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Decorating a fall wedding

Tomorrow my daughter Wendy is getting married. For colors, she chose warm purples and yellows, and green with a bit of brown in it. For floral decor: New England asters, daisy-type flowers, and ferns — from the gardens of family and friends.

Yellow flowers are easy, this time of year. Even limiting the choice to daisy-type flowers, I expect to see lots of black-eyed susans and zinnias, also Jerusalem artichokes, with their small-scale sunflowers. Maybe some 'Lemon Gem' marigolds, or late coreopsis. Or some of the new yellow echinaceas (the old-fashioned ones may be called "purple coneflower," but they're pink).

A new gaillardia called 'Fanfare' would be fun. It's a little off the side of Wendy's palette, combining deep yellows and tangerine oranges and russets... and it's not exactly a daisy — still the amazing shape of the flowers would fit the occasion: around the central disk, the ray petals radiate like miniature trumpets, each ending in a flare of four tiny mini-petals. Perfect for a celebration!

As I'm actually writing this, a week before you read it, New England asters have just started blooming. They'll give good contrast to the abundance of yellow. In a softer purple, one other trumpet-shaped flower in my garden tempts me — or rather a fanfare of them, standing boldly out from deeper-toned maroon scapes on my 'Sparkling Burgundy' hosta" (instead of drooping like most in that genus).

Bracken fern is plentiful, but it will need the stems seared when they're picked, to keep them from losing water and wilting.

For the cake, with plants pressed into the frosting, safety seems more important to me than the daisy shape: even though people are unlikely to eat the flowers, we don't want any problem traces left after the decoration's removed. Between when I write this and you read it, I hope my garland mums will bloom: they're a food crop, and the flowers are daisy-like. Other chrysanthemums however produce allergenic pyrethrins.

Johnny jump-ups have a long history of culinary uses; the saponins they contain are dangerous only in quantity. Their cheerful faces will add both yellow and purple.

Mature bracken is toxic (though the fiddleheads are edible). So for the "fern" on the cake, I'm contributing leaves of sweet cicely. Eminently edible, they taste like sweet licorice, and last well out of water. I'm glad for all the rain this year; they're holding on later than usual.


Photo by C.H. Clark - The leaves of sweet cicely sure look like a fern.


Text and photos © Copyright 2006 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 1 September 2006

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