You may have noticed bouquets of native flowers recently decorating schools, libraries and other public places. To celebrate Native Plant Week, the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society encouraged members to cut native flowers from their gardens and display them where more people could appreciate them.
Approved last year by California legislators, Native Plant Week, held April 17-23, is designed to increase awareness of the beauty and importance of native plants.
To assemble your own native-flower bouquets next spring, some suggestions follow.
For flowers that last a week or more, plant Globe Gilia or Seep Monkey Flower anytime and keep them watered. If you let it go to seed, Globe Gilia will return on its own after the winter rains. In the fall, plant elegant Clarkia and Bird’s Eyes Gilia to harvest long-lasting cut flowers in the spring. Cut Clarkias when the top buds begin to open.
A subshrub whose cut flowers last at least a week is Sticky Monkey Flower. You may have seen this plant on steep road cuts covered with flowers. It’s a great plant for a well-drained spot that gets little to moderate water. Pinch it back lightly to keep it covered in flowers through summer – with lots to spare for indoor arrangements.
Flowers that last four to six days include Yarrow, Blazing Star, Single Leaf Onion and Hummingbird Sage.
Yarrow, widely available and easy to grow, can be dried for an everlasting bouquet. If you live near wildlands, select Yarrow grown from local seedstock. In suburbia, try Island Pink Yarrow from the Channel Islands.
Single Leaf Onion is available as a bulb from many seed and plant catalogs. It’s easy to grow and spreads readily from bulblets and seeds, so once it’s established, you will have plenty for cut flowers.
Most flowering natives prefer full sun, but Hummingbird Sage will flower in part or high shade. With water, it will spread through underground rhizomes. If you don’t want it to spread, harvest the leaves for a delicious tea or package the extras and give them away. In addition, try it as a dried flower.
To create a bouquet, begin with foliage. According to the local Native Plant Society, the following greens can last a week or so in bouquets.
• Shrubs – CoffeeBerry, creek dogwood, Coyote Brush
• Subshrub – Coyote Mint (before it flowers)
Add one to three types of flowers to the foliage, then, if needed, add a vertical accent with Blue wildrye grass, Common Scouring Rush or California Dutchman’s Pipe Vine.
Some natives that last only a few days as cut flowers, according to the society’s trials, include:
• California poppy – two to four days
• Arroyo Lupine – three to four days
• Ithuriel’s Spear – three days
• Black Sage – three days
If you have other natives blooming in your yard, try them as cut flowers. Choose young flowers and cut them in the morning.
For dried arrangements throughout the year, in addition to Yarrow and Hummingbird Sage, some of the more decorative native plant materials include:
• Shrubs/perennials – spicebush flowers, mountain mahogany feathered seeds, milkweed pods
• Sages – whorled stems of white, purple cleveland (and some cultivars/hybrids of cleveland)
• Buckwheats – dried flowerheads of Santa Cruz Island, California, Saint Catherine’s lace
• Grasses – flowering stalks of wild rye, grama grass, deer grass
• Vines – fluffy fruits of clematis