting new kinds even as small plants. There must be a window in just about every climate where sweet peas can grow and bloom, however small that window may be. In Southern California fall sowing might be best, so they grow strong in cool temperatures, taking advantage of whatever winter rain we get to bloom early before the heat of summer.

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I left the bucket of sweet peas in the car yesterday while I did a few errands. When I opened the door again, the unexpected fragrance that poured out stunned me for a moment, until I remembered leaving the flowers soaking in a bucket on the floor of the car. Along with finding the smallest parking spaces in Los Angeles, now I know a Mini Cooper on a warm spring day holds scent quite well.

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I took this photo of ranunculus at the 2011 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show (which is coming up again this week, March 20-24.)
Who knew ranuncs came tissue-petaled in cinnamon brown and pale peach? Last fall I tried like mad to find a selection of tubers with colors similar to these with no success at all. Local sources of tubers come in primary colors: Red, dark pink, white, yellow.

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I settled for orange and cut the first flowers just yesterday from my community garden plot.

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Riddle me this: Why do cut flower growers have access to an amazing selection of colors while the home grower does not?
Colors like these need to be shared.

Willow Creek Gardens offers a couple offbeat colors like ‘Merlot’ and ‘Flamenco,’ both from the California grower Carlsbad Flower Fields, which opens its flower fields March 1 thru May 12, 2013, an event that sounds similar to the flower extravaganzas more common in the Netherlands. I’ve never attended before. I likewise haven’t ordered from Willow Creek Gardens before, but they get good reviews on davesgarden.

Ranunculus are amazing cut flowers. Please tempt us with more varied and complex colors, okay?

still life with castor bean plant

The inspiration to include some seed pods from the castor bean plant in leftover Thanksgiving vases already filled with chamomile and hypericum came from this photo from thequintessentialmagazine. Nice touch with the alocasia leaf too.


Like a bloody echinops, the ricinus makes striking cutting material. I suppose it’s the awareness of the castor bean plant’s intensely poisonous properties that prevents me from ever considering it suitable for vases. It’s obviously causing me alliterative fits just talking about it…poisonous properties prevent


Yet that theory doesn’t really hold water, because the hypericum berries are poisonous too, and I brought those home for vases.
I wonder if any guests would even know that either or both of these plants are poisonous, and if so, would close proximity to them arouse mental discomfort or squeamishness?


And over the holidays we’ll be surrounded, as usual, by toxins amongst all the sparkly lights and baubles. That’s not indulging in bah-humbug sentiments, just talking practicalities. Soon homes will be filled with that other holiday plant suspicious for ill effects when ingested, the poinsettia, though that turns out to be mostly urban legend and not medical fact. Still, it’s a euphorbia, with the typically caustic milky sap that euphorbias possess, that’s known to cause skin rashes. Holly and mistletoe also are reputed to be moderately toxic.


Toxicity issues aside, I think the castor bean seed pods would look amazing in wreaths. Ricinus has naturalized in Southern California, and though many of the seed pods are a dessicated brown this time of year, there’s still lots of bright scarlet pods to pick. The seed pods I picked today are Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple,’ that lives over the winter in my garden, but I bet there’s plants in gardens everywhere that, for whatever reason, just aren’t considered vase-worthy and might be due for a second look. Obviously, use care (gloves?) when handling this kind of plant material for holiday decorations, and site them well away from pets and small kids.