Winter Flowers for Flower Arrangements
I would not miss the country in winter for anything. The shapes of the trees are more lovely now than when they were hidden by foliage. The cold, sharp air is exhilarating … and there is quite enough of leaf and flower to keep fresh the vision of spring.
Indoors, in the summer, the group of evergreens would be too heavy, but during the lean days of, I find that if I can have a good-sized vase filled with green things to give a sense of aliveness to the room, I am satisfied.
In this arrangement are to be found Mahonia japonica, New Zealand flax or Phormium tenax, and sprays of a charming cypress, Cupressus arononica glauca. The grey of the latter is caught up again in the whitish buds of Eucalyptus globulus.
The phormiums are wonderful, strong swords of growth, grey-green and purplish in colour. They last for weeks in water. They are not really rapid growers, though in warm and sheltered gardens they may develop more freely.
All the hellebores have a name for being indifferent lasters when cut. But in this I think they are maligned; they will last well—as much as two weeks sometimes—if they are watched and cared for.
Picked from the garden or bought from the shop, split the tips of the stems and put the flowers straight into deep, warm water in a cool place, for all of twelve hours. Keep a watchful eye on them after that, and if any flower shows sign of flagging, remove it, resplit the stem and put it back into deep water in a cool place until it recovers. Their beauty is well worth the trouble.
To grow, hellebores are on the whole accommodating plants. They appreciate a well-drained, well-enriched, and an annual mulch of rotted manure or leaf soil and protection from fierce sun and strong wind. But with me, they grow in a not very well-drained clay—and the clumps have increased to a large size.
Clumps of the loved Calanthus nivalis, which the unbotanical among us call the ‘ordinary’ snowdrop, are a delight when seen in a vast carpeting under the bare winter branches of the woodland. But don’t let this vision blind you, as it did me for too long, to the possibilities of snowdrops for arrangements.
Take, for instance, four of five flowers of the slender-stemmed G. elwesii, with one or two of its broad, grey leaves, and pose them in a small, shallow, saucer-shaped container. Put each flower apart, so their entire form may be seen. Then you may have—in miniature—all the elegance of a lily and the swinging grace of a fritillary.
The bulbs of this flower are not in-expensive. But when grown properly, they increase and multiply well.