Fresh Clips: Herb Bouquets

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Photo by Rina Lyubavina
Because so many plants—even those closely related to edible ones—can be toxic, be very careful with edible flower bouquets. Never mix in unknown flowers.

Many of the plants that we think of as herbs and edible flowers are lovely in herb bouquets. An herb-and-flower arrangement will be a fragrant and utilitarian addition to your kitchen counter. You can pluck leaves from the plants for cooking or garnishing plates while enjoying their beauty as you prepare the meal.

Herbs and Flowers for Bouquets

These edible herbs and flowers hold up well in the vase and should, in combination, provide you with bounteous herb bouquets over a long season:

ANISE HYSSOP (Agastache foeniculum) is a member of the mint family and is a tender perennial that self-seeds. Both the foliage and the flowers have an anise scent. The foliage is a bit coarse, but the lavender flowers are quite nice in edible flower bouquets.

BASIL (Ocimum basilicum) varies in usefulness as a cut flower. The large-leaved green varieties wilt quickly, but some of the smaller-leaved varieties will hold up for days. Dark opal basil, with purple-and-green-streaked foliage, is a good choice. So are cinnamon basil and ‘Oriental Breeze’.

BERGAMOT (Monarda didyma), also called monarda,belongs to the mint family and has bright, shaggy flowers that grow in whorls around the stem. The foliage has a minty, citrusy flavor.

CALENDULA (Calendula officinalis) has yellow or orange flowers, and a sprinkling of calendula petals is a popular garnish. Grow one of the tall cultivars such as ‘Prince’ or ‘Kablouna’.

CHIVES (Allium schoenoprasum) produce lovely purple or pink chive flowers that bloom in early spring. Garlic chives (A. tuberosum)have starry white flowers in late summer. The blooms of either type can be pulled apart and the florets sprinkled on salads or soups for a chive or garlic flavor.

DILL (Anethum graveolens) produces a round head of tiny yellow flowers. A variety of the common dill weed used for pickling is sold as a cut-flower filler.

FENNEL (Foeniculum vulgare) is anise-scented and makes an airy bouquet filler.

LAVENDER (Lavandula spp.) is traditionally used in perfumes and soaps or, dried, in sachets. But it also has a place in the kitchen and can be used sparingly in baked goods, sauces and condiments. ‘Lavender Lady’ blooms the first year from seed, but its dwarf stature makes it useful only in small edible floral arrangements. English lavender (L.angustifolia)is considered the best for eating, but other lavenders work, as well.

MINTS (Mentha spp.) hold up well in water, and there are many flavors and fragrances to choose from. Be careful where you plant, because they will run wild.

NASTURTIUM (Tropaeolum majus) is widely used as an edible flower, and its peppery, round leaves are often added to salad mixes. In the vase, the flowers will last only two or three days, but the attractive foliage will last for up to two weeks. Grow a tall variety, such as ‘Jewel’.

OREGANO (Origanum spp.) is a terribly misunderstood genus. Several species and many varieties go by the common name oregano, but their appearances and flavors vary widely. O. vulgare, called wild oregano or marjoram, is best for herb bouquets.

SAGE (Salvia spp.) is an important ingredient in herb bouquets. Common garden sage (S. officinalis)has pebbly silver-green leaves that look wonderful in bouquets anytime, and its purple flowers in early spring are particularly attractive as cut flowers.

Lynn Byczynski operates Wild Onion Farm in Lawrence, Kansas. Excerpted from The Flower Farmerby Lynn Byczynski, copyright 2008, reprinted with permission from Chelsea Green.

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