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. 

Wedding Inspiration From France

If you visit Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, take time to walk through the village. You’ll see other gardens, not to mention delightful architecture. But other than a suggestion about where you might spend your honeymoon, what can be learned from a French country village? This one, for example: 

First we can see the importance of repetition. Notice how the same colors of flowers are in bloom, be they hollyhocks or roses. This is good information for those who are soon to be planting annuals in anticipation of the wedding. Maybe the smart thing to do is to repeat colors that are already in the garden instead of planting flowers in the same shade as the bridesmaids’ bouquets. 

Secondly, notice the aqua paint that’s been used on the furniture and balconies. Colorful paint on a few structures, buildings or outdoor furnishings can help create a spirited, interesting environment. Such color is especially important early in the season when fewer flowers may be in bloom. Where might your wedding venue benefit from a can of purple, blue or coral paint? 

Finally, this scene reminds us that perfection isn’t necessary. When you first saw this photo, did you think “Oh how could they possibly stand those grasses and weeds in with the roses and hollyhocks?” Of course you didn’t! Admit it: you didn’t even see them. Your eye was caught by the flowers, charming buildings, and the pleasing blend of colors. 

When you’re planning your garden wedding, take inspiration from this small town lane in France. Repeat similar shades of flowers, give some manmade objects a fresh coat of colorful paint, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

PS: Another lesson from another angle: Don’t be afraid of a touch of red! 

Informal, Inexpensive, Colorful Flowers

Here’s a garden wedding tip for those who are going for the “casual country” look . If the ceremony is in the late summer or fall, you might consider planting zinnias and dahlias this spring. Check out the range of zinnia seeds from Renee’s Garden! They have a wonderful, colorful selection.

Many brides who are planning a casual event choose mason jars to hold their flowers. These are lovely, but you could also consider going the Martha’s Vineyard Flower Growers route by using colorful tin cans. Many restaurants have large cans that they’ll give away, and most home cooks will save them for you as well.

Flowering Shrubs

Shrubs that flower are an important part of a garden wedding because they provide color in the landscape and flowers for arrangements. If you already have bushes that flower, think about which ones might be in bloom on your wedding day. If they aren’t in the immediate areas where the ceremony will take place, you might want to consider them for arrangement flowers.

Here’s what you need to think about now:  In the months before the ceremony be sure those shrubs get a good deep soaking once a week if it doesn’t rain. Watering deeply less often is better than a squirt by hand more frequently. Don’t over fertilize…this could do more harm than good. An application of any organic fertilizer in early spring followed by a liquid feed in early summer will be more than enough.

If you want to use flowers from your shrubs in your arrangements be sure to try cutting a couple of stems two weeks before the wedding. Treat these just as you plan to use all the flowers for the event…if you’re planning to use water or oasis, do that for these test stems as well. Make sure the flowers last at least four days so that you’ll know that these blossoms will be fine even if you make the arrangements two or three days in advance.

These are the flowers on one of the summer flowering Spireas called 'Magic Carpet'. There are several varieties of pink-blooming spires and they are great landscape shrubs and cut flowers.

These informal, country style bouquets use Spirea flowers along with feverfew, circle flower, and purchased purple Lisianthus.

Advance Planning

If you’re having a wedding in your garden this summer or fall, it’s time to get ready. Although it might be too early to plant in your location, wedding preparations should begin with a trip to your local garden center. No matter how beautiful and full your landscape is right now, you may want to improve or add to certain areas in advance of the wedding or rehearsal dinner. This may involve the planting of shrubs and perennials, but you should plan on putting in annuals as well.

Some annuals can be planted early in the season, but most people find that they need to make last minute additions to the garden. Whether your wedding is in June, July, August, September or beyond, you’ll probably need some large pots of annuals for fill-in color. Some garden centers remain fully stocked throughout the growing season, but others bring in fewer plants later in the summer. For your own peace of mind and planning, it is best to know in advance what you can or can’t find locally.

Meet with the person responsible for ordering annuals at your local garden centers and talk to them about your wedding date. Ask what they are likely to either have in stock or are able to bring in during the two weeks before the wedding. Remember that hanging baskets can make wonderful instant fillers: just pop the plants out of the hanger and plant them in the ground or other containers. Some hanging baskets can even be set inside urns or large pots and the hanging wires removed for instant color!

Ask which annuals will be available just before the wedding. Remember that you'll want larger pots of flowers for fill-ins or last minute additions...small pots of plants won't produce the instant color you're looking for.

