Mixed Fruit: Blend Flowers and Produce in Arrangements
Fruit and vegetables look gorgeous in the garden and even better on the plate, so why do we only think of flowers and leaves when it comes to floral arrangements?
"Your garden harvest can be so much more than your evening meal," says Stefani Bittner, co-author of The Beautiful Edible Garden (Ten Speed Press). "When we look out at all the beautiful fruit and vegetables in our gardens, it's easy to see how lovely they can be in an arrangement."
Move over gerbera daisies: tomatillo branches are moving in on your territory. Here's a seasonal snapshot of the beauties Bittner and partner Leslie Bennett use to create naturally notable arrangements:
"After a long winter, we are so excited to use flowering fruit tree branches like apple, pear and quince," Bittner says. "Pea tendrils, artichoke, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, flowering herbs and mint are all stunning when combined with spring blooms."
Bittner suggests mixing raspberry and blackberry branches with blooms, plus other stems of plants that break off in the garden. "There are times when vegetables get too big for a space or the weight of their fruit breaks a limb in the summer garden," Bittner says. "Use trimmings from cherry tomatoes, pepper, eggplant and tomatillo plants in your vases, too."
"Fig and persimmon branches are two of our favorite fall cuts," Bittner says. "The large magnolia-like leaves of the persimmon turn a vibrant orange in the fall and make for a stunning seasonal arrangement."
Bittner and Bennett like to include lesser known ornamental citrus in their winter bouquets, like chinotto oranges, kumquats and Buddha's Hand citron. "If your climate doesn't allow for citrus to live outdoors in the winter, you can still grow them in containers," Bittner says. "Simply move them indoors during the colder months."
The key to a successful arrangement with fruit and vegetables is a sturdy stem. "We love artichokes, fruit tree branches like fig, pomegranate and persimmons and annual vegetable stems like cherry tomato and peppers for this reason. They are so easy to use!" Bittner says. "Just as you would remove the leaves of your flowers below the vase water line, do this with your edible plants, too.
Bittner and Bennett love branching out with their vases as well. "Vintage tin cans, canning jars, harvest baskets and wooden crates are all fun ways to go from garden to table," Bittner says. "And you don't always need a container — wreaths are a great way to display your harvest and celebrate the season!"
Reprinted with permission from The Beautiful Edible Garden by Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner (Ten Speed Press, 2013).
- 20 stems of seasonal greenery
- 12-inch wire wreath frame
- Medium-gauge paddle wire
- 5–8 small-to-medium size succulents
- 5–10 pieces of 20-gauge 12-inch straight floral wire
- 15–25 small-to-medium size persimmons
- 10 berry sprigs
Start by cutting down large branches so that you’re working with pieces of greenery that are 5–10 inches in length.
Make small mixed bunches in your hand using 4–5 pieces of the seasonal greenery (we used bay laurel and privet berry).
Lay the small bunches on the wreath frame and wrap the paddle wire around the bunches of greenery and the frame two or three times to make sure they are securely attached.
Continue making and attaching bunches, one on top of the next, until you’ve worked your way around the entire wreath frame.
To add on the succulents, begin by cutting them from the soil, leaving a small 1- to 2-inch stump to attach the wire to. You may need to remove a few lower petals to make the stump long enough to attach the wire. Wrap a piece of the 20-gauge wire around the stump two or three times making sure you leave 4–5 inches to attach it to the frame with. Tie the succulent onto the frame and twist the wire ends in place. Add two or three succulents in the same area for a clustered look.
The persimmons can be added in the same manner as the succulents. To attach the persimmons, begin by wrapping your 20-gauge wire around the base of the persimmons, and tie them in the same way as the succulents to the frame. You can add persimmons in just one spot to create a focal area, or cluster several small persimmons together in various places to mimic the clustered look of the succulents.
Tuck the berry sprigs into the wreath.