With autumn beginning to wax, the garden is coming into its own, offering the bounty and plethora of blooms only an early fall garden can provide. Salvias, pentas, lantanas, Artemisia, and pomegranates are looking quite lovely this time of year for they have appreciated and endured the heat and now bestow their blossoms as trophies of survival from the heat of summer.
One other great garden tiding that comes into play at the end of summer and into early fall is the flower spike of Liriope muscarri ‘Variegata’ or variegated monkey grass for the lay people. My Auburn professors knew I was from Middle Georgia because of my pronunciation of “liriope.” I pronounce it like leer-o-pee. While I’ve heard a myriad of other pronunciations, that is the way this Farmer says it. I digress.
The soft purple spikes of tiny florets make for a punch of color in small bouquets and even dry well…somewhat like lavender the herb. Other varieties of the Liriope genus such as ‘Big Blue’ also make for beautiful cut stem specimens and the berries, with their deepest amethyst to eggplant blackness.
They are lovely in holiday décor. Just imagine those dark berries with fir, pine, and magnolia in some blue and white cache pots or jardinières…quite lovely indeed. As September rolls into October, the Southern landscape yields these spikes along the aforementioned perennials and annuals for arrangements a plenty.
Another cut flower this Farmer relies on is the species - a beautiful native - Eupatorium spp. Joe Pye weed as commonly referred, grows in many shapes and sizes across the country and is spread evenly across the Piedmont, Appalachia, and the Deep South. A crop of Eupatorium has seeded itself in my garden and perennial reseeded now for the last few years. I remember several species of this “weed” (a weed is just a misplaced flower…true enough for Joe Pye weed but not the same for crab grass…again, I digress.) growing wild along the borders of our pastures and fence lines at our farm in Hawkinsville. Roadsides and fallow fields boasted Joe Pye weed as well and the herbaceous smell is just another great attribute.
Since I had soft lavender and purple with the Joe Pye, liriope, and Mexican sage, pink pentas, chartreuse sweet potato vine, and scant yellow gold from ‘Samantha’ lantana, a few early fall bouquets began to take shape. Here are a few tips from this Farmer’s garden for easy fall arrangements:
- Think scale – a tiny tureen, rose bowl, julep cup or transferware pot can serve as the most beautiful containers for tight and fabulous bouquets. If you have small stems, stick with small arrangements.
- Let large limbs make a statement - limbs of pyracantha, plumes of grass, and branches of fall foliage are super for drama in and of themselves.
- When in doubt, keep a color palette tight – if you have many of the same colored blossoms and foliage, don’t be afraid to keep a tone on tone scheme. Of course, fall itself is a mélange of colors but sometimes a tight palette is just the ticket.
- Rooting with arrangements – some plants, such as the previously mentioned sweet potato vine, will root in water. These new plants can make for great additions to the garden or to share with friends.
- Let your container be your guide – a silver cup might inspire some silvery Artemisia as “greenery” or a green jardinière might dictate your arrangement’s size and structure…whatever the base container, this will surely guide personality.
Keep your eyes peeled in the garden for goodies to arrange…the beds, containers, roadsides, and fields are chocked full now for bouquets. From this Farmer’s garden to yours, happy fall gardening and arranging.
James T. Farmer III was born and raised in Georgia, where he continues to live and work as a landscape designer. He shares his love of food, flowers and photography on his blog All Things Farmer.
by Chef Mark Shoup