How to Create Striking Bouquets

Using flowers and plants found right in your backyard.

Nothing says “hello, gorgeous” quite like an attractive bouquet greeting you in the morning or welcoming you back home after a long day. And even more great news—you don’t have to wait for a special delivery for fresh, beautiful arrangements. Creating a cutting garden at home is as simple as growing flowers, herbs, foliage—even vegetables—that cheerfully bring the outside in. Add a creative container, and in no time you’ll be snipping your way to summer smiles.

“The trend is toward more natural arrangements—like you just went out and picked a little this and that—not so refined and perfect,” says Dave Forehand, vice president of gardens at the Dallas Arboretum. He notes that home gardeners are also eschewing exotic, hard-to-grow plants in favor of varietals that can withstand a Dallas summer. 

For late spring and early summer, Forehand’s shade suggestions are caladiums that pop with flowers and other elephant ears that can stand out on their own or create a dramatic tropical backdrop. Sun-loving choices include ornamental gingers that also work well in tropical bunches; cleome, a prolific reseeding annual; and sunflowers, which are easy to plant and grow quickly. Hyacinth bean vines sport huge purple blooms that look great as cut flowers, and zinnias are colorful and easy to grow. Sturdy herbs such as rosemary and purple basil add color, texture, and fragrance. Flowering herbs may be past their prime in the kitchen, but they are great additions to your cut creations. Even hardy chard looks as good on the table as the plate. More on Forehand’s hit parade: Gladiolas, salvias, cosmos, celosias, globe amaranth, all of which flourish at different times through the spring and summer. Before planting, be sure to read growing instructions, check with a garden professional, or seek online advice at aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.

“Just picture an arrangement with bright-colored, easy-to-grow summer flowers sharing a vase together,” Forehand says. We know what you’re thinking: It’s easy for a trained garden professional, yes, but what about the rest of us? Not to worry. Even those with the palest of green thumbs can successfully grow enough plants to harvest pretty and simple bouquets. And if the idea of planning and growing your own is too daunting, fret not. You can still do this. “You’d be surprised what you can find if you go out into the yard and create your own arrangement. There’s more there than you think,” Forehand says.

Often the most pleasing aspect of a live arrangement can be familiar flora in unexpected places, says Nathan Johnson, creative director of GRO Floral & Event Design. Think those Knock Out roses need to stay on the bush? Not so. “I would let them speak for themselves,” he says. “I’ve got some wire vases that have little tubes; they’d look unbelievable in that.” 

Johnson knows that most of us don’t have a professional inventory at our fingertips, and you don’t need one. Still, the container’s a key consideration when making a commitment to cut florals.

“All you need are small little touches that tell a story, ‘I made that, I grew that,’” he says. “Only you know your style. Whether that’s midcentury, Hollywood glam, or rustic, find yourself a container that really shows off a single bloom really, really well. Or you could grab a wad of grass and it would look cool; the versatility of the container is super important.” 

Johnson keeps a greenhouse at home and gravitates toward succulents because of their sculptural character and survival instincts. Other favorites include moisture-loving hydrangeas, magnolia trees (for their leaves especially over the fragile blooms), and super-fragrant gardenias. 

Whether you have inherited a landscape or are starting from scratch, consider your environment your canvas. It can be a balcony with architectural containers, an arbor with lush hanging baskets, a sunny patio teeming with water-wise succulents, or a veritable English garden. Says Johnson: “You’re sitting on a gold mine, I promise.”

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