Category Archives: Flower Arranging

Flower Play

With Valentine’s Day just ahead, I took advantage of the many bargain-priced blooms currently available to offer tips on flower arranging in my Saturday garden column in The Greenville News.


Store-bought blooms and foliage are in abundant supply because of Valentine’s Day.

I can’t name retailers in the newspaper, but I can tell you here that most of the flowers were found at Trader Joe’s and a few, such as the mixed group of roses, were from Costco. In all, I bought 114 stems, including 32 roses, for just under $75. The most expensive were white hydrangea clusters, which cost $2 each. Others, such as iris, alstromeria, stock, heather, tulips, and lilies, cost much less. For filler, I also bagged a few bundles of eucalyptus foliage and cut a variety of evergreens from my garden, including stems of camellia foliage with fat flower buds. Glass vases, which I think make the prettiest gift presentation, had been collected from resale shops.


Despite imperfections, or perhaps because of them, homemade arrangements are especially pleasing.

With these supplies at hand, I created five offerings for Valentine’s Day, plus a handful of more modest arrangements to use at home. None are perfect, but luckily perfection is not required or even desired when “making your own.” A homemade bouquet is always the most charming…and the most appreciated.

Though many of you likely know the basics of combining blooms (from your gardening experiences), arranging in glass (without the benefit of a frog or block of foam) can be a bit tricky, as a number of crossed stems are required to hold a design in place. I begin with several cuttings of foliage, crossing their stems in the middle of the vase, before outlining the shape of the design with its dominate flowers, and then layering in smaller flowers, more foliage, and any decorative details like berries. A Lazy Susan, if you have one, makes the job easier.


Colors near each other on the color wheel create a harmonious mix. As you can see, red works well with either purple (between red and blue) or orange (between red and yellow).

When combining colors, I prefer those that fall next to each other on the color wheel. White blooms, I’ve discovered, look best when softened with gray foliage, such as eucalyptus.


Soften the “light-bulb effect” of white flowers with gray foliage.

What are your best tips for flower arranging?

To see what others are showcasing today for In a Vase on Monday, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

New Year’s Dinner in Review

How can I be so far behind when it is only the third day in January? Perhaps it’s because I spent most of yesterday lounging about and taking cat naps after cooking a New Year’s feast for 10 on Sunday. Honestly, how do people on television shows like 17 Kids and Counting ever get out of the kitchen?

Nonetheless, New Year’s was celebrated with a fabulous meal and special evening with friends. Here’s a quick peek…


Cutting the country ham before company arrives. Have you ever seen a more hopeful expression than the one on little Bella’s face?


Happy New Year!


Oh goodness, I had a plate full, didn’t I? From top: collards, country ham, spoon bread (sort of a cornbread souffle), scalloped potatoes, hopping John, bits from the relish tray, and deviled egg.

Thankfully, I had the forethought to make a few things ahead, which gave me more time to fuss over the tablescape.  To celebrate January’s new start, I wanted the table to sparkle and I think I hit the mark with white, silver, and a touch of fresh green.


Can you spot the ‘Josef Lemper’ hellebores from the garden?

These low, rectangular vases with eight small openings (now moved to the table on the sunporch), are perfect for dinner parties. Though they were bought on a whim at a clearance sale at Roots on Augusta, they are now great favorites.

When the IAVOM posts began to pop up yesterday, I was surprised and pleased to see the similarity of Cathy’s vase at Rambling in a Garden. Be sure to check out the blog there to see what she and others have made to celebrate the New Year.


In a Vase on Monday, sort of

As I was admiring and enjoying my blogging friends’ Monday vases this morning, I suddenly realized I could share my Thanksgiving centerpiece. Not technically a vase, not technically blooms…but sort of, kind of, stretching the limits…in the ballpark.


A succulent-packed pumpkin Thanksgiving centerpiece.

This type of project is what you resort to after 15 years of writing for the newspaper and are desperate to produce another weekly column that’s worth reading.  It’s the end of autumn, the most difficult time of year for a garden writer; you’ve already done the “leaf mold” thing, the “late bloomers” thing, and the “put the garden to bed” thing.  There is nothing new, especially when nearly everything in the garden is dead from drought, unless you pen a tell-all, “Confessions of a Plant Killer.”  Your head is empty of any and all clever ideas. Then, you discover an amazing photo on the internet and think, “I can do that!”

So, $287 and 4 hot glue-burned fingers later, you have this!  Yes, it’s fabulous.  Yes, the column is put to bed for another week.  Yes, it’s a blessing in itself that the Thanksgiving centerpiece is done with time to spare.

Now, the only question is this…

What color can I paint this pumpkin on November 25th so the arrangement works for Christmas too?

As you ponder, take time to visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, to see what other vase makers are up to this week.




Get Ready for a Flower Throwdown!

