Today is Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD), hosted by Christina at Garden of the Hesperides.
I decided to diverge from reviewing my garden this month, as winter foliage here looks very similar to last year’s January GBFD entry, and instead concentrate on some leaves I learned about this week during a floral design class. I do not grow any of these plants, but I have become interested in adding plants to pbmGarden with foliage that would be usable in flower arrangements.
The workshop teacher purchased these materials from a florist or wholesaler. She encouraged us to take home leftovers, so I have examples of four leaves. The point of using these particular leaves in our class was to experiment with leaf manipulation. (Leaf manipulation is a very cumbersome term I think.) In contemporary floral design it refers to altering the shape of the leaf through techniques such as rolling, folding, trimming, braiding to create a more abstract shape.
Aspidistra (Cast Iron Plant)
Aspidistra elatior is a commonly grown shade plant with dark evergreen leaves. Many new species are becoming available. There are amazing patterns found in the variegated forms. This a plant I never would have become interested in growing until I started working with it in flower arrangements, but now I wonder if I can find a shady spot to try it.
Aspidistra leaves are versatile in flower design. They are glossy and thick with strong spines and hold up well to being manipulated or altered. I photographed the leaves alongside a 16-inch ruler.
I first heard of fatsia a few years ago through reading garden blogs. Fatsia is in the aralia family (Araliaceae). It seems to like shade although I came across some reports of it growing in sun. Although rated hardy only to zone 8 (my garden is zone 7b), I have seen it growing outdoors in this area. As I am entirely unreliable when it comes to pruning, I worry about the mature size of this plant in my garden, even if I could find partial shade. It grows 6-10 feet wide and high.
Fatsia leaves are large, with an interesting palmate shape that makes them useful for flower arrangements. In contemporary design some or all of the lobes might be trimmed to create an unexpected element.
Arecaceae (Fan Palm)
I don’t really know which fan palm we used in class and there is no use in me guessing (illustrates the need to use botanical name over common name). One tidbit I did learn while researching is that Sabal palmetto, which I have always known as palmetto palm, is also commonly referred to as fan palm. Sabal palmetto is native from North Carolina to Florida. It might be nice to have palm leaves outside in the garden to use for arrangements, but currently I have no plans to add a palm to the garden. My sisters have them in their Fayetteville, NC garden.
According to my instructor fan palms are frequently used around Easter time in church arrangements. For contemporary flower design, one example of altering a fan palm might be to cut the fan-shaped leaf in half and use a section turned on its side.
Xerophyllum tenax (Beargrass)
Beargrass leaves are popular in flower arranging. In arrangements these are effective when groups of leaves are held firmly at the base and the tops are allowed to drape softly down, but for a more contemporary feel they can be bunched together and tied, looped, braided or otherwise manipulated. They have finely serrated edges and are rough to the touch.
Native to the Pacific Northwest, beargrass is harvested by Native Americans for basketry. Interestingly the flowers look amazing.
This was a rather offbeat GBFD post. By the end of February I should be back out in my own garden, maybe with an aspidistra. Thanks to Christina for hosting GBFD on the 22nd of each month. Visit her at Garden of the Hesperides to discover what foliage displays she and other garden bloggers are featuring today.