We celebrated several birthdays in our family last week (including a 21st!) and were delighted to receive some beautiful bouquets of flowers from family and friends. Our lounge room was transformed into a fragrant flowery bower for the week. Apart from the sheer pleasure of having fresh flowers in the home, I love to examine such arrangements for the blooms and foliage used and the clever ways that florists combine them, to get ideas for my garden.
One bouquet was comprised solely of green and white, with pristine white roses and mophead hydrangeas (some stems in full bloom and others as green-tinged unopened flower buds) teamed with spikes of Ornithogalum thyrsoides (sometimes known as chincherinchee, an excellent cut-flower but not something I have ever been able to grow successfully), which has star-like white flowers with green markings and green-tipped buds. Some most unusual lime-green blooms (which I think were florists' chrysanthemums) and lush green foliage rounded out the arrangement, which had a wonderful cool-as-a-cucumber allure on the day it arrived, which was one of the hottest days of the year so far! This lovely bunch of flowers reminded me of the beauty of a green and white border and made me vow to improve the section of my garden devoted to this colour scheme, by introducing some hydrangeas with lime-green flower buds and some more greenish-coloured flowers, such as Nicotiana langsdorfii and hellebores.
Another of the bouquets contained flowers gathered from the garden of a friend and was a symphony of pinks and silver, with various shades of pink Pentas, mophead hydrangeas, Alstroemeria, roses and even gum blossom. Velvety silver foliage from a plant I was not familiar with really set off the flower colours and reminded me that pink and silver is a truly gorgeous combination - in a bouquet and in the garden.
Another of the bunches had a mass of Lilium buds, which opened over the week to huge, lavish pink blooms with deep pink markings and stamens. These details were echoed by unusual burgundy Amaranthus or Celosia flowers, with rounded heads of tiny chenille blooms, very different from the drooping tassels of the Amaranthus caudatus that grows in my garden. The combination of pink and burgundy is one I use in my own garden a lot, as the burgundy provides a deep and satisfying note. I also love to pair burgundy with silver foliage and milky-blue flowers, such as Salvia 'African Sky'.
It is always very sad when cut-flowers start to wilt and fade. Where possible, I take cuttings of anything in the bunch that has suitable material to strike. Several of my Pentas plants in the garden have been obtained this way, so I have potted up the pretty pink ones from the home-grown bouquet, plus the silver foliage plant. Some pieces of the Amaranthus/Celosia also made their way into my propagating box. The rest of the spent flowers will go into my compost heap, so that they will always be part of my garden in some form or another.
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Although my garden is semi-tropical in nature now, I still have some vestiges from my cottage garden days!
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Consider training a shrub into a small tree.
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October is iris time in Sydney gardens: the best are the tall bearded irises and Louisiana irises.
One crowded hour
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Much can be achieved in regular short stints in the garden.