Cut flowers on the table make even the rudest meal feel like a special occasion. (Mac and cheese out of a box suddenly seems more whimsical than dire when you’re face-to-face with cheerful sweet peas.) Proper floral arrangements, from a florist, are shockingly expensive these days; and the flowers in the cooler case at the grocery store, in their cellophane cones, are not priced for everyday use, either. What grows in your yard and along the side of the road, however, is free.
Jam usually comes in pint and half pint jars, so flowers should be sized appropriately. This is a rustic tradition so I prefer to use species that are native (or naturalized to) roadsides, hedgerows, and granny-style gardens (in other words: weeds). But there’s no reason that you can’t use intentionally grown flowers from your own beds. You can mix and match if you come up short but jam jars usually display a stout handful of a single variety. Ideal flowers for this purpose include:
alliums (ornamental varieties)
clover (white and red)
lily of the valley
monarda (bee balm)
pansies & violas
roses (small-flowered varieties)
Just about anything that grows from a bulb (crocuses, crocosmia, daffodils, grape muscari, irises, tulips, snowdrops . . .)
Larger flowers, with which you can make a single-blossom “bouquets”:
bells of Ireland
Queen Anne’s lace
st. john’s wort (we had these in our wedding)
almost any kind of fern
Be sure to experiment! I have made a number of successful, attractive arrangements out of flowers I snipped off of plants I had pulled and tossed in the compost. Weeds are free so if the arrangement wilts after half an hour there’s no harm done.
Now that I think I have the logistics of vegetable gardening mostly figured out I am spending a little more time on my ornamental garden. With the help of a handy Martha Stewart book I snagged at the thrift store (The Best of Martha Stewart Living: Arranging Flowers) I’m working on a plan that will allow me to have cut flowers year round from plants I can grow very cheaply from seed. When (read: if) I finish it I will share it here.