LET’S PARTY: A 12-MONTH
PRIMER OF PARTY FLOWERS
Dr. Leonard Perry
and Lisa Halvorsen
Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist
University of Vermont
Whether you are planning a birthday party
or a formal dinner for business associates, flowers
can play an important role in the decorations. But you
don’t have to settle for run-of-the-mill, one-color
arrangements of carnations and daisies. Why not key
the floral decor to the season or holidays and special
events in the month?
Did you know that just as there are birthstones
for every month, so are there official flowers? Arrangements
or individual place settings featuring the “flower
of the month” are perfect for birthday parties,
as well as other gatherings. Some holidays also are
associated with certain colors, such as orange and black
for Halloween and red and white for Valentine’s Day.
Before selecting the flowers, you will
need to decide on the theme and setting for your party.
Will it be indoors or outside? A formal sit-down affair
or informal buffet? Consider your space to determine
where to best display flowers.
Your budget also will play into selection.
You may choose to have fewer arrangements or use flowers
in season instead of exotic blooms, for example. Your
florist can best advise you on these matters.
If you decorate the day before the party,
keep your floral arrangements fresh by topping off the
containers with water. Mist the blooms, then cover loosely
with a thin layer of plastic. Keep in a cool place to
If buying loose blooms, or cutting them
from your garden, choose flowers with firm petals and
buds that are just beginning to open. Recut the stems
under water. Remove any foliage that will be below the
Fill the vase or container with warm water
mixed with floral preservative. If using floral foam,
soak thoroughly before arranging blooms. Then place
arrangements in a cool spot away from direct sunlight
and heating or cooling vents.
Ready to plan your next party? Try these
JANUARY–An all-white winter arrangement
is perfect for a New Year’s Day celebration. Fill a
clear or opaque vase with white Asiatic lilies, white
roses or mums, baby’s breath, and evergreen foliage.
For a Super Bowl or football playoffs buffet table create
an arrangement of flowers the same colors as the teams’
colors. The flower for January is the carnation, which
comes in a wide range of colors from pink, red, and
white to bi-colors. You can also add food coloring to
the water to turn the blooms other colors, including
green and blue.
FEBRUARY–Give your gathering a Mardi
Gras theme, using plenty of purple, gold, and green–the
celebration’s official colors–on the table and in the
centerpieces. Or make the arrangements out of azaleas
and camellias, flowers reminiscent of New Orleans and
its annual festival. Cherry blossoms are appropriate
for events close to Washington’s birthday, and anything
red, white, or pink for Valentine’s Day. Or incorporate
violets, February’s official flower, into your arrangements.
MARCH–Hold a “Welcome Spring”
party around the time of the spring equinox with packets
of flower seeds for party favors. Fill unusual containers
like tea kettles or decorative tins with tulips (the
official flower for March), daffodils, and other flowers
that say spring. Decorate for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration
with small pots of shamrocks or vases of interesting
green foliage, such as asparagus ferns, and white or
green roses or carnations. For an Easter gathering,
decorate your home with potted Easter lilies or fill
colorful Easter baskets with daisies, tulips, lilies,
irises, and other seasonal flowers in spring colors
like yellow, cream, and pastels. Add silk flowers as
accents to individual baskets to be used for the Easter
APRIL–Have a tree planting party to celebrate
National Arbor Day, with a brunch afterwards with a
forest theme. Your decorations could include wooden
sap buckets filled with early spring wildflowers and
mosses. (If you prefer to celebrate your local Arbor
Day instead, check out http: //www.arborday.org/arborday/arbordaydates.html
for the date.) Remember Earth Day by participating in
a community service project or ask the neighbors over
for an early morning breakfast followed by a neighborhood
beautification project. Include a packet of sweet peas,
this month’s flower, with each invitation.
MAY–Invite the neighborhood kids over
to plant pots of pansies for their mothers for Mother’s
Day. Purchase some small terra cotta pots and acrylic
paints, and let them decorate as desired. Or help them
make sachets filled with lavender and other aromatic
herbs. For a Memorial Day celebration, add tiny American
flags to centerpieces of red, white, and blue flowers,
or fill your home with bunches of fragrant lilacs, the
flower of May.
