A Passion for Purple Flowers
Our latest Notes from a Flower Farm column, by Marigold and Mint, is a beautiful series of bouquets, all made with purple flowers. Whether arranged in groupings of single specimens or layered in a hand-tied bouquet in a range of tonal hues, these purple flowers are showcased in all of their glory in these gorgeous arrangements. Plus: Tips and tricks for keeping violet flowers at their best.
My bedroom is pale purple, and I think it just might be my favorite color. I hesitate to write this as purple often finds itself in places that are dusty and Miss Havisham-ish—think dried hydrangeas on a parlor table, next to a lace doily–covered sofa.
But to me, purple is like blue’s sexy sister, bearing mystery and mischief. There’s no better way to tease out the depth of purples than by combining its shades in the garden and in arrangements, from the palest purple of muscari azureum to the darkest purple of black knight scabiosa.
Marigold and Mint is an organic farm, a retail shop, and a studio. The farm is situated along the Snoqualmie River, about 30 miles east of Seattle and the shop is located in the Melrose Market on Capitol Hill in Seattle, Washington. Founded in 2008 by owner Katherine Anderson, Marigold and Mint reflects her lifetime love of flowers and landscapes. Trained as a landscape architect, she brings her affection for both clean and clear design and intricate patterns to Marigold and Mint.
This is my first year growing anemomes and right now my hoop house is glowing purple. With these flowers, the most satisfying thing to do is to create an arrangement with only anenomes.
Here, I have put them in an old white metal milk jug, as well as in purple and green glass jars—plus a posy in a Yellow Owl ceramic trophy vase. The dark centers on the partially closed blooms look like black holes; in contrast, the faint streaks of purple on the whitish purple ones are a charming delight.
Constance Spry, arguably the first superstar florist (to the Duke of Windsor, among others), warned that with purple flowers you must consider where they are going. In Flower Decoration (1933), she wrote how beautiful purple flowers are against a “white room...on a pale-green table...against pale yellow brocade,” but put your “purple poppies in a brown room, and all the thrill is gone.” So the white milk jug and colored glass work well, as would a white wedding gown.
As with the anemone, I also made a simple arrangement of all-purple hydrangea. With grouping posies of different heights, the key in the arranging is to stagger the heights so that you can see all of the flowers, without making a stiff tower of blooms. When a flower has a face, such as with the anemones, you can position the faces such that there is a sense of movement and connection among them; with a flower like hydrangea, nestle the stems tight against each other to create one lovely mass.
I also created several arrangements of hellebores in different shades of purple. Keep in mind that hellebores can be fussy as a cut. It helps to plunge them into scalding water to sear the bottom just after they are harvested, and then transfer them to tepid water. Once they’re hydrated they will stay strong for weeks; it’s just that sometimes there are a few in the bunch that won’t hydrate properly from the beginning. I give up on those stems and pull them out of the arrangement to throw away.
In the shop this week we were making bridal bouquets in creams, greens, and purples. I used my dark hellebores for the bride, their nodding quality imparting a soft loveliness, much like the bride herself.
Even if you aren’t doing wedding flowers, a quick hand-tied bouquet is an easy way to mix a handful of purple flowers in a vase. We did two in the shop, one with a pale base and the other with a dark base.
The bouquets contain essentially the same elements, just in different shades: 1 to 2 hydrangea stems, 3 hyacinth stems, sprigs of agonis, and 3 to 7 anemomes flowers.
For the dark bouquet we added extra agonis and deep maroon begonia leaves.
As I explained in detail in my post about yellow arrangements, a hand-tied arrangement involves starting with your primary sturdy flowers (in this case, the hydrangea) and then layering in the other blooms, criss-crossing the stems as you continually turn the bouquet in your hand.
There are lots of other sweet things to do with purples this time of year and into the spring. Purple oxalis, cut from the plant, (above) is a nice alternative to green shamrocks in March. Allium in spring is a treat, though I quickly tire of the gigantic blooms, but never of the chestnut-sized drumstick allium in black purple. And who doesn’t adore lilacs?
But perhaps what I love most of all are the delicate and fragile purple flowers that are all starting to poke up in my garden right now: pansies, primroses, fragrant violets, violas, and crocuses. They seem so brave, emerging before the winter is truly over, tiny against the still fierce winds.