Garden Bouquets with Suzy Bales:
Review and Giveaway


THE WINNER, randomly chosen, is Katie at The Garden of Words, who predicted she’d probably have to buy the book. Well, guess not.

First, some photos from Garden Bouquets and Beyond by Suzy Bales of arrangements I might actually achieve.


Hakonechloa grass looks great with blue or purple, including this lupine but also aster or salvia.

I’m going to buy this cool contraption of attached vials.  It’s adjustable, and just last week I saw one bunched up in a circle and filled with 2-foot-tall forsythia branches- magnificent!  Also easy-peasy.

Another simple one of Alchemilla (Ladies Mantle) and clematis columbine.
Got berries?  I have plenty and could pull this off, I think.

My favorite things about Garden Bouquets and Beyond

  • All seasons are covered.
  • Cool techniques for arranging, including some unconventional ones, plus garlands, mock topiaries, even mini-trees, and how to coax buds to open.
  • Ideas for using not just the predictable flowers but also vines, foliage, shrubs and tree branches.
  • The myth of smashing stems is debunked; the importance of floral preservative is confirmed.

Suzy tells me that what’s most important to her, and the inspiration for this book, is to get people outside this time of year – because you can really see your garden when it’s bare.

How to win the book
Just tell us in a comment something a little unusual you do with your plants.  Contest ends at 9 pm EST tomorrow, when the winner will be chosen randomly.

Top photo by Steven Randazzo.  Other photos by Suzy Bales.


  1. I’m not sure it counts as unusual but when I’m collecting flowers for bouquets, I like to make some for my outdoor tables as well.

    That book sounds fantastic!

  2. Joseph is absolutely right–those are columbines. There’s a typo in the second to last paragraph, too (missing word).

    I like to include foliage in bouquets. Hosta leaves, in all their shades of yellow, green, or white, can add a lot to a bouquet. Red Japanese maples can also add an unusual touch. Tall, upright blades of grasses are also great.

    Whenever I prune my parents Japanese maples I don’t have the heart to mulch the branches immediately, so most end up going in tin watering cans and large vases that get positioned around the house and deck.

  3. I don’t think it is very unusual, but I also like to use tree/shrub branches in arrangements. They are especially useful when you are making a ‘public’ arrangement, like for church, when you want a substantial arrangement. Foliage can vary so much in color and texture to give interest. The book looks wonderful!

  4. My unusual flower arrangement came from an effort to de-clutter my home. I have an old cut glass punch bowl and cups that I know I will never use. So now I make tiny flower arrangement in the cups and give them away. Sometimes I give a trio of cups, for a more dramatic effect.

  5. Whether it’s my indoor or outdoor plants, I like to name them (Rose the Jade, Samantha the Ficus), and cheer them on “Groooooowwwww.” Yes, I’m an anthropomorphic dork – if admitting that helps me win that awesome book, then it’ll be well worth it! (And if I don’t win, thanks for showing those arrangements – gorgeous!)

  6. I love the idea for this book! I walk past flower stands in NYC daily with bunches and bunches of boring, chemicalized flowers, waiting patiently to pick something from the garden. It’s spring when I can float some gorgeous hellebores in a small crystal bowl…in fact, that day is visible down the pike and I’m getting excited!

  7. Something that seems to have helped my arborvitaes survive the snow storms we have had is tying the tops loosely so that the weight of the snow did not bend the branches down.

  8. I enjoy creating arrangements with found objects, expecially antique objects, and not necessarily of great worth. I’m guided by the flowers chosen, and the place where the flowers will be enjoyed. It’s specially fun to use objects that provoke questions and invite more inspection. Sunflowers for example display well with rustic gardening equipment or old containers. Your Garden Bouquets and Beyond book looks very inspiring! Hope to read.

  9. I take pruned branches from the neighbor’s pine trees (the part that goes over the fence) and ‘plant’ them in a bucket to decorate as a Christmas tree.

  10. I have mini roses growing outside, and a collection of cut glass saltshakers to put them in- the scale is just right.