JUNE–It’s probably no surprise that the
rose is June’s official bloom. Plan a picnic at a park
or public garden, like Montreal’s Botanic Garden, when
the roses are in bloom. No floral arrangement is needed
if you sit within sight and smell of the rose garden.
Roses are also the official flower of Father’s Day,
red for the living, white if your Dad has passed on.
The summer solstice, which signals the arrival of summer,
calls for a celebration. Make it an outdoor affair with
pots of colorful pansies on every table.
JULY–Chances are you’ll be having an
outdoor barbecue for the Fourth of July. Adorn your
deck or picnic table with pots of red and white geraniums
or vases of larkspur, July’s flower. Hang baskets of
red, white, and blue petunias. The trailing varieties
are especially nice. Or plan an English garden party
with tea and crumpets and a rousing game of croquet.
For flowers give each male guest a boutonniere and the
ladies, a simple nosegay or corsage made with red and
white carnations tied with a blue ribbon.
AUGUST–By August, your gladioli should
be in full bloom. Use this August flower for arrangements
for your back-to-school party. Other garden-related
projects perfect for your young guests and their parents
include making pressed flower bookmarks and note cards
with fresh flowers from the garden. Or provide flower
stencils so they can decorate book covers and backpacks.
No school age kids in your household? Then why not celebrate
National Friendship Day, established in 1935 by the
U.S. Congress, by inviting friends to join you for a
pool party or afternoon volleyball game. Keep the food
and flowers simple. For the latter, vases filled with
loose bouquets of fresh-cut garden blooms should do
SEPTEMBER–Plan a family-only celebration
on Grandparents Day with pots of yellow, rust, orange,
and maroon asters, September’s flower, on display. After
the party, help grandma and grandpa plant the asters
at their house. Asters are also a good choice for a
Labor Day picnic. Celebrate the autumnal equinox by
getting your friends together for apple picking, hayrides,
and cider, cheese, and apples back at your house. Decorate
with autumn leaves or wicker baskets filled with flowers
of fall colors–golden and rust mums, orange lilies,
and yellow sunflowers.
OCTOBER–Planning a Halloween party? Then
dress your tables in orange and black. Calendulas, this
month’s flower, may be hard to find unless your garden-grown
ones survived autumn frosts, but you probably will have
no trouble finding orange daisies, calla lilies, and
roses at your local florist. For “black” flowers,
choose deep purple varieties of irises and orchids.
A plastic pumpkin or skull makes an interesting container.
For a formal affair, order an arrangement with several
blooms of Bird of Paradise, a beautiful, orange, tropical
NOVEMBER–Gourds, dried Indian corn, and
pumpkins take center stage at any Thanksgiving gathering
this month. Arrange with fall leaves and dried straw
flowers on a formal dinner table. Having a few friends
over after the town Veteran’s Day parade? Chrysanthemums
(November’s official flower) in fall colors are appropriate.
Or go patriotic with red roses, blue statice, and white
DECEMBER–Whether you celebrate Christmas,
Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, there’s no shortage of holiday
plants available at garden centers and other venues
this month. In addition to poinsettias, cyclamens, kalanchoes,
and azaleas, many places now are carrying Christmas
roses, the latest trend in plants for the season. Or
decorate with evergreen boughs and bowls of floating
candles for a romantic table. Narcissus, December’s
flower, adds fragrance and beauty to any room. You can
plant these bulbs in bowls of colored marbles or pebbles
for an attractive room decoration. Start bulbs about
six weeks before you want them to bloom.
To make your parties extra memorable,
don’t forget to include a few age and interest-appropriate
activities. For a kids’ spring birthday party, for example,
introduce your young guests to gardening by letting
them plant seeds in pots. Adult friends with a common
interest in gardening might enjoy seed swapping at a
spring gathering or perennial swapping at an early summer
get-together. Or ask each guest to bring a small garden-related
gift for a grab bag.
Another idea is to harvest culinary herbs
for a cooking activity, such as making herb dips to
bring home. During the winter holidays, gather friends
and family to make evergreen wreaths and garlands. The
possibilities are endless, but there’s one thing for
sure. Your parties will become the talk of the neighborhood!