Home in Bloom
After a long winter’s worth of cold, dark days, there’s no better way to welcome Spring than by filling your home with vases of beautiful, fragrant flowers. Of course, fresh flowers are a great way to brighten up your space no matter the season, but with farmer’s market stands full of gorgeous local blooms (meaning, at long last, a break from the sad lineup of grocery store mums and carnations) it feels only right to load up on bunches of fragrant flowers, throw open your windows, and celebrate the season.
I use seeded eucalyptus in my house more than any other flower or foliage. This is for several reasons: 1 - It’s readily available year-round; 2 – it’s inexpensive ($3 for a bunch at Trader Joe’s); 3 – it dries nicely, so you don’t have to deal with droopy blooms or gross rotting flower smell; and 4 – it’s beautiful. I love the soft green color, the shape of the leaves, the contrasting texture of the seed pods, and that familiar soothing scent.
I like for my eucalyptus arrangements to have a freeform shape with leaves spilling down to the table. Because eucalyptus has thin, delicate stems and heavy leaves and seed pods, I put a ball of chicken wire inside the vase to hold the stems in place (you can buy chicken wire at craft and garden stores). Once you have your chicken wire in place, cut segments from each branch to your desired length and stick those segments into the chicken wire. Continue until you achieve your desired shape.
Lilacs are my favorite farmer's market flower. At the first signs of spring, I begin to anticipate the arrival of the big table filled with buckets and buckets of lilacs at the entrance to the Fort Greene farmer's market. I love the clusters of tiny purple flowers, the drapey, delicate leaves, and of course, the sweet scent.
Lilac has woody stalks, which I think makes it easier to arrange. Some stems will have several branches, which you can either leave as-is and let act as a foundation to keep other branches in place as you add to your arrangement. With full, leafy branches it's easy to throw together an arrangement with great shape and movement with hardly any effort. Just make sure to recut the stems before arranging and change the water every few days.
I have a love-hate relationship with poppies (the first-ever post on WW was about poppies, in fact) but ultimately my love for these elegant flowers with their tissue-paper petals in bright, saturated colors outweighs my frustration with their finicky nature.
The number one thing to know about poppies is that you have to sear their stems before arranging. Poppies secrete a milky sap when cut that will prevent them from absorbing water, causing the flowers to wither and die. Before arranging, give each poppy a fresh cut and then sear the stem for about 10 seconds before placing in water. Some people submerge the stems in an inch of boiling water for 7 – 10 seconds, but I’ve had the best luck burning the ends with a lighter.
The upside to arranging with poppies is that you just need a few to make a statement. I like to use a clear glass vase so you can see the thin, delicate stems.
You may have noticed a complete frenzy (both on social media and IRL) over these big, lush blooms when they come into season in late spring. For a few weeks in May, you’ll see what look like scant five-stem bunches of tightly-closed buds for sale at farmer’s markets, flower shops, and even at the grocery store. But after several hours in lukewarm water, those buds begin to open up into massive pom-poms of petals, ranging in color from white to pale pink to coral and fuchsia.
I like to arrange peonies by nestling the blooms closely together, so that they create a big, monochromatic mound of blossoms. Because each flower is so voluminous, you often only need a handful to fill a vase.