  11. If your cut tulips from the flower market are a bit droopy, pierce the stem just under the flower, all the way thru, place in water and your tulips will perk up. I didn’t believe it till I tried it and it seems to work.

  12. Really, really liked the tube vase. At least I did right up until I found it and saw the price–gasp! I think I’ll hit up a cheap scientific-supply place for flat-bottomed test tubes and figure out my own linking system or just arrange them in a test tube rack to my own liking.

  13. I collect tiny little glass bottles-each just big enough for one flower sprig. Beginning with the first spring flowers-snow drops, crocus, hellebore, primrose, lungwort, bleeding heart- I put one each in a bottle and line them up on my kitchen window sill over my sink. I keep the little bottles filled all season long with tiny treasures from the garden. I enjoy them a zillion times a day-seeing them much more often than larger mixed arrangements elsewhere in the house.

  14. I grow a wall of moonflowers & morning glories on a swath of chicken wire that is suspended on one side of my porch. It makes for a cool spot on a hot afternoon.

  15. And to think, I was using one of Suzy’s other books, The Garden in Winter, for inspiration! Now I’ll have to change that!
    I have a collection of small vases left over from my wedding. I use them to collect small scented flowers–muscari, lilies of the valley, smaller roses–and to place them where I can enjoy them most: on my desk, by the computer, next to the bed and in the bathroom. that way I always have fragrant flowers nearby!

  16. I do agree that the vase d’Avil, the line of glass tubes is outrageously priced. I looked at it for months in Takashimaya, a Japanese department store before I bought it. Then I discovered it was French and cheaper at Conrans. I don’t for a minute regret having bought it. I have had it for 15 or more years and i use it all the time. In the summer it lives on the outdoor dinning table and it is always filled with flowers. It is easy to use and always directs the attention to the flowers themselves.
    I have also seen plastic copies that are inexpensive
    so it might make sense to look for one of these. Otherwise, I simply suggest lining up similar small glass vases for the same look. There are actually 20 glass tubes in the vase d’Avil. They can be all used or it can be shortened.

  17. I love all of Suzys books, but especially The Garden in Winter.
    I use fruit in my arrangements, I especially like grapes dripping over the edge of a compote dish, or citrus fruit tucked in. If the fruit is on a branch it is so much nicer.

  18. I’m more of a Daniel Ost kind of floral arranger that uses a lot of non traditional accouterments to build up the architectural stature of the form work/ vases.
    I’ve used a collection of empty bird nests to create a vignette and planted them with broccoli, echiveria and rose hips.
    At this time of year when the citrus trees are heavy with fruit a halved lemon makes a nice looking natural vase when planted with a cluster of purple grape hyacinths, tied with natural rafia.
    But my all time tried and true interesting ‘vase’ is to line the inside of a simple glass tumbler with a variegated striped phormium leaf.

  19. I have an 8 candle holder which I bought at Crate & Barrel at Christmas some years ago. Its base is an S curve with 8 graduated height stems with cups to hold votives. During the year, I remove the candles and use the glass votive cups for individual small flower arrangements. I sometimes use ivy to twist around the stems of the holders and put a single flower in each cup, or lift little bulbs like snowdrops and put one bulb and some earth in the cup — the snowdrops last longer that way. And it’s pretty to leave a couple of the candles there, among the flowers.

    In another life I was an event coordinator and I once ordered dogwood branches to put in large terracotta oil jars for an early spring event. When the dogwoods arrived from the south, they were most sincerely dead, and my assistant and I went off (high heels, black suits and all) to the dump behind a local old folks’ home. We took loppers and trimmers, and managed to gather enough budding branches from the assorted trash trees to fill the very large pots for four buffet tables. They were really beautiful and fitted the event very well. The caterer was so impressed he wanted to know who was the florist.

  20. One idea I got from somewhere that people always seem to comment on, is to use a hosta leaf to line a clear glass vase-wrapped around the inside, hiding the stems. It glams up a plain container. Thank you for the look at the new book, great fun ideas!

