Greetings from the flower alphabet think tank! This week, I thought to feature a quirky little bloom that is primarily used as an accompaniment in arrangements. “K” is for kangaroo paw! You can see the fuzzy paw-like flower above, nestled in among other friendly blooms. A native of Australia, the kangaroo paw got its name in the most literal way — it has a downy feel (like fur!) and is shaped like the paws of that beloved marsupial. Kangaroo paw are relatively easy to grow — they like full sun and good drainage — and are often found in xeriscape gardens in southern California and similar climes. Despite their exotic provenance, many flower shops and plant stores carry these flowers.
In the image above, you can see the ends of each bud open up to reveal the tiny “fingers” of the paw. Kangaroo paw come in a range of earth tones — green, red, orange, yellow and brown — and often have subtle “painted” two-tone colors. This variety is a beautiful gray shade with a hint of rose pink on the stem and base. For the arrangement that follows, I selected flowers inspired by the peachy pink secondary tone.
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I started with a pedestal vase that has a bulbous shape but a relatively small opening. This makes designing much easier, as the smaller opening will hold the stems tight and assist with the structure. I added some wild greens — fragrant rosemary and delicate fern — to create a foundation for the blooms.
I have layered the greens here to cover the opening of the vase completely. When we start to add individual flower stems, this tight framework should hold the blooms in place. Experiment with the right amount of greens for whatever vase you select, and don’t be afraid to pull them out and start again if things aren’t filling in properly.
I added five coral peonies. I envisioned this arrangement as a bit loose and romantic, so as I built with each flower, I used only a few blooms initially and allowed them to jut out and drape naturally. As you continue with each successive flower, you can always fill in open spaces.
These rich, pink peonies are called “K”ansas peonies — I just thought I would mention that :) Notice how the bloom above stands up proud and tall in the nest of greens. You can place the blooms just exactly where you want them if the greens are working for you.
Now tulips and ranunculus enter the scene. I typically start adding in odd numbers — threes or fives. I have selected big-headed “face” flowers to fill up this arrangement, so when we finally add the spindly kangaroo paw, it will be optimally visible.
Above, another close look at the nest of greens. Look, even the lazy tulips are fastened tight in there!
After filling in with the robust blooms, I added the kangaroo paw. I decided to use it two ways: sitting low and tight among the other blooms and making a statement up high with a tall flourish. The stem of the kangaroo paw is very clean, straight and tough, so adding it to the arrangement is easy; it fits right in between the other flowers.
I also added more greens here and there for texture.
I can see this working as a centerpiece for an Australian garden wedding. Any and all Australian readers who feel they must bring me down to do their wedding flowers should know that I would seriously consider it :) Although, you will obviously have to wait until I finish up with Wills and Kate at the end of April (wink, wink).
See you back here in two weeks when “l” will be for . . .