Table of Contents

Growing A Scented Flower Garden

The Importance of Foliage

When I first started growing flowers, like most people, I was completely enamored with all the beautiful blooms. I would go out into my garden and cut loads of flowers in different colors and drop them all in a jar. Voila! Perfect. But eventually, something didn’t seem quite right. Why did my homemade bouquets look so… well, homemade? I wanted to make them look classier, a bit more polished looking. That is when I discovered the importance of foliage.

While out cutting flowers one day, I noticed all the sage growing in my herb garden. I clipped a few stems, added them to the flowers, and WOW! The sage provided a wonderful backdrop to highlight all the blooms, and I began to realize that foliage might even be MORE important than flowers. At my U-Pick Flower Garden, I often have visitors come up with their flowers and say, “Help, I feel like I’m missing something!” I lead them over to my beds of foliage, cut a few stems for them, and watch their eyes light up with joy as they see what a difference it makes.

Early on, I was advised that half of my cutting garden should be foliage. That seemed pretty extreme to me, and I thought I knew better than the experts. Silly me. That first season, I was always scrambling for more foliage. Since then, I’ve made it a point to grow WAY more foliage each season. I’ve now reached the point where I get more excited about foliage than I do about the blooms. I hope when you’ve finished reading this, you’ll feel the same way or at least have a new appreciation for all that luscious greenery.

The Three Main Parts of an Arrangement

To achieve a full, lush, professional-looking arrangement, it’s helpful to pay attention to the three main parts: Focal, Filler, and Foliage.

Focal: The center of attention, usually 1-3 main blooms. The rest of the arrangement is built upon the focal flowers.

Filler: The majority of the arrangement. These smaller flowers/plants complement the focal flowers.

Foliage: The backbone/foundation of the arrangement. Provides structure, mass, and enhances the flowers.

Here’s an example:

Focal: Dahlia
Filler: Ammi, Celosia, Cosmos, Statice
Foliage: Lemon Bee Balm, Scented Geranium

See how the foliage and filler really complement the focal flower? It’s a game-changer.

Foliage Favorites

Here is a list of some of the foliage we grow at Today’s Gardens to get you inspired:

Asparagus

Every spring during planting season, I walk past my asparagus bed about 18 million times a day and think, “I really need to harvest that asparagus.” And then I don’t. And then the asparagus spears transform into these huge, towering ferns that actually look awesome in bouquets. It makes me feel not quite so bad about missing asparagus season again.

Basil

Basil makes a wonderful, long-lasting foliage if cut at the proper stage and time of day. Be sure to cut it after the stems have become woody and cut very early in the day or in the late evening – the coolest parts of the day. Basil cut in the heat of the day will wilt almost immediately and has a hard time recovering. Mrs. Burns Lemon is delightfully scented and a lovely lime green, while Amoratto is a beautiful mixture of dark green and violet. One of my favorite foliages!

Bupleurum

When this is in season, I start every single bouquet with a stem of Bupleurum. The wiry, sturdy stems are the perfect base for weaving other flowers into. The bright, cheery lime green color compliments nearly every color scheme.

Dill

Perhaps Dill belongs in the filler category, but I wanted to mention it because it’s so fantastic. Allow the head to shed the little yellow flowers, and wait until they form bright green seed pods. They truly sparkle in bouquets.

Milkweed

I grew this for the first time this year, and I’m torn. The foliage is STUNNING, and everyone swoons over it. But I feel like I need to wear a hazmat suit while harvesting it. The stems leak sticky white sap that irritates skin, and can cause major eye irritation. And it gets SUPER wilty if I cut it after the sun is up. Not sure if I’ll grow it again.

Flax

Yes, this is the same plant you get flax seed from. The plant sends up little blue flowers, but I wait until those are gone and harvest the seed pods instead. They look so sparkly and playful in bouquets.

Fountain Grass

This grass is magical. A few stems here and there, and your bouquet shimmers.

Grape Leaves

We grow Concord grapes in the garden for eating/juice, but the foliage is beautiful too. It looks lovely with the fall-blooming flowers.

