Friends and Fresh Cut Flowers

This past Friday, two very pleasant things occurred at the Yupneck’s house;  an unexpected visit from my youngest daughter and the first formal dinner party hosted in our newly remodeled farmhouse (celebrating the “almost end” of a five year remodeling project).  While visits from the kids are always welcomed, it is those rare, unexpected drop ins that I love the most.  Whitney is a senior at North Texas University.  She is also a very talented floral designer.  While there, she found out that we were hosting the renowned Master of Horticulture, Dr. William C. Welch (Bill) and his lovely wife Lucille.  She asked if she could make us some arrangements from the garden for the dinner.  Of course I said a most enthusiastic YES!!!!!

Whitney grabbed some shears and left the house for about 20 minutes.  When she returned, she had a large bundle of flowers and foliage from just about every plant on my property.  It was a joy to watch her sort, strip and prepare these cuttings for arrangement.  What happened over the next fifteen minutes was truly amazing.  In less time than it takes me to brush my teeth, she created three incredibly lovely arrangements that I felt I had to share.

Arrangement for the yupneck's table. Made with things from my gardens by my lovely and talented daughter.

The first was a large arrangement that she made for the center of the table.  If you look closely, you will see hollyhocks, love-lies-bleeding, salvia, dried yarrow, coral honeysuckle and PURPLE HULL PEAS!  Who puts peas in a floral arrangement?  A young Master of Horticulture, that’s who.  This arrangement was stunning!  I wish my camera skills did it justice.

Close up of the table arrangement. Notice the use of purple hull peas and coral honeysuckle.

Next, she made a small arrangement for the bath.  This arrangement was built in a small water pitcher.  She incorporated  tatume’ squash, zinnias, love-lies-bleeding and southern wax myrtle foliage. 

Lovely arrangement using zinnias, amaranth and a tatume' squash.

Finally, she turned a vintage Mary planter into another stunning arrangement.  Here she used zinnias, salvia, wax myrtle foliage and iris leaves for effect.  Beautiful!

A vintage Mary planter featuring zinnias and salvia.

Whitney’s arrangements were the cherry on the top of the truly fabulous meal that my lovely wife prepared for the Welch’s.  Mrs. Yupneck created a carmalized onion and goat cheese appetizer, steak with bearnaise suace, stuffed summer squash and a tomato and balsalmic salad.  This was washed down with a lovely red brought by the guests and finished with a decadant “mudslide” dessert.  The evening was perfect.  My wife and daughter’s combined skills came together to create a dinner that was memorable for all.

The yupneck with his very talented floral designer daughter and his equally lovely and talented culinary wife.

P.S.  My daughter is a very talented floral designer.  She has started her own business in the DFW/Denton area.  She will be more than happy to give you a bid on events of any size.  To see more of her work you can check her out at Arbor Floral.

P.S.S.  Since the dinner was to celebrate the almost completion of our FIVE YEAR LONG remodeling project here is a picture of the entryway.

The entryway of "The Nest"


For me, growing new things is a big part of the fun in gardening.  Each year, I like to try at least one new vegetable and one new flower.  Sometimes the new things work out and sometimes they don’t.  This year, one of my flower experiments has yielded a keeper: Love-Lies-Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus).

Love-Lies-Bleeding flower heads just beginning to form

Love-Lies-Bleeding (and all amaranths for that matter) is easy to grow, tolerant of poor soils and incredible to look at.  In less than three months, mine have gone from seed to eye catching three foot tall plants covered in long red inflorescence that cascade almost down to the ground.  These plants have been grown for ornamental purposes for a very long time.  A. caudatus was included in a plant survey found in Colonial Williamsburg and it was very popular in Victorian English gardens.

Love-Lies-Bleeding is member of the amaranth family.  Amaranths are a diverse species with plants whose foliage and inflorescence range from yellow to red to deep purple.  In addition to producing very showy inflorescence, amaranths are edible.  Both the leaves and the seeds are harvested as food all over the world.  The leaves are used much like spinach and the seeds are used as grains.  However, since amaranths are not in the grass family, their seeds are gluten free.  Amaranth was a very important crop for both the Aztecs and the Inca.  To this day, the seeds are still “popped” like popcorn, mixed with honey, molasses or chocolate and sold as snacks on the streets of Mexico.

Up close on the developing flower head

The botanical name of Love-Lies-Bleeding derives from Greek and means “unfading flower”.  This is an accurate description as the flowers are very long lasting cut flowers and they can be easily dried  to extend the amount of time that you get to enjoy them.  For fresh flower arrangements, cut amaranths when ¾ of the flowers are open on the stem.  They will last 7-10 days in a vase.  If you want to dry them, harvest when the seed begin to set and the flowers are firm to the touch.  Cut and hang upside down for at least 10 days.  This is great for Texas as high heat during the drying process allows the flowers to better retain their color.

Love-Lies-Bleeding is easy to grow and extremely well suited for our hot Texas climate.  Plant seeds when the soil is around 70 degrees.  It is tolerant of both drought and poor soils.  In fact, too much nitrogen and the flowers will not be as bright.  Give it too much water and the plants may break.  Water deeply but infrequently.  It does not like wet feet.  Once it sprouts, thin to about 18” since it is not uncommon for these plants to reach five feet in height and spread to over two feet.

This is what the flower head looks like two weeks after the first picture was taken. Notice how the flower color has begun to fade. The soil in my potager has too much nitrogen for this plant that loves marginal soils.

Like all things that are easy to grow, Love-Lies-Bleeding does have its problems.  Since each plant can produce over 100,000 seeds, it can be a bit invasive (it is in the same family as pigweed).  However, when young, the plants have a shallow root system and are very easy to pull.  And, since I know I am going to have to pull weeds anyway, I might as well pull something that will grow into a beautiful plant if I miss it!