Using a Cutting Garden for Spring Flower Arrangements
Tulips, daffodils and other spring bulbs are excellent cut flowers and can be used to create beautiful spring flower arrangements for your home and to share with friends. We asked Debra Prinzing, from SlowFlowers and @myslowflowers, to compose a simple bouquet using flowers from her own home garden — in hopes you’ll be inspired to give it a try it yourself!
Gardeners are always eager for spring’s arrival. And nothing is more satisfying than seeing the first bright green tips emerge from the soil — in the very places where you planted bulbs five or six months earlier.
Spring bulbs such as tulips, narcissus, hyacinth and muscari all play a role in my small, suburban garden outside Seattle. I plant tulips and narcissus near the entry garden where I can see them coming and going. They remind me that the wet, gray days of late winter will soon give way to brighter (albeit probably still wet) spring days.
Bulbs also fill a number of containers on the backyard patio, serving as much-needed early color accents. I plant leftover bulbs in miscellaneous pots, with a single variety per pot. Once they’re in bloom I place them around the garden to distract the eye from bare spots.
A Three-Season Cutting Garden
In my backyard, there are four 4-by-8-foot raised beds, which I refer to as my “Slow Flowers Cutting Garden.” Everything in these beds is intended for floral arranging. During the summer, I grow loads of dahlias, glads and other summer bulbs. Last fall, I decided to use one of the raised beds as a spring bulb-production area.
Inspired by the flower farmers that I follow on social media, I planted the bulbs more densely than usual. The technique calls for digging a trench at least 12 inches wide and about 6-8 inches deep, and filling it with masses of bulbs, positioned shoulder to shoulder, in staggered rows. I arranged both tulips and narcissus in this way — similar to how I would space dollops of chocolate chip cookie dough on a pan.
When spring arrived, I could see the benefit of this production-style planting approach: beautiful bands of color moving from one end of the raised bed to the other. Planting each variety in a separate block also made it easier to provide extra support if/when it was needed.
By mid-April, it was time to start cutting and arranging. I invited photographer Missy Palacol (@missy.palacol on Instagram and @missypalacolphotography on Facebook) to spend a day with me, capturing images of the many ways spring bulbs benefit my garden — and my vases!
A Citrusy Palette of Tulips and Hyacinths
The colors in this arrangement were inspired by my apple green vase, a flea market find with no markings. The pottery glaze is so perfect for spring arrangements; in fact, this is the vase that appears (with tulips, of course) on the cover of my book Slow Flowers.
Because of the scale of my vessel, I knew this arrangement would be low-and-compact, allowing me to show off the blooms rather than the stems. Inside the vase, I used a vintage metal dome-style flower frog, anchored with floral adhesive.
For the design, I used a dark-to-light technique that generally places the darker-hued blooms close to the rim of the vase, while gradually adding tiers of medium-hued flowers, followed by the lightest blooms at the top.
Hyacinths anchor this arrangement and have just one companion: a vivid coral poppy, with its crepe-paper crinkled bud not quite open.
The next layer features a mix of two types of tulips in the pale yellow, apricot and salmon range. All of these varieties are new to me and I will definitely be reordering many of them this fall! They include flowers from Longfield Gardens’ Double-Bright Collection of petal-packed tulips that open to resemble peonies. For this arrangement I harvested the paler, yellow and apricot blooms (saving the red variety for a different project). I also added several Elegant Lady tulips, which have pointed, pale yellow petals with a streak of orange-pink.
For the final layer, I added some creamy white tulips from the Elegant White Collection. What I like about having a mix of varieties in a single color category is the variations in size and even petal hue.
My Do-Over Bouquet
A few days after my design session with Missy, the arrangement that I originally loved so much had become wacky and out-of-control. Tulips continue to “grow” after they are cut. To compensate for this, floral designers intentionally shorten the stems of tulips and nestle the flowers deeper into a bouquet.
On Monday, I took apart my Friday-made arrangement and assessed what I had to work with. The tulip and hyacinth stems still looked fabulous, as did the poppies and ranunculus. I tossed the scented geranium stems, clearly ready for the compost bin. The mint still looked great so I set that aside as an option.
Revamping a Tired Spring Flower Arrangement
Once I saw what I had to work with, I realized I could color-block in a new way. My first version with these citrusy and white flowers featured tiers of color moving vertically up the arrangement. My do-over also grouped each flower variety together by color, but achieved a more modern, low, draped effect.
I started by recutting all of the stems to bring the flowers back into alignment with the scale of the vase. The vivid double tulips now commanded the middle of the arrangement (by day four, they had a much fuller look). I draped the orange-pink-yellow lily tulips to one side and clustered all of the white tulips on the other.
To add another layer of texture and interest, I tucked in the remaining stems of white ranunculus and apricot hyacinths. I love this second arrangement, refreshed with a new color-blocking placement and a few stems of mint for a green accent.
I wound up liking this second arrangement even better than the first, and it lasted for another five days on my fireplace mantel. Arranging flowers is so much fun. It’s also a great opportunity to stretch your creativity and interact with flowers in an entirely new way. I hope you consider planting a spring cutting garden of your own!