"Winter's bounty"

There are a surprising number of flowers in bloom!
Sunday, 11 July 2021     

Miniature camellias from the garden of Pamela and Harry Fowell in Sydney

Last week, I read a delightful newspaper article about a young woman currently working from home who orders loose stems of foliage and flowers to be delivered by a florist every fortnight, which she arranges into vases. The sight and smell of the fresh blooms lifts her spirits whenever they catch her eye, and I think all Sydney-siders are in need of such a boost in these truly dismal times. I stepped outside to see what I could garner from my winter garden to fill a few vases, and was happily surprised to see what I found! Not all flowers are suited for picking, wilting very quickly, but many are (I have a list here of those that last well), and sturdy foliage is also invaluable to fill out an arrangement. I am no flower arranger but my rustic bouquets try to illustrate some of the flowers that can bloom in Sydney in winter.

Camellia japonica are classic winter blooms and I remember many of them used in vases by my mother, who grew around 50 different cultivars in her Blue Mountains garden. I picked two blooms from what I think is 'Moshio' (the plant label was lost years ago!) and these have lasted really well for quite a few days without toppling off the stem as other camellia flowers sometimes do, perhaps because 'Moshio' only has relatively few petals and sparse stamens. Another way to display camellia blooms (particularly the fuller, heavier ones, but any other sort as well) is to float them in a shallow bowl, as illustrated at the start of the blog.

For my second vase, I used some bromeliad flowers - a couple of Aechmea gamosepala with their bright pink and blue 'bristles' and some unopened, slim, pink buds of a mystery Bilbergia. Many bromeliad inflorescences last for ages in the garden, and do the same in a vase. I added in some lilac stems of the bulb Tulbaghia simmleri, a single bloom of a winter iris (Iris unguicularis) and the last of my Nerine flowers. In general, most bulbous plants have suitable flower for vases. I included some fern leaves for foliage.

A white colour theme was created around stems of Dahne odora f. alba, with some nodding bells of snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum), the crisp white-flowered version of Tulbaghia simmleri, which has clusters of tiny flared flowers rather like those of the Daphne, along with the dark green foliage and tiny white scented blooms of shrubby Sarcococca ruscifolia and leaves of a miniature white/silver-leaved Syngonium cultivar. A white jug to hold the posy continues the colour theme!

Jonquils are wonderful cut flowers for fragrance (except for people who find the perfume overpowering!) - my grandmother in the country used to pick huge numbers of these to fill vases in her house and the scent instantly recalls my childhood winter holidays there. In my next vase, I used some of the creamy-white, ruffled blooms of the jonquil cultivar 'Erlicheer'; a lone, late blue Hydrangea head; some flowering stems from the very long-lasting Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius) with its large, pale green cups; and greenery from that indestructible shrub Ruscus aculeatus, which grows in full shade and looks wonderful all year round!

My final bunch veered into hot colours, and I garnered two stems of early Clivia - one being the commonly seen Clivia miniata and the other the rarer pendulous-flowered species Clivia x cyrtanthiflora. I added in a brave orange Gerbera still in bloom, for textural contrast; a yellow-and-orange jonquil (the cultivar 'Soleil d'Or'); more Ruscus leaves; and the foliage of the yellow and green-variegated foliage shrub Euonymus japonicus 'Aureo-variegatus' to echo the hues of the jonquil's petals.

I am pleased with all the vases round the house, and look forward to enjoying them for a few more days to come. Other suitable flowers to pick that are in bloom at the moment include the calla lily; the inflorescences of bromeliads Aechmea weilbacchi and Aechmea fasciata; Marguerite daisies;Cymbidium and Zygopetalum orchids; statice; and hybrid hellebores. The berries of Ardisia crenata and other fruiting shrubs can add interest to a bunch. Evergreen shrubs provide good foliage for flower arrangements, as apparently do leaves from rhizomatous Begonia and coleus, with their diversity of colours and patterns.

There's lots of joy in the winter garden in Sydney! Bringing some of it inside provides colour, hope and beauty on the darkest of days.

 Reader Comments

1/4  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 12 July 2021

Thank you for your suggestions for using winter flowers, and the list of those which are long-lasting. Flowers in vases do certainly raise one's spirits. It is amazing the numbers of flowers and foliage which can be found and used. Stems of coleus, syngonium, rhizome and shrub-like begonias, gerberas, assorted bulbs ferns, bromeliad flowers - the exciting list goes on! Thanks for your suggestions, Margaret! Deirdre

2/4  Margaret - 2067 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 12 July 2021

Your ideas for winter vases was great. While pruning a yellow and orange abutilon I saved some of the flowers and combined them with justicia rizzinii and orange leonotis in a blue and white jug. Very cheerful for a wet Sydney weekend. A lovely combination! Deirdre

3/4  Carolyn - 2125 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 12 July 2021

I agree with your ideas about the winter flowers. I picked a simple bunch of jonquils the other day and each time I pass by I take in the beautiful perfume and cheerful flowers. After reading your blog I'm going to try some other combinations. Jonquils are delightful; both in the garden and in a vase. Deirdre

4/4  Maureen - 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 12 July 2021

An inspiring blog - sent me straight into the back of a cupboard pulled out some containers and off to pick some camellias and greenery!! Your choice of containers/flowers showcased each other. Thanks so much, Maureen! Deirdre

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