PURPLE POPPIES flowering amid the lettuces, love-in-a-mist growing in gravel, and sweet peas clambering up triads of tied-together bamboo canes. These are a few of the ingredients for bouquets advocated in a pair of new books on growing your own flowers to bring indoors.
I’ve been sustained through autumn and inspired for spring by the images in these books. Each is full of do-it-yourself instruction, and ripe with visuals on how to fashion what you grow into quick, casual, even deconstructed flower and foliage arrangements.
You might want to start with “The Cut Flower Patch: Grow Your Own Cut Flowers All-Year Round,” by Louise Curley. (Frances Lincoln, $30). The author writes the “wellywoman” blog and grows organic flowers on an allotment (the British version of our P-Patches). This book’s unpretentiousness and good visuals, paired with Curley’s DIY attitude and enthusiastic voice, make it appealing for both new and experienced gardeners.
While Curley had always loved arranging flowers for the house, about five years ago she became disenchanted with store-bought bouquets. She found fewer interesting varieties available just about the time she and her husband bought their first house and, so, had less money available. Then she read an article about the environmental damage wrought by the international trade in cut flowers and set out to grow her own.
“I was surprised at how little space I needed to produce flowers to have throughout the house from early spring to mid-autumn,” writes Curley. She preaches the gospel of dedicating a specific plot to growing masses of flowers and foliage, but the plants she advocates could just as easily be grown in raised beds, and between shrubs to fill out beds and borders.
The book offers plenty of color photos, watercolors of garden plans and cut-flower wisdom, tossed off as if in conversation with your neighbor over the garden gate. From advice on growing from seed to favorite dahlias (she loves the dark mahogany ‘Karma Naomi’), Curley takes you along on her voyage from flower consumer to dedicated flower grower.
“Simple Flower Arranging: Step-by-Step Designs & Techniques,” by Mark Wolford and Stephen Wicks (DK Publishing, $25) is written by award-winning florists in Bloomsbury. While their definition of “simple” is sometimes as off the mark as the Brits’ idea of what constitutes a “small” garden (anything less than a couple of acres), the emphasis on the materials themselves and the details of composition are eye-opening.
“This design is all about hidden and revealed stems,” explain the authors of a trio of recycled cans, holding separate bunches of pussy willows, lilac-toned hydrangeas and sweet peas. How easy and effective is that? For a fragrant herb nosegay, there are photos of each component; flowering mint, rosemary, marjoram and sage, then instructions on how to clip, spiral and tie the stems. The finished bouquet is shown off to perfection in a matte white vase. The pages on color palette will inspire your planting, and advice on the four essential vases will facilitate your bouquet-making.
Now is the time to scour the garden for the vestiges of last season to bring indoors and to begin dreaming next year’s garden. Both of these books will kick-start a 2015 rich in flowers and foliage for the garden and the house.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.