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flowers a-z: d is for dusty miller

by SarahB

Hello, flower fans! For this round of Flowers A–Z, I have selected a delicate adornment, as opposed to a traditional bloom: dusty miller (senecio cineraria).

The color and texture of dusty miller, with its silvery soft, felt-like leaves make the perfect complement to either muted or bold-hued flowers. Dusty miller is native to arid climates like Africa and the Mediterranean and is available year-round in most places. It can bloom on the plant with little yellow blossoms, but the ornamental leaves are the true stars, in my view.

Today I will use dusty miller with single-flower arrangements, but it is highly versatile and can be used as a “green” or accent in a mixed arrangement just as easily.

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You can see that a simple grouping of dusty miller alone would make a lovely arrangement.

Or a little bud vase with just a few sprigs to accompany some hors d’oeuvres at your next gathering?

Below I will feature three different pairings for dusty miller. The first is a sophisticated classic — gorgeous blood-red black baccara roses with dusty miller.

Select a “showpiece” vase for this arrangement, something crystal or cut glass.

Gather a grouping of chunky roses in a bold color. They don’t have to be roses and they don’t have to be red, but try using a very round-shaped bloom in a saturated hue to contrast with the pale gray.

Make sure the roses are cleaned well, stripped of all thorns and every last leaf, and as always, cut at an angle with a sharp implement. For this arrangement, you can place the roses in the vase individually, creating a structure as you go, or you can cheat and simply create a bouquet in your hand, measure against the vase, cut the stems and plunk right in the water!

Dusty miller can have some stray leaves toward the bottom of the stems, which you can strip if they are going to fall below the water line.

After you have arranged or “plunked” your gathering of roses in the vase, begin to tuck individual stems around the roses to form a “collar” all around the vase. I prefer the roses in a tight “pave-style” modern cluster in an arrangement like this.

The great majesty of the red roses is highlighted by the soft, gray collar.

I truly love this contrast.

View from above — you can see that I have arranged the roses at slightly varying heights (even within basically the same plane) to lend a bit of texture and movement to the arrangement.

The second pairing is dusty miller with a “dusty” terra-cotta container and “dusty” purple roses.

This design is so simple — just use the gathering of dusty miller to fill the container and place the roses among the leaves. These roses appear to be growing from the dusty miller. This look has a country-garden feel.

Pale and calming hues.

The last pairing is dusty miller with wild and spiky blue thistle. The soft dusty miller leaves juxtaposed with the sharp, electric blue thistle create an unusual look. Be careful handling the thistle. Grab the stems toward the bottom and avoid touching the bristles! Do make an effort to clean the excess leaves from the stems that will fall below the water line.

Tuck the thistle in patches in and around the dusty miller. Here, you might experiment with a looser shape. I have kept it more controlled in my design, but play with the thistle (or any similar wildflower) to see if you like some taller pieces pulled up from the dusty miller.

Love this “cool” palette.

Be sure to meet back here in two weeks when “e” will be for . . .

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  • I usually cringe when I see dusty miller in a flower bed, but I really love the leaves used in a bouquet!

  • I’m starting to come around to the beauty of the Dusty Miller. For the longest time I grouped it into the “absolutely not ever” category. Funny how that works. Maybe someday soon I will actually be planting it in the garden to use in cutting displays.

  • I LOVE Dusty Miller and haven’t seen it used this way. Beautiful. I live in Wisconsin and it lasts well into fall and looks so pretty against the other plants as they start to loose their color.

  • I have dusty miller in my garden, but never thought to cut and put in an arrangement. Thanks for the idea,…..

  • Best use of Dusty Miller I’ve ever seen, particularly the thistle arrangement. Dusty Miller is very mis-used in my part of the country…think straggled, lone, leggy plants withering in the Texas heat.

  • I grow loads of this in my garden because I love using it in arrangements. It still looks great at this time of year even though almost everything else in my garden has faded now.

  • These are so beautiful! I stepped over a clump of Dusty Miller walking to work today ;) I’ve always really liked this plant, but now, I see how to make it really shine. I might make my wedding bouquets like this next month!!!

  • I know I’m being really pedantic here, but I think if you are going to try and give some sort of factual background, saying that this plant is “native to arid climates like Africa and the Mediterranean” isn’t really helpful. Aside from the fact that it’s really vague and most plants come from one specific region (perhaps you meant, it grows WELL in arid and Mediterranean climates?), Africa does not have one climate. My country of South Africa alone has several.

    Pedantry aside, I think there are great ideas here, and some lovely pics to inspire me at home. Thanks!

  • Such fabulous feedback! I am thrilled to highlight sweet dusty miller and even convert a few folks with these arrangements. I think I agree that bolder colors and shapes in contrast are the best. Thanks for reading!

  • I LOVE dusty miller. I remember being so enthralled by those soft leaves in my grandmother’s flower gardens as a child. Now I grow them. As a matter of fact, mine are still thriving, even after several frosts!

  • oh my goodness i love how you have 3 different looks with just one common flower! they all give such a different vibe and it’s so easy to switch between moods! I never thought dusty miller could be used in a bouquet.

  • I just bought dusty miller for my winter flower bed. I will now be using it in arrangements. Thanks! I love these!

  • I love the leaves on dusty miller, so lacy & soft, but I’d never really thought of them in floral arrangements before. They make a beautiful addition!

  • I love Dusty Milller. It is one of my favorites! Right up there with Lamb’s Ear. They are both so soft and pretty. Thanks for posting it.

  • I had dusty miller in my wedding flowers. my colors were rose pink and grey, and I used a lace/ruffle inspiration for my bouquets. I never would have thought of it, but my florist suggested it and it turned out to be perfect!

  • Love the photos! I’m growing dusty miller for the first time this year and can’t wait for them to get big enough so I can cut them and make arrangements like you did above! Just beautiful!

  • the way the colour of the deep red roses contrasts with the dusty green of dusty miller is so beautiful!