We plant natives for the pollinators, to support the ecological systems, for the birds, yes, yes we do. But there’s a reason we plant some and not others, why “nativars” are a thing and why New Moon Nursery can’t sell ugly plants (we have tried! and tried again!)- because we plant them (and are able to sell them to our clients) because they are pretty, appealing to our aesthetic standards.
Too bad for the poor insect that thrives on a less-than magnificent flower. Pycnanthemum’s tiny flowers are on the cusp of the showy/not showy continuum – good thing countless pollinators find these tiny blooms irresistible.
Let’s own up to the fact that beauty is one of the criteria we look for in our garden and landscape plants and go a step further – let’s bring them inside. Sure we will leave enough for the birds and the bees (and the flies and the bats and the moths and the beetles…) but we will also collect them in those vases (honey jars, milk bottles, growlers…) gathering in basement cabinets and place them on office windowsills and night stands and bathroom vanities.
If planted with intention, you can have fresh native flowers as cut flowers in your home throughout the seasons. Maybe some of your residential clients are looking for additions to their cut flower gardens or have wanted to create a cut flower garden but weren’t sure how that wish melds with a wish to have only native plants – there are plenty of options out there.
In fact, sometimes in a vase is the best way to appreciate the intricate details, subtle color variations and delicate fragrances. If it helps with your justification, you can think of bringing in cut flowers as research – it is tough to get a good whiff of the flowers or notice the speckles and spots while on your hands and knees (or in the case of wild ginger – belly and forearms), so bring them in to eye-level and observe.
Blue Eyed Grass has stiff stems perfect for an arrangement.
Columbine – it may be tough to snip these dangling beauties from their blue-green deer-resistant, leaf-miner-free nest of foliage, but unless you want to army-crawl under them through the leaf litter there’s no better way to appreciate their glorious internal inner workings than by bringing some inside. They are great on their own in a tiny vase (small honey jars or jelly jars or a shot glass work great!) or mix them with the violets and a couple dogwood blossoms, add some sedge flowers for spiky interest.
Baptisia – For something less petite, consider the wild indigos. Don’t cut them all though because the seed pods make great additions to cut flowers as well.
(Once we witnessed trilliums as cut flowers in a display, that, we felt crossed the line… better left in the woods we felt…)
Alliums – great as a seed head or as a flower, tall straight stiff stems works well in a variety of arrangements. Though a giant cluster of just allium inflorescences looks great, be sure to save some for the bumble bees.
Milkweeds – oh the horror! What?! Take these orchid-like flowers away from the monarchs? We know – it may be a heart-wrenching decision. We are not judging you or telling you what to do, we are just posing an option, maybe your display needs editing, maybe a plant or 7 has volunteered in a place you prefer it not to be. We are just letting you know milkweeds make good cut flowers.
Liatris – Like Solidago, gayfeathers are often in commercially available cut flower arrangements. Easy to grow in gardens, some species underused, and a butterfly magnet, these tall spikes are a must have in any native cut flower garden.
Ferns – you may think spring when you think ferns, those lovely fiddleheads unfurling revealing fronds of spring green, BUT do not cut the unfurling fiddleheads! They will wilt unrevivably (this is not a word, but there does not seem to be a better one) and will never complete their unfurling. You must wait to cut ferns until they are fully expanded, not still fiddling around with emerging, then you can cut them and bring them in, which is why they are listed here in summer and not in spring.
Seed pods, seed pods, seed pods – if you don’s want a bumper crop of seedlings in the garden, bring the pods in as ornament. Instead of deadheading for the compost pile, create a seasonal display in the home.
Asters – you may know them as Aster, Symphyotrichum, Kalimeris, Doellingeria, Eurybia, and now you know them as cut flower. They are the filler in florist arrangements and are lovely as a stand-alone flower or combined with other fall gems.
Goldenrods – in the florist industry goldenrods are included in bouquets and called Solidago, because no one (present company excluded, of course) would want goldenrod in their flower arrangement. This is in large part due to its being considered a weed in so many places and in another large part due to the myth of it causing allergies.
Grasses – really can be used in any season as a green but the flower and seed stems are great additions to arrangements.
See the seed pod bit above.
Berries and fruits and brightly colored stems, generally not the domain of our herbaceous plants, but certainly think of including hollies, magnolias and dogwoods in the cut flower garden. They will not only expand seasonal interest inside and outside, they will also support a diversity of insects, birds and mammals.
Tips: If you decide to make the leap to bringing the native flowers inside: cut flowers in the morning, place in water right a way, change the water every couple of days, no leaves below the water line, cut on an angle, cut buds only if they are showing color. Not enough natives at home for cut flowers- check out your local cut flower growers, if you have none of them around, ask your florist for local cut flowers.