Esteemed florists show off beautiful spring bouquets and local experts give advice on garden beds and houseplants
By Renee Ambroso | Photography by Nikki Whitt Belch
Bowerbird Flowers & Apothecary founder and CEO Diane Joyal revels in the emergence of color that spring brings, inspiring the vivid and happy bouquets that she creates at her University Hill gift, plant and tea shop and floral studio. Monochromatic arrangements like the one pictured are an opportunity to explore lines, shapes and texture, she says. Diane makes use of unique elements like garlic scapes – the curling green stems that emerge from garlic bulbs as they grow underground – to add dimension, pairing them with local spring blooms like tulips and hellebore. She often creates similar monotone arrangements for customers using just one color or type of flower. “It does cost a little more when you use a lot of one element,” Diane says, “but if you have a special occasion or are celebrating something, the impact is worth it.”
Color blocking is an impactful technique that Floral Dimensions design manager Stephanie Garrett likes to use to elevate seasonal florals. “When you group the flowers like this, they show up and speak louder,” Stephanie says, “their personality pops out a bit more.” Many of the flowers pictured here – including the tulips, eucalyptus and forsythia – are sourced from North Carolina growers like Daniel Vogel’s Flowers By the Bucket, Spring Forth Farm and Cultivate Flower Co., or even from the shop’s own backyard. Owner Jose Garcia says that exciting color options and flower species become more widely available locally as the season progresses, allowing for creative and harmonious bouquets.
West Main Street’s Blossom and Bone Florals creates flower arrangements with an emphasis on sustainability, sourcing locally (this bouquet features hellebore, anemone and daffodils from Clear Black Flowers) for arrangements that are free from the environmentally harmful foam many designers use. “I want this bouquet to reflect something that you could go out in your garden and make for yourself easily,” says Blossom and Bone co-owner and lead designer Heather Sardela. She says this English garden-inspired creation offers a moody take on spring tones. “Flowers don’t have to be bright and happy and cheerful,” Heather says. “They can have a bit of sass to them, too.” Regardless of the tone, fresh flowers bring life to a space – a cheerful treat for your home after a dormant winter.
Refresh your garden beds and houseplants this season
DM What plants should people look to fill their indoor spaces in the spring?
Prayer plants are a personal favorite with their beautiful leaf patterns, color and versatility. These indirect light lovers grow well in hanging baskets or planters, making them ideal plants to style a room with. Air plants (tillandsia) are strange, fascinating plants since they grow on top of surfaces rather than in the ground. One reason we love air plants so much is that they’re so easy to care for – even if you’ve branded yourself with a black thumb! Air plants thrive in humid environments with indirect light – perfect for a bathroom. The bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) comes in a few stunning varieties. This tropical plant’s leaves range from extremely curly and lace- like to wavy or straight, and they typically grow up to 2 feet long. Jade succulent is unique because it grows like a tree, with a thick trunk and branches. This plant can thrive in a sunny location, but it can also do well in a low-light room. – Megan Cain, owner, The Zen Succulent
DM How can home gardeners prep their indoor plants for spring and/or summer?
MC It’s a good idea to repot your plants so that they have room to grow. Repotting can be daunting, but plants are amazingly resilient. Here are a few tips we use in our storefront: Pick a larger container that has good drainage, about 2 inches thicker than its current pot; use fresh soil; use a clean pot; and water, water, water. Give your plant a good drink after repotting to make sure your roots don’t dry out.
DM What’s your best tip for keeping indoor plants happy during the spring months?
MC Routinely prune, deadhead and trim as needed, dust or wash large leaves, feed your plants with your favorite plant fertilizer and aerate the soil. A fun way to spruce up your plants for spring is to move them around your space. You can switch up their place on a shelf to a desk, or make different groupings based on leaf size, patterns or colors. You can also move some of your plants from indoors to outdoors, making sure they are in a nicely shaded spot and watered regularly to prevent leaf burn.