Lemon Balm

A member of the mint family, this stuff will spread like crazy. The good news is it smells AMAZING, and you can dry the leaves to make tea. Not so bad after all. Wait until the stems are woody and firm before cutting, and cut only in the cool of the day.

Lavender Cotton

This is a fun-looking plant that can double as a flower or foliage. The gray/green/pink color scheme looks great with almost anything. It has a tendency to wilt, so harvest in the cool of the day and wait until the stems are woody and firm.

Love-in-a-Puff

This dainty, delicate-looking vine is so much fun. The little lantern-like seed pods are adorable, playful, and festive. Inside each seed pod are 3 round seeds with hearts on them. No joke – Love-in-a-Puff indeed. The tiny white flowers are adored by pollinators.

Mint

Mint spreads like CRAZY, so be forewarned. But it’s lovely in bouquets and mojitos. Apple Mint is a great variety for cut flower use.

Mountain Mint

Apparently there are other types of Mountain Mint that flower farmers swear by, but I planted the wrong kind. Ha! Anyway, I’m glad I made the mistake. I adore this Mountain Mint. It smells fantastic, doesn’t spread aggressively like regular mint, and the stems form beautiful flowers later in the season. A winner in my book.

Ninebark

When I first started flower farming, I asked a florist what was her favorite foliage to work with. Without hesitation, she said, “Ninebark. Plant as many as you can. They are AMAZING.” She was right. Ninebark is actually a large shrub, so you’ll have to find one at your local plant nursery. Be sure to not cut more than ⅓ of the plant each season. Autumn Jubilee is my favorite.

Orach

This is actually a type of spinach. Instead of harvesting the greens, allow the plant to bolt and go to seed. The seed pods look like glitter in bouquets.

Oregano

Oregano looks unassuming until it forms its lovely little white flowers later in the season. They look fantastic in bouquets and add a nice, herbal scent.

Paperflower

These weedy-looking plants form fun, playful-looking seed pods that add great textural interest to bouquets. They can also be dried. This is a once-and-done plant – you get one stem per plant.

Persian Cress

The more sophisticated cousin of Penny Cress, Persian Cress looks elegant and sparkly in bouquets. They grow fast, and it’s best to plant/sprinkle more seeds every week for a continued harvest.

Silver Shield Plectranthus

I’ve grown Dusty Miller for years now, but can never seem to get it to grow tall enough to use in bouquets. I’m so glad I found Silver Shield Plectranthus instead. The stems easily get 18-24″ long, and they hold up well over 2 weeks if harvested in the cool of the day and when the stems are more mature. The beautiful silver-green color is fantastic.

Sage

Regular old garden sage is a lovely plant to work with. In the spring, they send up beautiful violet blooms. If you cut the plants back after blooming, they will reward you with gorgeous silver-gray foliage. Cut in the cool of the day and when the stems are woody.

Scented Geranium

Hands down, Scented Geranium is the MVP on my farm. People are always surprised when I show it to them because it looks so unassuming. But add just one stem to a bouquet, and WOW – that’s exactly what it needed. Most flowers have no scent, and that is a real bummer. So instead, I always try to add some scented foliage to the bouquet to delight the senses. Scented Geranium plants come in a HUGE variety of scents. My favorites are Attar of Rose (rose-scented), Orange Fizz (orange-scented – for real), and Sweet Mimosa (earthy, floral scent). Scented Geranium is grown via cuttings, not seed, so you’ll need to buy a plant at a nursery.

Shiso

This culinary herb, widely used in Japanese culture, also looks beautiful in the vase. Allow the plants to mature and begin forming flowers/seed heads; otherwise, they will wilt. Harvest in the cool of the day.

Tarragon

If you have any of these shrubs in your landscaping, they are great for foliage, and even their spring-blooming flowers look beautiful. This herb has a delightful, sweet scent. The lacy foliage develops tiny yellow flowers later in the season. Can be dried for herbal wreaths.

As you can see, there is a wealth of amazing foliage and filler options to explore. The key is to not get too caught up in the flowers – make sure you’re devoting plenty of space in your cutting garden to these hardworking, supporting players. Your bouquets will thank you!

Floret Flowers and Three Acre Farm have some great tips and recommendations for incredible foliage varieties to try. Happy gardening!

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

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