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flowers a-z: d is for dusty miller

by SarahB

Hello, flower fans! For this round of Flowers A–Z, I have selected a delicate adornment, as opposed to a traditional bloom: dusty miller (senecio cineraria).

The color and texture of dusty miller, with its silvery soft, felt-like leaves make the perfect complement to either muted or bold-hued flowers. Dusty miller is native to arid climates like Africa and the Mediterranean and is available year-round in most places. It can bloom on the plant with little yellow blossoms, but the ornamental leaves are the true stars, in my view.

Today I will use dusty miller with single-flower arrangements, but it is highly versatile and can be used as a “green” or accent in a mixed arrangement just as easily.

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You can see that a simple grouping of dusty miller alone would make a lovely arrangement.

Or a little bud vase with just a few sprigs to accompany some hors d’oeuvres at your next gathering?

Below I will feature three different pairings for dusty miller. The first is a sophisticated classic — gorgeous blood-red black baccara roses with dusty miller.

Select a “showpiece” vase for this arrangement, something crystal or cut glass.

Gather a grouping of chunky roses in a bold color. They don’t have to be roses and they don’t have to be red, but try using a very round-shaped bloom in a saturated hue to contrast with the pale gray.

Make sure the roses are cleaned well, stripped of all thorns and every last leaf, and as always, cut at an angle with a sharp implement. For this arrangement, you can place the roses in the vase individually, creating a structure as you go, or you can cheat and simply create a bouquet in your hand, measure against the vase, cut the stems and plunk right in the water!

Dusty miller can have some stray leaves toward the bottom of the stems, which you can strip if they are going to fall below the water line.

After you have arranged or “plunked” your gathering of roses in the vase, begin to tuck individual stems around the roses to form a “collar” all around the vase. I prefer the roses in a tight “pave-style” modern cluster in an arrangement like this.

The great majesty of the red roses is highlighted by the soft, gray collar.

I truly love this contrast.

View from above — you can see that I have arranged the roses at slightly varying heights (even within basically the same plane) to lend a bit of texture and movement to the arrangement.

The second pairing is dusty miller with a “dusty” terra-cotta container and “dusty” purple roses.

This design is so simple — just use the gathering of dusty miller to fill the container and place the roses among the leaves. These roses appear to be growing from the dusty miller. This look has a country-garden feel.

Pale and calming hues.

The last pairing is dusty miller with wild and spiky blue thistle. The soft dusty miller leaves juxtaposed with the sharp, electric blue thistle create an unusual look. Be careful handling the thistle. Grab the stems toward the bottom and avoid touching the bristles! Do make an effort to clean the excess leaves from the stems that will fall below the water line.

Tuck the thistle in patches in and around the dusty miller. Here, you might experiment with a looser shape. I have kept it more controlled in my design, but play with the thistle (or any similar wildflower) to see if you like some taller pieces pulled up from the dusty miller.

Love this “cool” palette.

Be sure to meet back here in two weeks when “e” will be for . . .

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