Getting your greens

Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining Alexandra Campbell  –  from the middle-sized garden – at her delightful home, as part of the Faversham Society’s Open Garden Sunday.  It was a busy day with 450 visitors.  Inspired by Alexandra’s garden and one of her blog posts that has disappeared as a result of technical difficulties, I’ve written this post about my top five garden foliage plants to use in flower arrangements.

What’s in a name?

I’m regularly asked for recommendations for appropriate flowers to incorporate into flower arrangements. However, in order to make your budget stretch further I always suggest adding garden greenery to your buying (or cutting) list.

What do you call the stuff in your flower arrangements which aren’t flowers?  I favour the word foliage – it rolls off the tongue – flowers and foliage.  However, I’ve found that this term can be off-putting for newbies attending class as it’s not always widely understood.  In these circumstances, I refer to garden greenery.  Which is fine, except if you don’t have a garden.  But don’t forget, your florist will stock foliage and I know of at least one supermarket that sells small bunches of greenery, or “greens” as the Americans refer to them.

But is all greenery green?

Of course, not all greenery is green.  As I write this blog in the first week of July I’m lucky enough to have a modest garden that has sufficient foliage to add interest to my garden in terms of its colour, shape and texture and most of it isn’t actually green.

My top  5 garden foliage plants

My foliage ranges from silver grey, through green to dark brown.  These are some of my favourites:

1. Senecio

Senecio (or more accurately named Brachyglottis) has oval shaped leaves with a velvety texture.  Green on the front, with a white outline to each leaf and white on the reverse.  Add it to your arrangements green-side or white-side up.  It has neon yellow small daisy-shaped flowers which I don’t like.  I cut these off – although don’t do it too soon, as the round buds provide an interesting dimension to this foliage.


2. Bay

I prefer Bay to Laurel – on the whole I find Laurel leaves too large for most of my arrangements. They would be great, however, in large scale designs.  The Bay is quite a rigid leaf, oval in shape with a slightly ruffled, rather than flat profile and of course, it has a lovely scent.  This is a fast grower and is more manageable when it’s cut back regularly. On the downside, I find that the leaves are susceptible to damage – I’m not sure whether that’s down to frost, disease or insects …


3. Hebe

There are so many varieties of Hebe, each with a mounded profile with leaves ranging in size and colour, with little spikes of flowers.  With or without the flowers they’re a great addition to your flower arrangements.  This Hebe is a larger variety, which makes cutting it a bit tricky because it becomes obvious where you’ve been at it – the shape collapses a bit and you’re left with gaps.  There’s a rule in our garden.  If Mr JDFW can’t see where I’ve been cutting, whatever I harvest from the garden is OK by him!


4. Pittosporum

In terms of varieties the same applies to Pittosporum.  There are just so many.  This is a quick growing shrub and can soon become more tree-like in proportion.  I don’t have any large-leaved varieties.  I favour the small leaved specimens which are useful when your arrangement needs “bushy” foliage to add mass to the centre, or to disguise your floral foam. I’d use it sparingly however, otherwise you’ll end up with very busy/dotty arrangements.


5. Cotinus

Cotinus coggygria (commonly known as the smoke bush, because of its plumes of tiny flowers).  At the end of last summer we cut back our Cotinus as it was getting too big.  For flower arranging purposes the variety we’ve got is a little large-leaved (see Laurel above).  And while being dark in colour it contrasts with your green greenery it can look like you’ve left a big hole in the middle of your arrangement if you’re not careful.


What’s your favourite?

I’d love to her about your favourite and most useful garden greenery for incorporating into your flower arrangements – do drop me a line in the comments box below.  Don’t forget that just like your flowers, your greenery will need conditioning before you add it to your arrangement.

garden greenery

Dates for your diary

Come and join me and Anna on  Wednesday 12th August – you’ll get to hear the story of Anna’s flower farm, pick your own flowers and learn how to create your own flower crown.

Until next time, happy flowers!

If you’d like to find out more about my next flower arranging workshops, you can sign up to my mailing list here – or, if you’d rather, just email me at

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