On the Cover 3

Invisible Picking

Scott Kunst shares his secrets for great bouquets-and a full qardi

THOUGH I’VE ALWAYS LOVED having flowers indoors, I used to hate to pick them. Our yard is small and I never wanted to diminish its beauty by picking anything, even in the abundance of spring. But gradually I discovered the joyful art of invisible picking–and, as a bonus, it’s made me a better gardener.

My first rule for invisible picking is “Small is beautiful.” You don’t have to ransack your garden for a huge bouquet. For example, I dig a small clump of snowdrops as soon as they start to bud. I tuck the clump into a pot and bring it inside for the year’s first blooms. Nothing says spring quite so radiantly, and when it’s finished blooming you can simply replant it in the garden. Little clumps of violets, Siberian squill, forget-me-nots, primroses, and Johnny-jump-ups work just as well, and all bring with them the inspiring fragrance of damp spring soil.

Small cut-flower bouquets also have a big impact. One of my favorite combinations is a few deep purple crocuses combined with a bloom or two of the miniature daffodil ‘Little Gem’ and the elfin, 400-year-old Due van Tol tulip ‘Red and Yellow’. Later in the season, try the silver-spotted leaves and pink-to-blue flowers of pulmonaria combined with white Anemone blanda. To spotlight a tiny bouquet, set it on an antique doily or place it where you can’t miss it–on the kitchen windowsill, perhaps–or cluster three together. If you’re short on vases, try a juice glass, doll teapot, or an old bottle dug up while gardening. Once you start looking, you’ll see possibilities everywhere.

A SIMPLE STRATEGY

You can bring spring indoors without feeling as though you’ve stripped the garden. Just follow Scott Kunst’s three basic rules:

  1. Small is beautiful.

    A bouquet doesn’t need to be big to say spring. A few cut flowers in an impromptu vase can make as strong a statement as an armful of blooms.

  2. One is plenty.

    Snipping a small sample from everything in bloom can add up to a striking and original combined bouquet.

  3. Pick the unexpected.

    Leave the usual choices intact in the t garden; bring subtler treasures inside.

My second rule is “One is plenty.” I want bouquets that reflect my garden, so I often start by circumnavigating my yard and picking one, two, maybe three of just about everything I see. Many times I’m surprised at how many interesting things I find– plants I missed as I previewed the possibilities from inside. That’s one of the benefits of cutting flowers for bouquets: it tunes you in to your garden more completely. I’ve also discovered in these wide-ranging bouquets some terrific combinations that I’ve later recreated in the garden itself. Best of all, with the “one is plenty” approach, you not only create bouquets that evoke the amazing abundance of nature, but your garden looks as though you haven’t picked a thing.

My final rule is “Pick the unexpected.” For example, have you ever cut hyacinths for a bouquet? I never had, until the Today Show asked us to send them blooms of all of our heirloom hyacinths. We cut and stuffed all sorts of colors into a couple of glass jars–and were astonished at how great they looked. Now I pick lush hyacinth-only bouquets every April. Chances are you’ve cut spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia and s: Japanese quince to bring inside, but subtler shrubs, trees, and vines can be even more interesting in a vase. Try a branch of red maple spangled with its bursts of fiery florets, or a few strands of Boston ivy when its 5 leaves are tiny and new. Including unexpected plants in your bouquets leaves more of everything else on display in your garden. What’s more, by looking for these hidden treasures, you’ll see all plants with new eyes and renewed enthusiasm. And isn’t that what spring–and gardening–is all about?–Scoff Kunst owns Old House Gardens Heirloom Bulbs (www.oldhousegar i dens.com), a mail-order source devoted to the 2 best bulbs from the 1950s back to the dawn of time. He gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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