Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Flower Arranging for Klutzes

“I dig: therefore I am”.

I can relate to this statement as a gardener. It is the joy of digging that draws me to the gardening experience more than anything. I wrote about this in my book A Sandbox of a Different Kind: Personal reflections on the Canadian gardening experience. (‘I Love to Dig’, chapter 43).

Cutting the bounty of all that digging and planting to bring indoors this time of year is not second nature to me. I am a flower arranging klutz.

But having said that, I sure enjoy seeing the fruits of my gardening labour displayed indoors in a deep vase full of water. Years of listening to the professionals has taught me more than a thing or two about what to cut, when and how to display it to best advantage indoors.

So, in a nutshell, here is everything that you need to know about cutting flowers and arranging them, just as long as you are not trying to win awards. Like they say in the Tim Horton’s ads for pee wee hockey: the primary idea, after all, is having fun:

Think Fresh. With apologies to another national advertiser for stealing a good line, when you are out there in the garden doing a tour in search of the best flowers for cutting, keep in mind that the plants that are currently coming into bloom will provide you with the longest show of colour. In other words, if the plant has been in bloom for some time, the flowers will not stand up in a vase for very long.

Use a limited range of colour. Say what you will, mixing up colours without regard for how they look together is hard to pull off without producing a mish-mash. Stick within a narrow range of colours when cutting flowers for a vase. If you have lots of different colours to choose from in your garden pallet, then create more than one arrangement. Think ‘monochromatic’ – tints and shades of the same colour.

Take a long stem. The most common mistake of all is cutting too short a stem for the flower for the vase/arrangement. The heavier the flower, the longer the stem. (I made this mistake years ago when cutting peonies in June... the whole bunch were wasted.) Also: the larger the flower the lower it should be placed in the arrangement.

Greenery? What greenery? When you buy cut flowers at a florist they always through in some asparagus fern or leather fern or what-have-you. No need for this stuff when you are cutting flowers from the garden. For the most part the flowers speak very well for themselves without the addition of greenery. Many flowers have leaves that add plenty of interest on their own.

Use a deep vase. You want your cut flowers to last as long as possible indoors, right? The best way to do that is to use a good, deep vase and fresh, cool (not cold) water. Change the water every couple of days to prolong the life of the flowers.

What would Mother Nature do? It is a simple question, but the answer is not always so obvious. Take your time to observe how nature arranges flowers in a meadow or how they mature in your own yard. Take your design cues from her. They are effective and free.

Have fun. You are arranging flowers for the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of your gardening labour indoors. Even if you are making a special effort to do this for expected company, remember that you need to be satisfied with the look of it, above all.

Right now my garden is awash in colour from Echinacea (purple cone flower), several varieties of rudebeckia (Brown Eyed Susan), and Veronica, all of which make for great flower arranging.
Fyi – daylilies, while they look great in the garden, do not perform well as cut flowers.

Give it a shot. Maybe, like me, you will find that you CAN do it and get a lot of satisfaction from it, even if you are a klutz.

Keep your knees dirty,