  21. I don’t do anything particularly exciting when it comes to plant arrangements. I have an old milk bottle in my kitchen, slowly fading into lavender, that I like to fill with colorful twigs in late winter. We don’t have any winter-flowering plants, but bright green, red, orange-ish, yellow-green and dark shrub and tree twigs brighten the place up, add a little color and remind me that Spring is on its way.

  22. In a florist shop once I saw large hosta leaves on long stems overlapped in a vase, like flower petals. I tried copying it, and with identical big leaves of thick substance, this looks great and lasts a long time.

  23. I put evergreen boughs from my Xmas tree in pots in front of my house for winter greenery and interest-not very unusual but makes me happy and I get to enjoy some of my tree well beyond the holiday season.

  24. Here at Alkali Flats, anything that needs low pH soil goes into large pots in the garden. I found some half wine barrels from Oregon and planted blueberry bushes in low pH potting soil. They sit outside a picture window for year round viewing pleasure.

  25. Looks fabulous – another “great idea” book from Suzy!

    Unusual? One tall glass vase within optimum viewing from the bathtub…with one or two seasonal flowers – daffodils, tulips, a lilac sprig, or roses. Aaaah.

  26. I fill a hollowed-out, dead tree stump each season with annuals. The stump is a third extension of an oak tree. The other two portions are doing fine, so rather than risk the rest of the tree by trying to get rid of the stump, I try to hide it. It’s worked out well for me so far.

  27. The most “unusual” things I do with my plants actually has to do with the smaller neighborhood kids. I live on a corner and they always seem to find their way to whatever I have flowering, while waiting at the bus stop for their siblings. I have shown them how to “make it snow”. They pull off the dead blossoms on my shrub roses and other flowering shrubs and toss the petals in the air like snow. Now my flowers get the deadheading they need and the kids leave my pretty new blossoms alone. It is a win/win situation and makes my garden enjoyable for others too. 🙂
    The same small children also like to help me plant new things in spring. They get to feel very helpful and can see what they have planted as it grows each day. If it is something that flowers, I will make sure they have a flower to go home with them. I can’t tell you how many Mom’s have been very thankful to not have to chase their kids to keep them out of the street, and I get a little bit of help. Another win/win!!

  28. Something unusual to do with your plants? I shower with some of them in winter. The first time I did it my boyfriend couldn’t figure out why there were leaves and dirt all over the tub, but he knows me pretty well by now.

    When I was a little girl visiting my grandmothers I would always go outside and try to find flowers for her – even if there was snow on the ground. My mother has told me she was always amazed I always found something to bring in to my MomMom so she could put it in a vase.

  29. I can’t exactly take credit for this, but my boss does ikebana and has been bringing great arrangements to the office. Sometimes the branches even sprout new buds in the vase! It definitely brightens up our beige office corridors, and is a great conversation-starter.

  30. I don’t do much indoor floral arrangements. I like to enjoy them outside. Plus the indoor felines are too fascinated by the outdoor stuff and the containers of water and make a mess. I do have an old cracked McCoy yellow vase that sits in the kitchen window. It has always been the daffodil vase. One of my childhood evnvies was a friend who had a tiny hand blown glass vase swirled with purple. It was only used for violets. I coveted that little vase.

  31. Two suggestions- the brightest red geraniums(pelargoniums) surrounded by solid green hosta leaves in a shallow bowl. Then as I tramp through the woods here in southen Ontario with the dog, almost anything that sticks up out of the snow comes home and gets dried and put in a collection of old tea pots.
    Barbara B

  32. I have a collection of cobalt blue vases that I like to group together with old mason & jelly jars & vintage soda bottles. When the mood strikes, I put whatever is available in them. My current arrangement is the recently-pruned branches from my plum tree. The arrangement is so simple, but it makes me smile every time I see it.

  33. Ooooohhhhh GOODY! I’m so excited!

    Thanks everyone!

    I WILL do something interesting with my flowers this spring and post it on my Bloom Day blog, to be worthy of receiving the book!


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