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Milk Bottle Bouquets

For a garden or country wedding, milk bottle arrangements can be very sweet. You can buy small, new milk bottles in craft stores very inexpensively, and vintage bottles of all sizes can be collected at yard sales, thrift stores or from online sources such as ebay. These clear glass containers suit garden flowers perfectly.

For this bouquet I used flowers from the fall garden, variegated ivy from a houseplant, and black and white ribbon.

Small milk bottles are well suited for the center of long tables, using three or four per table. If your tables are going to be round you could also use four or more small bottles per table, or a combination of a large milk bottle, two smaller containers, and assorted candles.

Mason Jar Arrangements

Do it yourself wedding brides love mason jars. They are widely available (the grocery store!), inexpensive, and casual. Today’s brides are loving a mix of rustic and sophisticated, and mason jars fit right in. Here are a couple of tips for those who love this look.

  • If you want mason jar arrangements on the table, but you want people to be able to see who is sitting across from them, use the small jars, placing three on a table for 8 or ten. Tables for six could have one small arrangement, especially if there are candles around the flowers or a lace doily or other fabric square underneath. (Idea: vintage handkerchiefs are lovely for this purpose. You could choose patterned or white, lacy or plain.)
  • If you want the look of pale green, vintage mason jars but can only afford clear, consider tinting the water. Important: add food coloring right before the wedding – if tinted too early the white flowers will take up the color and your pale roses or daisies might take on a greenish tint.
  • Consider buying mixed flower bouquets at the supermarket and using those for a country style wedding.

    This arrangement has river rocks in the jar. Pebbles not only are attractive if nature is important to the couple, but they also weight the arrangement in windy sites. Hint: put one layer at the bottom one rock thick, then add the flowers. Once the stems are in place gently push them away from the jar's edge with one hand and slip smaller pebbles in on all sides with the other. This is easier than trying to force the stems into a jar of rocks.

    Here is an example of an arrangement made in a small mason jar. Two long strands of variegated ivy were cut from a hanging basket and tucked into the jar, then they were wound around the jar twice in opposite directions and tied together. Raffia was tied onto the rim after the ivy was in place. This jar was filled with roses and stock - fragrant and sweet.

    There is no reason that a mason jar has to remain clear. For a bride that loves jewel-tones, consider tinting the water purple.

Garden Weddings and Mosquitoes

For garden weddings that take place in the evening mosquitoes are a real concern. No one wants the bridal party or guests to be slapping at insects during the ceremony, cocktail hour, or outdoor reception. So a few precautions are in order.

There are several granular mosquito repellents that are made of natural materials. In my experience these products work very well. They are best sprinkled the day before in the area where the wedding will take place. Remember to apply them to areas where your guests will be walking as well; paths to the tent or Porta Potties, for example, will need to be covered.

Some want to use citronella candles as well as the granular repellents but care should be taken about where these are placed. The odor from such candles bothers some people and you don’t want them too close to where the food is served for that reason. Be careful about putting lit candles in places where people can inadvertently back into them and catch clothing on fire.

Offering small spray bottle of repellents is thoughtful because there are some people who are more bothered by mosquitoes than others. How often have you heard someone say “If there’s a mosquito in the area it will find me!” A few bottles of mosquito spray that are placed where people can see them will provide those who attract mosquitoes with some extra protection.

Container Safari

Doing your own wedding flowers? Tired of canning jars? Time to go on a Safari!

After you decide on a container to use, start hitting the thrift stores and garage sales. If you map out local thrift and consignment stores, you can plan a fun day out, traveling from source to source looking for treasures and bargains.

Some container ideas: Small glass bottles, clear or tinted; milk glass vases; silver plate “Revere bowls” (these can be found at church consignment shops for $5 and under!); mustard crocks; and wooden berry baskets.

A collection of milk glass vases being prepped for the wedding flowers. (Hint: when using white glass be sure to get white floral foam.)

Planning A Summer Garden Wedding in Winter

In the chill of the winter it’s hard to imagine how the garden will look and function for your wedding the following summer. Don’t panic: here are a few tips for beginning your plans in the coldest time of the year.

1. If you have photos of the garden during the summer time, put them in a folder on your computer or make a Pinterest board.

2. Use this time when you’re not distracted by blooming flowers and abundant foliage to plan logistics and make your lists.

3. Contact landscape professionals early if you think you’ll need help with pruning shrubs, lawn repair etc. Some of these jobs can be done either in late-winter or early spring and landscapers usually have more time in these seasons.

4. Winter is the best time to take care of all the other aspects of the wedding. You’ll be better able to tackle the gardens in the spring.

It's difficult to imagine that this snow encrusted hydrangea bush will be filled with pink and blue flowers in July!

Add An Herb

Food and bouquets are improved with herbs. Although home-grown bouquets are always wonderful, adding in herbs provides charm and fragrance. Common sage, shown here, is perfect. Oregano, parsley, and basil are also lovely…plant purple or variegated basil in the spring for even more visual spice. And don’t forget the old saying that “Rosemary is for remembrance!”

Mixing Home Grown With “Store Bought”

Many brides want to use garden grown flowers for their wedding, but once they start thinking about the number of flowers required, they often realize that they don’t have enough. Fortunately, garden flowers mix very well with those that can be purchased.  Just be sure to research which flowers will be available when you need them. There are online sources for having flowers sent directly to your house (I’ve used or you can contact a local florist or flower supply.  Here are some suggestions for flowers that look good with home-grown blooms: Scabiosa, Trachelium caeruleum, Bouvardia, Delphinium, and Roses.

