bonus episode | show notes & advice | picking a bunch for mother's day
Mother’s Day is fast approaching on Sunday 14th March. What could be more special as a Mother’s Day gift, than a beautiful arrangement of flowers and foliage freshly picked from your own garden. Sarah and Arthur share their suggestions of what to pick and how to create the ideal bouquet.
From picking and conditioning, right through to designing an incredible arrangement, this edition of ‘grow, cook, eat, arrange’ promises to provide you with the picking knowledge that’s bound to put a huge smile on any mother’s face.
in this episode, discover...
- Sarah and Arthur’s ideal selection of freshly picked Mother’s Day flowers
- Conditioning and preserving the flowers you pick
- Picking Euphorbia oblongata safely
- Constructing an aesthetically pleasing arrangement with complementary foliage
links and references
picking a bunch for mother's day
Cut Flowers from the garden for now
- Hyacinth ‘Woodstock’ (beetroot colour) SCENT *****
- Hyacinths ‘Kronos’ and ‘Anastasia’ (deep blue) SCENT ***** Cut the stem ends, put a drop of vinegar (or bleach) in the water
Blossom – early ones like Prunus spinosa, or cherry
Flower Highlights which you might want to buy
• Freesias SCENT *****
Cut Foliage from the garden for now
Except the bulbs, sear all stem ends in boiling water for 15-30 seconds (depending on the diameter of the stem)
- Globe artichokes or cardoons
- Euphorbias (BUT you must TAKE CARE PICKING THEM. Gloves on, and perhaps even use a Covid eye and mouth screen to prevent you wiping any sap in your eyes). Euphorbia oblongata, in brilliant acid green is almost always my first choice at this time of year. It has a robust, upstanding structure, which makes it an ideal base for a hand-tied bunch, and its colour adds brightness and contrast to any combination of flowers. Importantly it has thin stems, but a generous horizontal top, so you don’t need to have much to create an effective dome.
- Emerging spring leaves
How to make a hand-tied bunch
Hand-tied bunches are one of my favourite ways of arranging flowers and they’re brilliant as a lovely present for Mother’s Day. With the garden gradually filling with flowers, there is no better time.
There are perfect foliage plants such as Euphorbia oblongata and Cerinthe, already available and tulips are just beginning to get going.
I aim to pick six ingredients – three foliage plants and three flowering ones.
Get the scaffolding of your bunch right with your first foliage, arranging 6 or 7 stems of it in your hand to form a fairly symmetrical dome.
Hold the bunch of primary foliage in your left hand, (Euphorbia oblongata is brilliant BUT TAKE CARE), and then add all the other foliage and flowers with your right hand, one stem at a time.
I usually pick Cerinthe as my filler foliage plant to slot in next, filling up any prominent gaps and unevenness in the euphorbia structure.
The third ingredient is what I call the upper storey, another foliage plant with an interesting architectural shape. The idea of this is to break up any over-neatness, introducing plenty of ups and downs, to mess the whole thing up a bit and make the arrangement as three-dimensional as you can. Go for emerging spring leaves - lovely right now.
Don’t add every stem vertically, forcing them into the fist of your left hand. By the time the bunch is complete, your hands will be too full. Just catch each new stem into one or two stems of your primary foliage. The scaffolding will hold the stem for a few seconds, before you pull it into place from below with your right hand. Pull, don’t push. You’ll break heads off if you do. Check you’re happy with the foliage before moving onto the flowers.
Then it’s the turn of the flowers.
The first is what I call the bride, the dominant flower of the bunch. This is the thing that you fall in love within the garden or flower shop; the flower you’ve got to have. It forms the centre, the pivot of the arrangement. Hyacinths are ideal.
I then choose a bridesmaid, the same colour or very similar to the bride, but with a smaller, less glamorous flower that is not as dominant. Then it will not try to compete but support the bride. Freesias in a matching colour to the hyacinth above is perfect.
Finally, I pick what I call the gate crasher – the contrast that brings the whole thing to life. This needs to be a colour that clashes with the other two flowers. Maybe an early tulip.
My arrangements are not about calm, recessive harmony, but about taking centre stage and the gate crasher is how you achieve this. I think of this like a squeeze of lemon with smoked salmon – the all-essential contrast that makes the whole thing work.
When you’ve added all the flowers, loop the doubled string or ribbon around your bunch, poking the two cut ends through the loop. This allows you to tighten it immediately.
Cut all of the stem ends to the same length. Try not to cut off the ends you have seared. If you have to, and you have delicate plants like poppies in the bunch, sear the whole bunch again. I always say, you won’t do anything any harm from searing, and you will do many cut flowers a lot of good.