Monday, November 12, 2018

(Not) In a Vase on Monday: Thinking outside the vase

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, our In a Vase on Monday host, is celebrating the fifth anniversary of this popular meme.  Last week she challenged participants to put together something not in a vase.  I've previously used pumpkins, driftwood and teapots to support arrangements so I tried harder to come up with something different, with mixed success.  My first arrangement doesn't deviate far from my norm.  I used an old basket, tucking in 2 jam jars to hold the contents that required water.

The berries and the guava fruit can survive without water but everything else requires it

I mixed 2 kinds of berries.  The larger ones start out looking like tiny pumpkins but soon dry out, turn brown, and open to display sticky seeds.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Auranticarpa rhombifolium berries, noID guava fruit; Leucadendron 'Devil's Blush', Leucadendron 'Chief', Nandina domestica berries, Plectranthus scutellariodes 'Electric Lime' (coleus), and, in the middle, Rosa 'Joseph's Coat'


I also played around with a pair of concrete shoes my sister-in-law gave me years ago.

I'd planned to add flowers after planting the shoes with succulent cuttings (Aeonium arboreum and Crassula tetragona) but decided I preferred them just like this


My other idea started with the recognition that many of my bromeliads have vase-like structures to hold water.

This Nidularium wittrockia leopardinum illustrates the "storage tank" that collects water in many bromeliads


I use a bench surrounding our Magnolia tree in the front garden to display a variety of bromeliads and other potted plants.  On Sunday morning I filled the water tanks of 4 bromeliads with flowers.  In retrospect, I think the bromeliad arrangements would have been more attractive on their own rather than grouped together but I'd run out of time to fuss with them when I reached that conclusion.  As the nasty Santa Ana winds have started blowing again, it's not clear that these flowers will last long anyway.

This Aechmea fasciata (aka silver vase plant) holds stems of Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl' and Cuphea hybrid 'Starfire Pink'.  The larger pink flower stalk just visible behind the bromeliad's leaves is part of the plant itself.

Nidularium witttockia leopardinum made do with the feathery plumes of Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum'

Orange Aechmea blanchetiana was fitted out with Tagetes lemmonii, Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Correa 'Ivory Bells, and Lantana 'Lucky White' 

This was my biggest flop.  This noID Aechmea (possibly A. orlandiana 'Rainbow') hosts Erigeon 'Wayne Roderick', Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', Polygala fruticosa, and Osteospermum 'Violet Ice'.  It might have looked better without the busyness of the Gomphrena.


To see how other garden bloggers responded to Cathy's challenge, visit her at Rambling in the Garden.



Cathy's challenge was a nice distraction from the stresses of the past week.  First there was the tumult of the midterm elections; then a White House firing that raises concerns about where the political roller coaster is heading; then yet another mass shooting, this one close to home; and then wildfires.  The fires dredge up both apprehensions associated with living in a fire danger zone and memories linked to the 1993 fire that leveled my in-laws' home in Malibu.  We're some 50 miles from the nearest fire, currently burning unchecked in Malibu.  Thus far we've only had periodic whiffs of smoke; however, my brother and some friends in the West San Fernando Valley are uncomfortably close to the action.

My brother took this photo from a hill near his home on Friday night.    The last I heard, the so-called Woolsey Fire is only 10% contained.  (Photo used courtesy of Eric Peterson)


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


45 comments:

  1. You are definitely right about needing distraction from recent events. I think the fires are of great concern to many of us who may have friends and family in CA but also in the larger ecolgical/climate change sense. It is a very disturbing phenomenon to watch the number of devastating fires and natural disasters that CA has had. Love those shoes with succulents; absolutely perfect as they are. And the idea of filling those floral water wells with blooms is brilliant.

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    1. The frequency and scope of these fires have definitely increased with the deepening drought and the ever-climbing temperatures, Linda. The Camp/Paradise fire is particularly tragic as many of those people had little or no warning. I don't know what the long-term remedies may be but I'm very sure they're not to be found in improved forest management.

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  2. Your basket o' berries is very nice but dressing up the bromeliads is amazing. How clever of you to think of that! Love the concrete shoes! Just the thing one needs for swimming with the fishes! News of the wildfires had me thinking of you and am glad that you're currently safe. I hope your brother remains safe from the fire that's so close to him!

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    1. Ha! I never thought about the nefarious uses of concrete shoes. Was my sister-in-law trying to send a message, do you think? My brother and friends should be fine, at least as they avoid breathing the smoky air. My husband got a sore throat on Saturday just visiting a friend midway between our house and the fire because the air was so dirty.

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  3. What a fabulous pair of shoes. They really make a statement. I can see you had fun playing with ideas which is what it is all about. I do like the autumn colours in your basket but perhaps you don't get autumn colours as they are caused by cold I think! I think of you when I hear news about fires. The news is dreadful and seems to get worse everyday, I hope for some good news about the fires being contained soon.

