Garden Designer’s Roundtable – A Flower Arranger’s Garden

Dear reader, If you are stumbling upon this post without first having visited the Garden Designers Roundtable blog , I encourage you to start there and read the back story behind this month’s GDRT topic.  Thanks.


Since Amy, our homeowner, used to have a career as a floral designer, I decided to ‘design’ a garden full of plants she can use in her flower arrangements for her home. As I was thinking about the various plants to include, it became clear that a flower arranger’s garden needs more than just pretty flowers. 

Beyond Flowers

A flower arranger’s garden needs to have interesting foliage and branches, too.  Both evergreen and deciduous shrubs should have a home in a flower arranger’s garden. When choosing shrubs and trees, think about branches for forcing flowers inside in late winter, or that have berries in the fall, or colorful foliage throughout the year and that respond well to pruning.

A few such shrubs that can be used in Amy’s garden include forsythia (Forsythia koreana ‘Kumson’),  beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis ‘Dream Catcher’),  Japanese maple (Acer shirasawanum ‘Full Moon’), grape holly (Mahonia), purple smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) , doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum tomentosum), holly (Ilex spp.), redtwig dogwood (Cornus sericea), and buttercup winterhazel (Corylopsis pauciflora).

More Than Just A Pretty Face

A flower arranger’s garden requires lots of the same flowers so the garden itself is not bare and uninteresting after the gardener has borrowed some of its treasures for arranging. That means planting in masses rather than one of this and one of that.  It’s also important to plant complementary flowers that bloom at the same time. 

Don’t forget to consider the neighbors, too.  Plant flowers that will bloom during different seasons.  As one flower is fading another should be coming into its glory.  Annuals and bulbs, as well as herbs, are also an integral part of a flower arranger’s garden so they should be used to round out your flower palette.

Just a few of the flowers I would use in Amy’s garden include cleome, nasturtium, fennel, lady’s mantle, rose, black-eyed Susan, tulip, crocosmia, and daffodil.

Foliage Foils

Include some perennials primarily for their foliage.  This can be especially important if your flower arranger’s garden has more shade than sun. A few foliage stars that will work well in Amy’s garden are brunnera, lambs ear, fern, hosta, lungwort and heuchera.

Other Design Considerations

Don’t forget to give some thought to your color scheme when you are deciding which flowers to include in your garden.  When asked, Amy said she did not have any distinct color preferences (usually it’s easier to think in terms of colors you don’t like in the garden – for me it’s red).  After a tour of her newly painted home, it was clear she prefers to surround herself with rich, earthy colors.  So a garden filled with primarily cooler colors seemed to be the way to go.  A splash or two of orange, her husband’s favorite color, was also included.

As you’re designing your flower arranger’s garden, don’t forget to think about the kind of flower arrangements you like to design.  If you’re more into small and dainty designs you’ll want different plants than someone who prefers big and bold arrangements. 

A big thanks to Amy for agreeing to let the Roundtable use her new home as our first actual design project. It was a special treat to meet her in person and get a tour of her home and garden.  If you’re interested in learning more about the inside of Amy’s home, check out her blog, ABCD Design (she also shares great recipes too!).

Don’t forget to check in with my fellow Roundtablers have planned for Amy’s garden:

Carolyn Gail Choi : Sweet Home and Garden Chicago : Chicago, IL

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Ivette Soler, Los Angeles, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

20 thoughts on “Garden Designer’s Roundtable – A Flower Arranger’s Garden

  1. Pingback: Design Challenge: The Garden Designers Roundtable Designs! « Garden Designers Roundtable

  2. Debbie, lovely post as always. I love the way you show so many photos of the plants and how they all work together. I’m also so inspired by your urging to bring in stems from deciduous shrubs to force indoors. Every year I forget how much pleasure that would have brought me had I done it! Thanks for the reminder while it’s still early enough to do.

    • Gen, Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I wish I could say I bring branches inside for forcing but I typically forget too. Perhaps this will be the year some forsythia makes it into the house for some spring color!

  3. Pingback: The Germinatrix » Blog Archive Garden Designers Roundtable: Design Challenge! I've Got A Crush On You... » The Germinatrix

    • Hi Amy, I enjoyed meeting you too. It was an interesting approach to this month’s GDRT topic to ‘work’ on a real property, thanks for being our guinea pig!

    • Jocelyn, I didn’t realize you were basically the same zone as we are here. The winterhazel is fairly new to my garden and it’s still only about 2′ tall but when it blooms, the color is amazing. I can’t wait for it to get bigger so it’s a larger mass of yellow in the winter.

  4. Fun to see the plantsperson’s approach and the flower arranger’s approach to the project.
    I especially liked your shrub choices. they really felt like they suited the locality!
    Best Wishes

  5. Debbie, a wonderful post and some great ideas. I love bringing flowers indoors so I was paying particular attention to this post. Brilliant idea – considering shrubs to force in winter. I was just outside looking for some of these today.

    • Hi Marguerite, Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. The funny thing is, I am not big on bringing flowers inside so it was fun for me to consider how to design a garden for that purpose.

  6. What a wonderful approach to the topic. I think it’s really interesting that we all seemed to take what we are really interested in and ran with it. Some of your plant choices are brilliant!

    • Thnaks Susan. I have to admit that it took me awhile to settle on the flower arranger’s approach but once I did it was a lot of fun to go with the theme and see where it took me.

  7. I like your approach to this design challenge, Debbie. What a glorious cutting garden she could have with all that open space. But including shrubs and groundcovers is still important, as you wisely point out.

    • Thanks, Pam. Yes, all that open space, much of it in full sun, would allow for an incredible garden. I liked the idea of focusing on the trees and shrubs, too, since I do think many gardeners forgot what a great resource they are for showcasing flowers.

  8. Pingback: Garden Designers Roundtable: Design Challenge! I've Got A Crush On You… – The Germinatrix | Pop Up Gazebos and More

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