Arrangements Without Blooms

Designing with fall foliage.

by Charlie Thigpen, Photography by Chuck St. John

Inset: Purple hyacinth bean and “Ghost Buster” eggplants from the vegetable garden can be used in arrangements.

It’s always a nice touch to have an arrangement to greet guests for parties or family gatherings.  But what happens when you don’t have flowers? Go to Plan B and use what you have.  If you really open your eyes, you can usually walk through your yard and discover Mother Nature’s many treasures. These garden gifts of foliage, fruits, seed pods and even vegetables can be creatively displayed to make a visually pleasing centerpiece.

Fantastic Foliage

Plant breeders have worked hard to develop multi-hued foliage plants that work well in the garden, and most work equally as well in a vase. Cannas, caladiums, coleus, hosta, Persian shield and “Mahogany” hibiscus are just a few plants that can dazzle you with brilliant foliage. If you don’t have colorful foliage, you can use green leaves or fronds that have interesting textures, such as big, bold fatsia leaves or ferns with their delicate lacy fronds.

Main Photo: “Mahogany” hibiscus with its Japanese maple-like foliage, seed tufts from ornamental grass, Persian shield, coleus and a few other goodies were clipped from the garden to create colorful arrangements.

Fruits and Veggies

Make an arrangement with fruits such as apples, figs, pears or persimmons to celebrate a bountiful harvest.  Or step into your vegetable or herb garden and see if there are any possibilities.  Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and okra have bold colors and shapes.  Mix them with herbs such as “Red Rubin” basil or rosemary for interesting and aromatic combinations.

Going Nuts and Gone to Seed

Trees such as oaks, hickories and pecans begin to drop nuts in the fall.  Sprinkle these round and oval-shaped hard fruits around arrangements for a natural look.  Many annuals and perennials also produce interesting seeds.  The popular ornamental grasses are well known for their soft, billowy seed heads that top their arching foliage.  Use these long-stemmed grasses in arrangements to create interesting lines.

So think outside the box and see what’s available in your landscape.   What you find in the garden may surprise you, and what you do with it can wow your guests.

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