"Christmas bouquets"

Cut flowers for Christmas vases
Sunday, 13 December 2020     

Christmas bouquet in my dining room

When I was growing up, my mother always decorated the house at Christmas with huge vases of fresh flowers from the garden, and one of my daughters offered to do the same last time it was our turn to host the family for the festive lunch. I've always been too busy to pick blooms for the house at Christmas, distracted by the million and one jobs on the to-do list, but there is a host of floral possibilities in the Sydney garden in late December!

As mentioned in last week's blog, Mum always used Agapanthus, which is in full flight at Christmastime, and the huge globes of blue or white look like starbursts and are quite dramatic in a big vase; they last well in water. There are some Agapanthus cultivars that add interest to an arrangement: I like the brilliant blue of 'Guilfoyle', the strong purple hue of 'Purple Cloud'', and the bicolour blue and white flowers of 'Queen Mother'. For smaller vases, the petite blue 'Peter Pan' is perfect. As also mentioned last week, a favourite Sydney combination with blue Agapanthus is adding in some sprays of orange-red NSW Christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum); sadly, I have never been able to grow this shrub in my garden of heavy red clay. In her bunch featuring white and blue Agapanthus, my daughter used foliage from a Japanese maple and a purple Loropetalum, pictured above.

Another stalwart for my mother's Christmas floral arrangements was the faithful Hydrangea, which grew prolifically in our Blue Mountains garden. Some of the Hydrangea shrubs I grow are from cuttings from that garden. Mum grew the big, old-fashioned mophead types, which last very well in vases - she would usually bash the ends of the cut stems with a hammer to help this. I've added other varieties to my garden over the years and one that can be used in a Christmas display is the beautiful double form of Hydrangea quercifolia, which grows very well in Sydney. Unlike the rounded heads of the Hydrangea macrophylla, this one has long panicles. The flowers of the double form (the cultivar 'Snowflake') last an exceptionally long time in the garden, taking on a gorgeous greenish-white tone. At a Christmas party at the home of a gardening friend last week, one guest brought along a bunch of beautiful Hydrangea blooms from her garden, showing the diversity of their colours and form (pictured above).

There are lots of native plants that are in bloom at Christmastime, and those who grow them will have plenty to choose from. At the party last week, another guest brought along a beautiful bouquet of native flowers from her garden, which included large-flowered Grevillea cultivars and kangaroo paws (Anigozanthus), the creamy star blooms of Backhousia myrtifolia and dainty white-flowered Baeckea linifola, along with the NSW Christmas bush already mentioned earlier in the blog. The spectacular large red, pink or orange blooms of the grafted flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia) such as the 'Summer Beauty' series, are also often used in Christmas bouquets.

The traditional Christmas colour theme of red and green can be achieved in vases using seasonal green foliage of shrubs such as Camellia with red flowers such as those of Salvia splendens (though they don't really last well beyond a day or so); any lingering stems of Alstroemeria (though these tend to have finished around this time, they are excellent cut flowers and some blooms may still remain in the garden; it may seem appalling, but the red and green flowers of the noxious weed Alstroemeria pulchellum can actually look quite effective on a Christmas table, if, like me, you have the misfortune to have this plant in your garden); or perhaps best of all, the starry blooms of Pentas lanceolata, which last well in water. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) plants are traditional in northern hemisphere gardens and can be obtained here as dwarf plants 'forced' into 'flower' (actually the showy red part of the plant comprises bracts) at this time and they'd make a good centre-piece for a Christmas table or a nice gift for a friend. To add white flowers to the mix, consider Gardenia, white Pentas, the spidery inflorescences of Hymenocallis, an unusual bulb out now,or the airy white umbels of Queen Anne's lace (Ammi majus), which have a pleasingly long life in a vase.

I'd love to hear of other flowers that can be used for a Christmas display!


 Reader Comments

1/12  Patricia - 2100 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 December 2020

Thank you for your bouquets today and for all the generously shared blogs of 2020. It is a super team effort and much appreciated. Happy Christmas and festive season and .....happy gardening! Thanks so much, Patricia. Hope all goes well for Christmas in these uncertain times. Deirdre


2/12  Janice - 2067 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 December 2020

It is Christmas and the Agapanthus bloom regardless of COVID-19. Thank you for your Christmas Bouquets and sharing your garden and gardening knowledge with us all during this dystrophic year. Seasons Greetings. Thank you, Janice. I appreciate your feedback. Deirdre


3/12  Moira - 2298 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 December 2020

Fabulous inspiration for the festive season. I wouldn't have thought to make lovely arrangements from my own garden without it.Hope you can try it! Deirdre


4/12  Maureen - 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 December 2020

A lovely post Deirdre and great run down on the Agapanthus varieties. Brian Roach's dwarf Christmas bush grows well in a pot too - about 1.5 metre. https://www.johannaschristmas.com.au Yes, that dwarf Christmas bush is lovely. Deirdre


5/12  Maureen - 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 December 2020

Wishing you and family all the joys of Christmas and thank you for your gardening inspiration especially throughout this year of Covid 19 when many have turned to the solace gardening brings. Thank you, Maureen! Deirdre


6/12  Pam - 3216 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 14 December 2020

Thank you for your gardening inspiration during the year Deirdre. Best wishes to you and your family for the festive season. Thank you for your kind wishes. I hope you have a happy Christmas. Deirdre


7/12  Marion - 4103 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 14 December 2020

Yes, Agapanthus, NSW Christmas bush and Hydrangea arrangements have all been part of our family traditions, not only in our homes but also church arrangements. Additions this year will be elderflower and diamond frost euphorbia. One year we had Christmas dinner on our front verandah...hanging baskets filled with red and white impatiens. LOVED YOUR POSTS this year Deidre! Thank you and Happy Christmas! Lovely ideas for Christmas, Marion. Deirdre


8/12  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 December 2020

Very inspired by your blog. There is no doubt that fresh flowers decorate the home very well. I like to use hydrangeas, shasta daisies and also Christmas bush. Often a walk around the garden produces many blooms which can also be used, along with types of greenery. Thanks, Margaret. I forgot about Shasta daisies - they are good for cut flowers! Thanks for your regular comments during the year. Deirdre


9/12  Georgina - 2076 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 December 2020

Thank you Deidre for all your gardening inspiration during the year. Have a great Christmas with all your family. Happy gardening in 2021.Thanks so much, Georgina. Happy Christmas. Deirdre


10/12  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Thank you for all you enjoyable posts. Aggies were a staple when growing up in Adelaide. My aunt had white Aggies which turned reddish after she added red colour to the water. This year I am going to do it with Queen Mum - maybe red and purple? Christmas blessings to you and your family. I love that idea of putting red colouring into the water to make the Aggies change colour! Will definitely try it. Deirdre


11/12  Lesley - 2088 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Sunday, 20 December 2020

My tradition at Christmas is agapanthus, blue hydrangeas and Queen Annes lace, they look beautiful together in a vase. What a lovely combination, Lesley. Queen Anne's lace lasts so well in a vase and gives a delightful airy look. Deirdre


12/12  Lesley - 2088 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Sunday, 20 December 2020

Hi Deidre, yes, I love it, and Im not competing to buy overpriced Christmas bush! Blues are so cooling in hot weather too. Thanks for the great gardening blog, i have a lot of shade in my garden, and so I always enjoy in particular articles on this topic, because in Sydney, the shade is hot, and dry or humid, unlike Europe, and not much is written on that topic. Ive just added a large leafed white Lamium shrub to my collection, and am always on the look out for the elusive Justicia!


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