A garden in winter is beautiful. Even on the coldest
days, looking out into my garden brings me such joy and warmth. I can’t imagine
a holiday without taking a moment to gaze outside with reflection and thankfulness
for all that we have been given.
As I attend parties and dinners this season, many will
bring gifts of wine, cheese, cookies, and candies to the host. These treats are
certainly one of my favorite parts of the holiday and seem to be plentiful wherever
I go. But I decided to begin a new tradition a few years ago and bring instead
a small winter garden bouquet.
The first step is to search for small containers
that can be filled like small vases; I mainly use jars that I have saved throughout
the year that contained jelly, pickles, olives, or mustard. Some are pretty
enough that a simple bow will do the trick while others may need a small piece
of fabric or burlap to cover them. The addition of a simple but colorful bow
or fabric can add depth to a simple winter arrangement.
Collecting & Drying
You may be thinking you don’t have enough in your garden in the winter to
make even one small bouquet. You’ll be surprised what you can find if you try.
Each fall as we clean up our garden I save small bundles of ornamental grasses,
coneflower seed heads, herbs, twigs, berries, seed pods, cones, hydrangea blossoms,
artemesia foliage, and anything else I think might be decorative. I then hang
them in my garage or basement. I used to leave them in the garden until I was
ready to cut them for arrangement, but I found they hold up better if I cut
them in the fall. In Kentucky you can never tell when the weather will turn
harsh, and many of the delicate seed heads and dried foliage will shred in the
wind and rain of early winter.
Cutting Live Foliage
You don’t have to use a vase or jar to make a
nice holiday arrangement. I have tied simple bundles of foliage together to
make a nice piece to set on a desk, an end table, window ledge, or any small
spot you can find. These small arrangements can even be wired to a breadbasket
on the buffet. These little bundles don’t last long inside without water, usually
only about a week or so. You can count on arrangements in water lasting about
three weeks depending on air temperature.
To complement the dried items I rely heavily
on many of the evergreen specimens in my garden. The foliage of southern magnolia,
holly, juniper, pine, spruce, boxwood, and prague viburnum works great.
If you’re like me and your evergreens are still on
the small side, you can’t afford to cut too much off. So if I need more evergreen
foliage or if I plan to make several larger arrangements I head to the farm.
There I cut down a small eastern red cedar and use that foliage. They are plentiful,
usually growing down a fence row. I have also purchased small bundles of evergreen
foliage from the florist or garden center.
Whenever possible cut the evergreen foliage right
before you use it. If you purchase or have to store foliage, keep it in a dark
and cool spot like your garage, which will keep it fresh for some time.
While I still do some holiday baking, I have determined
that I have more fun making small winter bouquets to share, so I am turning
the cookie baking over to my children. They are not as enthusiastic about dried
grasses, cones, and sappy evergreen foliage as I am. After the holidays have
passed and my kitchen gets back to normal, a beautiful winter garden continues
to bring life, hope, and warmth to all of us.
Winter Bouquet Picks
Shrubs With Great Berries
‘Winter Red’: Winterberry holly
‘Winter Gold’: Winterberry holly
Malus x ‘Donald
Trees or Shrubs with Evergreen Foliage
Korean white pine
Picea abies: Norway
‘Little Gem’: Southern magnolia
Note: Cedar roping in the north is made from arborvitae,
which also bears the common name white cedar.
Trees or Shrubs with Evergreen Foliage &
Ilex x ‘Foster’:
Red twig dogwood
Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’:
Golden or yellow twig dogwood
Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’:
Curly Filbert or Harry Lauder’s