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    1. I'm just looking again at that Coleus which is on Instagram as well. I did't think I was a fan of coleus. I really don't like the very bright garish ones but I think I might try some of the more subtle ones next year.

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    2. We used to get a bit of late fall/early winter foliage color, Alison, but even our "cool season" is now warmer than it was so foliage effects are few. I try to mimic it using plants that naturally contain some color or variegation. Coleus does very well here, at least if it's protected from excessive sun and wind, making it a natural choice as a filler element in arrangements. It's relatively easy to propagate too.

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  4. Oh they are all a delight, Kris - I too love the concrete shoes, just the sort of thing I would love to have in my own garden! And decorating your bromeliads is inspired - what a great idea! Strangeky, I really like the one you call a 'flop', which seems almost other-wordly. Good to know you are still safe from the fires, but you they are still not far away, are they? Hope your family and friends stay safe too.

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    1. The variegated colors of that last bromeliad are so strong, I thought maybe a simpler floral palette would've had more impact. The fires 50 miles to the north are unlikely to reach us. Our real risk is a separate fire as my area is also dry and filled with canyons, which make wildfire control more difficult. The local fire department conducts annual surveys to push dry brush clearance but poor judgement in managing fire sources can still set off a fast-moving blaze.

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  5. Kris, I've been concerned about you during these latest fires. Such a frightening time. Hope your brother can keep safe. Your IAVOM offerings are all delightfully creative and inventive. I love the basket.

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    1. Despite the relative closeness of the flames, the issue in my brother's area is mostly a matter of using protection against poor air quality rather than the risk of the fire spreading in his direction. Of course, last year certain suburban areas that weren't regarded as high risk were impacted so there are no guarantees.

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  6. Goodness me Kris, what a week it has been for you and your fellow Americans, and even more so for you and your Californian neighbours - just awful news of the wild fires. Heartbreaking. So, your lovely flowers and various arrangements are a delightful and welcome distraction! Amanda

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    1. The (not) a vase challenge really did distract me for a time on Sunday, Amanda!

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  7. These fires seem biblical, such nightmares. I hope your brother remains safe.
    I love the idea of using bromeliads as vases - good thinking! Your basket shines with the flowers and fruit. The red/oranges contrast nicely with the green coleus. Pretty!

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    1. I was impressed by the range of "not vases" people came up with this week. I'd banged my head trying to think of something different that I hadn't already done or seen someone else do. When I was dividing some overgrown bromeliads, I realized they'd make decent vase substitutes.

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  8. i have been thinking about you seeing the wildfires on TV, just terrifying. I love those concrete shoes, no mafia needed! And the basket and the Bromeliads, I was fishing junk out of my Bromeliads this morning, yours look a lot better. Prayers and fingers crossed the fires get put out soon.

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    1. I'd actually been working at cleaning up and dividing some of my bromeliads on Saturday, which cemented the idea. They do collect a lot of junk in their water storage tanks! I'm always fishing leaves out of mine.

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  9. The shoes have a story to tell.

    And fires, ours are getting mopped up, but high temperatures and some areas still locked in severe drought.
    Thinking of your embattled firefighters as I see some of the desperate pictures and stories.

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    1. The firefighters are true heroes, Diana! Many of them, especially those fighting the current fire in Northern California, lost their own homes while trying to head the fire's march into the nearby city of Chico.

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  10. Kris you created some beautiful ingenious not vases.....I love the basket of berries and the shoes but the bromeliads are fabulous as a natural vase! I am glad you have not been affected by the fires yet.....it is just so sad and I know so many who are being affected by both fires.....keeping good thoughts that these can be contained soon.

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    1. Containment seems a slow process. While one of the SoCal fires is now 80% contained, the more aggressive Woolsey Fire is only 20% contained and the Camp Fire in Northern California is just 30% contained. Another fire broke out today in Simi Valley (SoCal) too and the winds are supposed to build in strength tomorrow morning. We just need to hold on and remain vigilant at this stage.

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  11. Berries bring a feeling of bounty in a fall basket. Your arrangements are nice. I like those concrete shoes too.
    The fires are so scary. I hope you and yours don't have to deal with it.

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    1. I've been surprised that so many people commented on the cement shoes. I almost left them out.

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  12. The smoke from the Camp Fire has decided to travel southwest, and we have had days of it. Certainly not as bad as our local Napa-Sonoma county fire smoke from last year , but considering the fire is some 150ish miles away one would expect to be spared. Better the smoke than the flames though. Your brom vases are inspired ! What a clever idea Kris-I never would have thought of it.

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    1. I'm surprised the bromeliads have fared as well as they have in maintaining the freshness of the flowers, Kathy, especially as it's still so dry outside.