DM What plants should people look to fill their garden beds with in spring?
Native perennials are fantastic! Many people already know and love these, but may not know they’re a vital part of our evolutionary history within southeastern United States ecology. Plant red, tubular flowers for our ruby-throated hummingbirds. Lobelia cardinalis and Lonicera sempervirens signal to them as they fly northward toward the cold being pushed back by spring. Carpet phlox (P. subulata) is a must-have for a low, evergreen, spreading-but-not-invasive perennial. It covers itself in early spring flowers that colorfully call to overwintering adult moths and butterflies. For our low, wet zones in full sun, consider planting a rain garden if your standing water clears in two days or less. We don’t want to help the mosquitos! – Keith Lukowski, manager, Durham Garden Center
I would encourage people to think about where they are growing their plants and then what their hopes are. It also adds value to think about your lifestyle. In my own garden, I know I need things that can survive neglect. I never water, and I live at work during the busy season. I focus on natives and hardy perennials in my beds. My pots have drought-tolerant yucca. – Kirsten Ingebretsen, nursery manager, Stone Bros. & Byrd
The variety is endless. Choose annuals for a pop of color – a few that do great here and show off are vinca, coleus and marigolds. Perennials come back every year, and some favorites this spring include phlox, catmint and creeping Jenny. If you have room, add some blueberry bushes as well. – Scott Pearce, president, For Garden’s Sake
DM How can home gardeners prep their garden beds for spring and/or summer?
SP Fertilize – especially flowering shrubs – so that they can produce beautiful blooms as they grow.
KI Mulch with compost, pine straw and hardwood mulch. This keeps weeds from finding a foothold. After the mild winter we just had, weeds are going to take off with the least amount of warmth. Getting on top of them early will help make the rest of the season more enjoyable.
KL We say the potting mix, garden mix and soil mix are like your house, and the fertilizer (nutrients) your plants need is like your groceries. Your foundation is your native soil, your effort into building the plant-rooting zone (through organic additions) is the house, and the nutrients are your groceries. You have to keep bringing those groceries to the house regularly.
DM What’s your best tip for refreshing garden beds after winter and getting ready for a new growing season?
KI If you’ve left your leaves and last year’s plant stems, it can be a quick and rewarding refresher in spring. Out with the old growth and in with the new. Check what worked and what didn’t. Remove what failed or was disappointing. It’s going to sound like an old adage, but visit your nursery often (hopefully, Stone Bros. & Byrd). Inventory turns over fast this time of year. Amend your soil, and enjoy the new growth popping up everywhere.
KL We too soon forget the necessity of leaving seed heads from natives, not just for wildlife foraging, but also for the tented nesting sites they have become. Before your first trip around the yard and garden with the mower or trimmer this spring, please introduce yourself to any new residents of your territory and plan accordingly! These are not tenants who know your rules, but they could be state- or federally protected species depending on your particular local regulations, which are on the books for good reasons.
DM What are your top five spring gardening essentials?
KI I can’t live without my Dramm compact shears. They are in my back pocket every day. DEET is my summer perfume. Welcome to the South! My scuffle hoe walks the garden with me each day. I love my hori hori garden tool, which makes getting through our clay soil a breeze. And you can always find me with a 5-gallon bucket nearby. It’s my chair, weed bin and mulch mover.
DM Anything else you’d like to add?
MC Getting your plants ready for a new season usually creates waste, most of which is compostable. If you can, compost old soil and plant matter to make new soil for next year. Or consider a service like CompostNow. To learn more about plants and pick up a few, come visit us at 123 Market St., Ste. B!
KI If you’re new to gardening, whether it’s vegetables, perennials, annuals or shrubs, just know that you will very likely lose a lot at first. Be kind to yourself. Don’t hesitate to come to Stone Bros. and ask as many questions as you need. – as told to Katie MacKinnon