Growing Your Own Wedding Flowers

If you are having a wedding in the late summer or fall, and are thinking of growing some of your own wedding flowers, now is the time to plant. Here’s one huge piece of advice for you, however: don’t believe all the descriptions you read in plant and seed catalogs. “Blooms all season” might really mean that the plant flowers in June only…you could define the “season” as “early summer” and the description would be true. So a huge grain of salt, OK?

Get opinions from local sources for what cutting annuals grow best in your area. Call the local Master Gardeners at your cooperative extension, call independent garden centers, or local gardening radio programs. Ask them for cutting flowers that are pretty fool proof in your area. It would be pretty depressing to put all the effort into planting, tending, weeding and deadheading just to have your plants fade before the big event!

That said, here are some standard annuals for cutting flowers that do well in most areas: ‘Blue Horizon’ Ageratum (This is the tall one – only get the one that’s labeled ‘Blue Horizon’ because most of the others are too short.), Dahlias (buy tubers or cuttings if you can and plant them in the late spring/early summer), Zinnias (These like full sun and heat – don’t plant too early in the spring. Zinnias don’t like having their leaves wet either, so don’t water frequently: a deep soaking once a week – using a sprinkler or soaker hoses –  is usually enough.).

Dahlias, 'Blue Horizon' Ageratum and Zinnias fill this cutting garden.

If your wedding will be in August, September or October you can't go wrong with dahlias. In areas with early frost these will go once the temps get cold, however.

Want something unusual for your large arrangements? Like sculptural plants? Plant King Tut Papyrus this spring! It grows four or more feet tall in a couple short months. Use it in the garden or in pots.

Inspiration From The Fair

This photo was taken at a county fair in the garden club tent where garden flowers and foliage competed for ribbons. When I came across this photo I realized that there is inspiration here for an innovative, inexpensive wedding floral display. A group of narrow necked clear bottles could be gathered either in the center of a table or along the back of a buffet or bar. By placing assorted flowers and leaves, one per bottle, in these containers you quickly create a garden. Because there is only one specimen per jar the shapes and forms of the individual blossoms are shown off.

This is an especially good idea for those who are having June weddings and want to use garden flowers. Since the annuals aren’t often very prolific at that time, displaying individual perennial flowers and leaves would be a great alternative.

Imagine this table without all the name cards and prize ribbons and you end up with a flower garden display that echoes where your wedding just took place. For those brides who are really on a budget, you could ask all your friends and neighbors to contribute three or four flowers and leaves from their gardens.

Growing Your Own Wedding Flowers

Since many brides are interested in do-it-yourself wedding preparations, one possibility that crosses their minds is growing their own flowers for the ceremony and reception. Yes, you can! Here are a few guidelines:

  1. If you’re planting in the spring for a ceremony that will be held this summer or fall, don’t count on newly planted perennials for your flowers. New perennial plants won’t produce very many blossoms, so plan on planting annuals instead.
  2. For weddings held in June it might be difficult to grow enough annuals unless you live in a region where you can plant in February or March. Most annuals that are planted in May don’t really start to come into their own until the end of July.
  3. For May or June weddings, put out the call to people you know for flowers from established perennial gardens. Those who like the look of Queen Anne’s Lace can grow Ammi majus from seed planted in April or May for flowering at the end of June or early July.
  4. For end of the summer and fall weddings, zinnias and dahlias are perfect. Marigolds are also prolific. Plant large ones to use in arrangements and small flowering types to string into garlands as they do in India.
  5. Some garden centers stock hydrangeas that are already mature and in full bloom. Buy these and harvest the flowers a couple of days before the wedding. Plant the shrubs after the wedding once all the hubbub has died down.
  6. You’ll need greenery as well as flowers. Test small sprigs cut from various shrubs, perennials and grasses around your property and see if it holds up in a vase for three or more days. Hint: variegated Hosta leaves make great filler greens.
  7. Don’t just look for flowers. Seed pods, berries, grass plumes, branches, and buds can look amazing in arrangements, bouquets and even boutonnieres.

    Most of the flowers in this table arrangement were grown in a cutting garden. Zinnias, dahlias, hydrangeas, and Scabiosa came from the garden. The roses and purple Trachelium were purchased from an on-line wholesale florist. The filler greens were wild aster branches (in bud) and foliage from native Bayberry bushes.