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  13. Yes!!! Your Bromeliad vases are genius, pure fun. Thank you for an unexpected smile.

    Waking up to news of the shooting in Thousand Oaks last Thursday was alarming, that’s where my brother in law and his family live, as well as my mother in law. They aren’t the type to be out at a bar though so our worry was minimal. Then the fire! They were all evactuated on Friday but are back home now. Still the fire surrounds them, my brother in law works at Pepperdine and was expected to go in to work today. Such horrible losses for so many, we are lucky. Fingers crossed. Prayers said.

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    1. I feel badly for everyone caught up in these fires but following up that mass shooting in Thousand Oaks with a massive fire seems to be a particularly cruel twist of fate. I hope you BIL and his family stay safe, Loree. It surprises me that Pepperdine would ask its employees to drive into what still seems to be an active fire zone.

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  14. I’ve been wondering how you’ve been getting on during this terrible time of fires, Kris, so it’s good to know you’re ok and still creating beautiful vases and arrangements. Stay safe!

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    1. I grew up in an inland valley adjacent to Malibu and Thousand Oaks where the Woolsey fire is now active. I remember kids leaving school on a couple of occasions when the surrounding canyons had fires but none were anywhere near the ferocity of these and they were infrequent occurrences. Things have changed markedly for the worse in recent years. When my in-laws lost their home to fire in 1993, it was a horrific shock but now fires of that magnitude have become an annual event.

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  15. That's a beautiful basket of blooms. I hope you're ok and your family is safe from the fires. It must be awful. Take care.

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  16. I love your last idea using the bromeliads; that really is 'not in a vase'; Your basket is very attractive too, so many lovely flowers despite the wind. I have been thinking of you every time I read about the dreadful fires in California. I hope you and yours keep safe.

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    1. While my brother is close to the fire activity, we're a safe distance away; however, I can't help worrying about the possibility of fire here as we're also in a high risk area. The winds are up again this morning and everything is very, very dry.

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  17. The fires in your region have been big news here too - terrible, and I only hope they can be contained further really soon and no more lives are lost.
    Your non-vases are all lovely, but the final idea of using plants as receptacles was ingenious and I think they all look amazing! I especially like the Pennisetum one. :)

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    1. We're hoping the winds that drove the fires will die down by the end of day tomorrow, Cathy. At present, I turn on the news with trepidation as fires have continued to break out here in the southern part of the state and more bodies are being uncovered in connection with the horrible fire in the north.

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  18. Oh it so sad that California is going through so much suffering and devastation Kris. I hope that you and your loved ones stay safe.
    I love all your non vases but especially the living green ones - a most ingenious idea. Take care xxx

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    1. Amazingly, the flowers I stuck into the bromeliads are still doing very well, despite humidity levels in the single digits.

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  19. Well you got very creative, your basket is a delight, I love the berries. Cute idea with the shoes but the best idea was making living vases out of the bromeliads. They look so pretty.
    Thinking of you with those terrible fires. As for the White House antics, I used to watch for the entertainment value, but I can't bear to now, it's too awful. And here we have the insanity of Brexit, what a world. It's a good thing we have our gardens.

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    1. I'm afraid I didn't find the current occupant of the White House amusing even when he was a celebrity TV personality and now I'm just thankful that the TV has a mute function. We follow the progress (and lack of it) of Brexit here. I heard there may be a tentative deal on the Ireland border situation...

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  20. Your creativity with plants is much admired by someone who rarely brings flowers into the house. This weeks challenge showcases some plants that might not normally be included and brings a fall look into your house. We are thinking of those in the fire area and hope that they will soon be contained and that many of the missing will be found safe.

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    1. I'm hoping the winds die out late this afternoon as scheduled, Jenny. The firefighters need a break to get everything contained.

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  21. I think you did an amazing job--on all accounts! To see all the plenty of those colorful blooms is good therapy for those of us with gray, dormant landscapes now. The California fires are awful. My prayers are with family and friends (including you!) in the state who are dealing with the fires, the damage, the smoke, and the threat of more fires. Stay safe!

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    1. Thanks Beth. The winds have died down this evening. Fingers are crossed they don't come back any time soon. There's a small chance of rain around Thanksgiving next week, which could be a boon for firefighters as long as it's light enough not to cause mudslides.

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  22. I would have been content with your first arrangement, but I also LOVED your idea of adding flowers to all the bromeliads - stroke of genius! Most of all, very happy to hear you and yours are safe. The fires are horrific. I can't even imagine how stressful it must be to have them pop up everywhere and explode into magnificence in mere seconds. I hold you all in my heart, hoping for rain - SOON!
    ~ Anna K

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    1. Thanks Anna. There's a slight chance of rain/drizzle next week around Thanksgiving but it's too early to get invested in that possibility.

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