Herbs for Late Spring and Early Summer Bouquets

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Need good-smelling, memory-building herbs for your fresh and dried bouquets? Late spring gardens in Maryland bring another round of unique scented greenery and color to your floral designs. Calendula, Feverfew, Soapwort, and Yarrow are on the docket this season.

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CALENDULA

Calendula (C. officinalis) are often called pot marigolds. Their bright yellow and orange blooms with 12”-18” stems are a hit in May and June bouquets. They have a sweet, citrusy scent. (Have you seen a calendula seed? Too cute-all curly and pokey.) Blooms should be cut when half opened and kept in cool water with a chlorine tablet to get a week vase life. Calendula are considered “dirty flowers” in the harvesting world and need chlorine in the water to keep it from getting murky. Another heads up: their stems are sticky, and they will get your snips and fingers gummy when you’re stripping and snipping. (But that’s OK because, as an herb, the oil is commonly used to treat eczema and psoriasis.) Calendula heads, when fully opened, can be dried using a dehydrator and their petals use for flower confetti!

FEVERFEW

Feverfew/Matricaria (Chrysanthemum parthenium) is a perennial often used in the garden to repel insects, but florists cannot resist their filler-flower talents and citrus scent. It used to be that all feverfew options looked like tiny daisy sprays on long stems, but now there are a half a dozen different types with and without the daisy look. Magic Single has the traditional daisy look; one or two layers of bright white petals around a gold center. Snow Ball and Virgo are all-white pompom versions. Sunny Ball sports only bright yellow buttons. Tetra White has many layers of white surrounding small orange centers in contrast to the Magic Lime Green which is almost all soft yellow centers and bears only a small halo of white.

Feverfew, like calendula and yarrow, needs a few drops of bleach (or a bleach tablet) to get a 7-day vase life. On the plus side, it dries well for wreaths and everlasting bouquets. Just bundle the stems and turn them upside down in a cool, dark, dry place.

SOAPWORT

Oh, baby, baby! Soapwort a.k.a. Saponaria has a slight mock orange scent. It can be grown as a hardy annual (Saponaria vaccaria) or as a perennial (S. officinalis.) It will reseed like crazy, so after growing this your first year, you will find yourself with a patch raring to go the next spring. The annual version looks like baby’s breath with small rounded petals sprays, whereas the perennial version looks wilder with longer, thinner petals. Both come in white and pink. The leaves are thin, the stems are long and straight. If you like that dainty look, Saponaria is for you. An herbal benefit: the juice from the fresh leaves will help itching skin conditions!

YARROW

An umbel flower, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) comes in white in the wild versions (very common in Maryland) but muted pink, peach, cream, rose, and lavender plus bright red, cerise, and pink in the hybrid ones. Cloth of Gold (A. filipendulina) has golden-yellow flower heads and is recommended for drying. Yarrow is easy to dry: snip any of the above with wide open faces, strip the foliage, and hang by their long stems in bunches. Farmers pick yarrow for fresh bouquets when they can see pollen. Any sooner and the flowers will wilt and/or not dry properly. The lanceolate leaves have a nice spicy scent. Vase life (again with a chlorine tab) is around 10 days- nice!
Every month I will try to add a few more herbs that have a nice scent, work in cut-flower bouquets, and can be dried for fall and winter creations. Using herbs is just another way of supporting your local flower farmers at Chesapeake Flower Exchange and making unique and scented designs for your Maryland and area customers.

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