Sally Brown’s tips for displaying cut flowers

Don’t be myopic about what can be arranged in a vase to create beauty, says Sally.

Words: Kate Coughlan

Flower bouquets have a lot of room for creativity, says Blueskin Nurseries owner Sally Brown.

“Take a good look at everything in your garden and trial things. You might be surprised by what looks great inside. I often use the fresh new growth on deciduous trees and shrubs. My poor Magnolia grandiflora never gets a chance to grow very tall as I am always nipping off its new branches for arrangements.


“Picking flowers, creating a bunch, is somewhat trial and error. I am always playing with things to see what they look like inside and to assess their vase life. That’s important.”

Some flowers, such as sweet peas, only last three days but bring a fantastic scent into the house.

“Who wouldn’t want three days of that heavenly presence in their home? Or, just a twig of wintersweet (Chimonanthus) which can perfume a whole house, yet it is such a very plain-looking flower.”

• Pick the flowers first, then find a vase to suit. Don’t start by trying to find flowers to suit a vase.
• Try a single-variety arrangement – they can have a real presence.
• Hellebores (winter roses), notorious for drooping within hours of being picked, will stay jaunty and upright for weeks in a vase if 3 x 3cm vertical cuts are made in the stems beneath the water line. “I think I got that tip from reading Beth Chatto, but I can’t be sure.”
• Pick in the cool of the day and get into water as soon as possible.
• Flowers taken as host/hostess gifts do not have to be big; small can be beautiful, and home-grown is preferable to shop-bought.
• Take a vase if you think a recipient may not have a suitable one – put your name underneath so the vase will eventually find its way back to you.
• Try different flowers and branches in a vase so you know how long it will last when cut.
• A tussy mussy (small posy also known as a nosegay) often includes a medicinal herb such as rosemary, thyme or oregano. They are a lovely gift.
• Think of the person the flowers are for and try to suit their colours and the interior of their home. Like any gift, thoughtful hits the spot.
• Flower arrangements don’t have to be big; three dahlias each in tiny individual vases placed together is a flower arrangement.

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NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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