Lucky for those who live in the Upstate, the local farm-to-table movement includes fresh, sustainably produced flowers, as well as fruits, vegetables, and meats. My friend Julie Hill is one of the growers, as well as a member of SC Upstate Flowers—a lively group with an array of horticultural knowledge and a great sense of fun.


Amanda McNulty of Making it Grow with Julie Hill at Julie’s urban flower farm.

Really, a great sense of fun?  Yes!  And for a chance to join in, you’re invited to join Julie and her cohorts tomorrow at the TD Saturday Market on Main Street for Greenville’s first Flower Throwdown!

Scheduled for 10 a.m. at Main and McBee Streets, the throwdown promises to be a friendly competition of flower arranging using locally-grown, seasonal blooms such as coneflowers, zinnias, celosia, dahlias, sedums, sunflowers, and millets and grasses. Floral designers will be paired with flower farmers to compete in the three timed challenges, from simple bouquets to more elaborate arrangements.


Diane VanAcker Hopp, of Tyger Valley Farm, and Erin Howe, of Red Maple Flowers, work together to create a large centerpiece.

No competition worth watching would be complete without judges, of course. Amanda McNulty, of Clemson Extension and host of the award-wining PBS television show Making It Grow, will be there, along with Mike McGirr of Feed & Seed, an Upstate organization that connects local farmers with chefs and other consumers. I’ll be there too.

The event is a great opportunity to learn more about flower growers, what they offer, and how their flowers can be used for weddings, dinner parties, and other special occasions. And to spread the joy when the day is done, all bouquets and arrangements will be donated to area hospitals and other health care facilities.


Melisa Smith of Fraylick Farm offered a posy of pink blooms for Making It Grow.

As a preview, I joined Julie and Amanda on what must have been one of the hottest days of summer in Julie’s garden, meeting many of the members of SC Upstate Flowers ( while they were filmed for an upcoming segment of Making It Grow.

It was an eye-opening experience. I hadn’t seen Julie’s garden since my spring visit and I was astounded by the beds filled with colorful blooms, giant bumble bees, and hundreds of butterflies. And the bloom-filled buckets supplied by the growers quickly disappeared under a growing collection of beautiful bouquets and vases.


Hundreds of butterflies, including this Gulf Fritillary, find sustenance in Julie’s garden.

For gardeners contemplating a cutting garden of their own, Julie offers the following advice. Plant flowers in color groups, so they are easy to collect and you can quickly see how many are available. Don’t hesitate to harvest, as cutting encourages more blooms. Gather flowers early in the morning when they are most hydrated. And finally, keep flowers at their best by immediately putting them in a bucket filled with a couple of inches of tepid water, along with a few of drops of bleach to kill harmful bacteria.



In a Vase on Monday–Jan. 4, 2016

For company on New Year’s day and in anticipation of the freezing weather which has now arrived, I clipped several branches of this red-flowered camellia (C. japonica) for display on the sunporch.


Other plant material includes a clipping of magnolia (M. grandiflora), a bit of Japanese spotted laurel (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’), and a smidge of Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica) with tiny flower buds.

I’ve enjoyed making a few casual arrangements in my flea-market container in recent weeks and plan to continue throughout the year.  It’ll be fun, I think, to see just how many variations I can come up with.

Be sure to visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see who else is making magic in a vase today.



In a Vase on Monday

Determined to put a holiday arrangement together today—since greens are one of the few things my shady garden offers in abundance—I ran through the garden with pruners just as it was getting dark and quickly made this vase.


Plant materials include a single cutting of Southern magnolia (M. grandiflora), two snips of American holly (Ilex opaca), a handful of Japanese spotted laurel (Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’), and a smidge of heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) sporting two clusters of berries.

The “vase,” an old can purchased years ago at a flea market, is one of my favorites.  Fitted with a glass bowl to hold wet florist foam, woody stems are easily held in place and enough moisture is supplied to keep foliage fresh.

When complete, the arrangement claimed pride of place on a small English side table on the new porch.

As an aside, the painting above the table was the first item purchased for the recent addition to our home.  In fact, it was bought at auction for this particular spot even before the plans for the porch were complete.  The artwork, Cyclamen and Brass Tray #4, was painted by Nan Greacen (1909-1999).  Nan was born in Giverny, France, while her father, the American Impressionist Edmund Greacen (1876-1949), painted with Monet.

I had no inkling of this history when I left a bid on the piece; I just liked the pretty pot of white cyclamen, plus the style of the painting and its frame, and thought it perfect for a gardener’s porch.  Certainly, the price paid was no clue to distinction, but then, that’s the beauty of buying at auction.

I like the way the two floral offerings work together, especially since I typically look for white cyclamen at Christmas.

To see what others have created today, visit Kathy at Rambling in the Garden.