Spice it up with Herbs: Traditional floral arrangements with a twist

When your mouth is watering from all the fresh flavors of summer, extend the sensory pleasure from table to tabletop by creating a uniquely fresh floral arrangement. Select a few showy blooms and add a pinch and a dash of something unique by incorporating lush, fragrant herbs into your bouquet. Use what you have in your garden, or borrow from your shopping list of menu ingredients.

Summer style is all about bright pops of color and fun! Choose a few splashy summer flowers as the stars of your arrangement. Draw your inspiration from local varieties like geraniums, hydrangeas, dahlias, daisies, plumbago, coneflowers, salvia, iris, snapdragons, and, of course, roses. The Knockout varieties are colorful and prolific in our area and work well in summer arrangements. Choose your florals to set a color theme, such as matching those great new porch cushions. Or, try using a riot of bright blooms representative of your child’s new college if you’re hosting a luncheon for a recent grad. If you don’t have exactly what you want in your own garden, borrow from a neighbor; you only need a few to make a big affect. Supplement the look with smaller flowers in a similar hue and round things out with herbs and their blooms.

The secret ingredient that sets your summertime arrangement apart from a plain vase of daises is the addition of herbs and flowering herbs. Typically valued for their healing properties and the flavor they impart to food, herbs also contribute their fragrance and limitless shades of green to add the “What is that?” element of surprise to your arrangements. Herbs are drought tolerant, and low-maintenance, love sun and are compatible with indigenous gardens; there is no reason not to add a small plot or pot to your garden or patio. Consider an outdoor arrangement of flowers and herbs in your porch planters or window boxes to enjoy their fresh scent each time you enter or leave your home.

If you think you can’t grow herbs, it’s only because you haven’t tried. Remember that many herbs are soft-stemmed, so use sharp, small clippers to harvest them.

The Victorians turned flower giving into an art form, adding symbolism and meaning to the simple gift of a bloom. It can be fun and can serve as a great conversation starter to incorporate a bit of Victorian symbolism into your summer arrangements.

For the bride to be:
■ Red roses (Knockout or Sweetheart) symbolizes love, congratulations, and joy
■ Ivy (from your beds or pots) represents wedded love and fidelity
■ Basil and basil flowers (white or lilac in color and very aromatic) signify best wishes

Try arranging these in several small white cream pitchers or a set of stemless wine glasses that the bride can take home afterward. Cut long stems of ivy (the variegated variety works well) and allow it to trail casually out of the vessels and across your table.

For the neighborhood block party:
■ Alstromeria (very inexpensive at your local grocer) and yellow roses signify friendship
■ Pineapple Mint is a symbol of hospitality, welcome, and warmth of feeling
■ Pineapple Sage blooms (fiery red in color and pineapple scented) symbolize hospitality and esteem

The bright red of the sage blooms offsets the yellow and greens in this arrangement. The mints will lend a fabulous scent to a warm summer evening. These would be lovely in jelly jars or juice glasses from your cabinet and set at each place. A delight for the senses! A sprig for your iced tea, anyone?

One word of caution, though: don’t add scarlet geraniums when entertaining the neighbors…they signify stupidity! That’s not the way to win friends.

And for a graduation luncheon:
■ Purple Coneflowers (a very dependable perennial) signify skill and capability
■ White Dahlias –symbolize gratitude to parents (for the proud Moms and Dads)
■ Coral Bells (a spiky red perennial) represent challenge, scholarship, and hard work
■ Rosemary (a hearty herb with a pine-like fragrance) bolsters wisdom and strength of memory
■ Fennel (feathery, bronze foliage with yellow flowers) signifies strength and worthiness of praise

This bright and happy combination echoes the joy of the occasion. Arrange in any clear glass vases you have on hand and wrap each with a school colored bandana and line them up down the center of your picnic table. If you have an abundance of clover in your yard (and who doesn’t?) scoop out small patches with your trowel and place on top of mini terra cotta pots among your arrangements, sending your students off with good luck wishes for a great transition!
No matter what occasion summer brings your way, make full use of your flower and herb garden to create a memorable event by incorporating herbs and their flowers into your tablescape. You’ll delight your loved ones with an interesting conversation piece and delight their senses with the sights and smells of summer.

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