I used garden grown dahlias, zinnias, and hydrangeas for these table arrangements, and added roses, Trachelium, and Scabiosa ordered from Fifty Flowers.


Lovely Lavender

Lavender is a great signature plant for a garden wedding. In many areas it will be in bloom in mid-summer and/or fall. You can buy fresh or dried lavender to tuck into bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages and arrangements. And the array of lavender scented favors and gifts ranges from sachets to soaps or candles and beyond. And because lavender has long been valued for it’s calming properties, it might be the best thing to give everyone in the wedding party!

A box of lavender sachets at the Cape Cod Lavender Farm in Harwich.

If you want to plant lavender in the garden, be sure to choose a place that gets full sun. You’ll want at least six hours including the noon hour for this perennial to thrive. If the plants are next to a stone wall or gravel driveway that’s even better, as this plant wants heat! Grow lavender in well-drained soil that is on the neutral to alkaline side. Water deeply but less often – no splashing from an automatic sprinkler system for this plant! Go easy on the fertilizer and compost too – this perennial does better on a leaner diet. After the plant finishes flowering, cut off the old flower stems and an inch or two of the foliage to encourage bushy growth and repeat flowering.

Lavender combines well with roses and other perennials in the sunny garden and looks great planted in groups of five or more.

Getting Your Yard Ready For the Wedding

Today’s post is about a method you can use to evaluate your yard and garden before the wedding. This approach will help you to see what areas need improvement and which places can be ignored. Most people tend to get overwhelmed about pre-wedding landscape preparations. If you’re feeling inundated with things that need doing, it can lead to inaction or the opposite: doing too much.

Here’s a way that you can break things down so you can have a plan that’s manageable. Get a clipboard and some blank paper, or a notebook. Either separate one sheet into three columns or use three different pieces of paper or notebook pages. Label these three pages/columns as follows:

Basic   Bad   Beautiful

Now go around your yard slowly, looking at everything. One by one, consider each flowerbed, individual shrub or groups of shrubbery, tree, fence, ornaments and other features. Decide which of those three categories each place fits into.

Basic are the plants and objects that are neither horrible nor lovely. They may not be exciting, but they are good enough. Ugly, half-dead plants, weed-filled flowerbeds and rotting fences are all examples of the types of things that would go into the bad group. The things and plants you love go into the beautiful category.

It might be helpful to invite a friend whose taste you trust along and have him or her do the same. You could also hire a garden consultant to go through this process with you. Don’t discuss your ratings the first time around, just walk the property with your friend or consultant and rate each area and object.

Be realistic and don’t be overly critical. If everything looks bad to you, be sure to do this process with at least one other person who might be able to evaluate your property with fresh eyes. Once you’ve rated the property with another person, repeat the walk, this time sharing how each of you have classified the landscape elements.

The idea is this. After you’re done, you’ll have a list of what needs attention and what doesn’t. The truth is, you only have to address what’s in the “bad” column. The beautiful is fine, and the basic fades into the background. Once you get a few pots of flowers or other wedding décor in place, no one will notice those basic areas.

You could go even further and break the “bad” items into three ratings: bad, worse and completely unacceptable. Tackle those in the last category first.

Don’t feel overwhelmed…make a plan.

This row of inkberry shrubs is well maintained and the bed around them mulched and pretty weed free. The forsythia won't be in bloom for the wedding, but that's OK. This area of the property would be rated "basic" - you don't have to do anything here.

This area near the road falls into the bad column, no question about it. In fact, completely unacceptable would be pretty accurate.

This part of the garden is lovely. The bulbs will be gone for the summer wedding, but the boxwoods are neat and healthy. Again, you wouldn't have to do anything in this part of the landscape. Some pots of flowering annuals could be placed up the walkway, in-between the boxwoods, should you want flower color.


How to Create an Herb & Flower Arrangement

Are you a do-it-yourself bride?  Fantastic, but be sure to enlist the help of some friends, OK?

That said, here’s how to create an herbal, informal, garden arrangement in a milk-glass vase.

Cut your herbs and flowers the previous day if possible and put them in buckets of water with floral preservative (“flower food”) and store them in a cool room.  Start with your clean vases and some clear floral tape. This is available at any floral supply source and many craft stores.  If your vase is wide at the top it is also helpful to have some clear glass marbles to hold the stems and weight the container. Use the tape to make a grid of four criss-crossing pieces across the top.

Cut the stems of your herbs to be a good length for the vase. Here I’ve used sage, rosemary and oregano that is in bloom.

Insert the herbs into your vase first, pushing the stems down into the marbles to hold them in place.

You don’t have to use a lot of herbs because you’ll have flowers in the vase too.

Put in the biggest flowers first. Any flowers that you have in your garden will probably look good with the herbs, but round shapes are easiest to work with for this type of bouquet, and zinnias, marigolds and dahlias are always great in such informal, country bouquets.

Tuck in smaller flowers and any fine or thin herbs such as the rosemary sprigs last. Here I used Rudbeckia triloba, a small black-eyed Susan.

The combination of bright flowers and herbs are perfect for a garden wedding.