Martha Stewart: Flowers all year is the goal

Published: Sunday, Jan. 2 2011 4:10 p.m. MST

I grow a lot of flowers, all year long, in three gardens in three locations. My objective is to have beauty to look at wherever I am, but most important, to have flowers and foliage to cut for seasonal arrangements for my homes.

Over the years, I have learned what grows best, what blooms when, and which flowers "cut" well and last longest.

My personal style of flower arranging has evolved and changed quite a bit. Now I love to incorporate leaves, grasses and seedpods into arrangements, whereas I once considered anything green just filler. Whatever the time of year, even in the cooler months, there is almost always something to inspire a beautiful arrangement.

The following combinations perfectly exemplify the four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall.

Winter

Amaryllis, my Christmas flower, is a bright spot of the season. Glistening white, vivid pink or pale green, miniature or double-flowered, striped or picotee — there are new varieties to experiment with every year.

Soft whites: I grow a lot of amaryllis in my greenhouse. Because it is difficult to display the flowers with the bulbs, I often cut the flower stalks and use them in bowls (sometimes I fill out the arrangements with purchased blooms). When combined with Southern magnolia leaves, these burgundy-centered, cream-white flowers make a striking arrangement.

Spring

This is my favorite season for homegrown flowers on my farm in Bedford. Small bulbs bloom first, followed by tulips, hyacinths, bleeding hearts and flowering shrubs.

Bright and early: A European tulipiere was designed to display one tulip in each "finger." I love to mix small fringed tulips with early viburnum and muscari in this vessel.

Standing tall: A slender Juliska glass vase is the perfect container for long-stemmed Darwin tulips. I cut the stems as long as the vase and line them up as straight as possible.

Clearly beautiful: I have a penchant for clear-glass containers, which can show off a wonderful mix of tulips, white bleeding hearts and the wavy leaves of bird's-nest fern.

Summer

This is when the garden explodes into myriad shapes and colors. Peonies, irises, roses, lilies, delphiniums, astilbes and annuals can be cut by the dozens.

Natural match: A Japanese bowl was given to me many years ago. When I received it, I had never seen a yellow, peach or mauve tree peony, but obviously the painter of the bowl had. Finally my tree peonies have matured and now provide blooms of almost the same colors.

Coming up roses: Arranging roses is a glorious task, especially when they are homegrown and scented. David Austin roses make a beautiful display combined with "Limelight" licorice plant, tiny lady's mantle, puffy canary grass and fuzzy, fragrant geranium leaves.

Surprising pick: Few of us think to use clematis as cut flowers, but they are excellent as such. Mixed with hosta leaves, irises and love-in-a-mist seed heads, the flowers are superb.

Fall

This is a great time for flower arrangers because the garden is so generous in its bounty. The colors in the garden become deeper and more vibrant. When I'm looking for flowers, I can find many other subtle things that will result in original displays. Flower arranging can actually become more inspired.

Autumn palette: A large Staffordshire tureen, fitted with a giant floral frog, is the perfect vessel for a stunning arrangement of three unusual fall blooms: striped dahlias in orange and white, papery Chinese lanterns stripped of all leaves and dill gone to yellow flower heads.

Dark, dramatic: I love Japanese baskets, and the rich mahogany-reddish shade of an old container looks fabulous with a dusky arrangement of purple hazel leaves, sprays of broom corn, reddish ornamental grass, blackish dahlias and purple artichokes.

Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 W. 26th St., 9th floor, New York, N.Y. 10001. Questions may also be sent by e-mail to: mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually. For more information on the topics covered in the Ask Martha column, visit www.marthastewart.com. Dist. by The New York Times Syndicate. © 2011 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

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