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flowers a-z: “f” is for freesia (and fritillaria)

by SarahB

Greetings readers, and welcome back for another foray into the floral alphabet! For “f” I have opted to present freesia and fritillaria for your consideration. It is sometimes difficult to choose just one flower . . . and who says we have to, anyway! First, let’s focus on freesia.

Freesia are lovely, fragrant blooms that are native to South Africa (but certainly cultivated everywhere now). They come in varying shades of red, pink, yellow, white and purple and are at their best in the early spring. Although this is only anecdotal, I find that the red and pink varieties tend to have the boldest and freshest fragrance. The freesia genus was named after Friedrich Heinrich Theodor Freese (1795–1876), a German physician/botanist who studied South African plants. Most importantly, freesia is adorable and brightens up any bouquet or arrangement! — Sarah

Fritillaria is a lovely little lily that is native to all “temperate” regions in North America. Fritillaria is characterized by a bloom that “nods” after it springs up from the bulb. It often looks like the little bloom has dozed off :) It comes in a wide range of solid colors (as well as variegated patterns) in yellow, ivory, brown, purple, pink and orange.

FUN FACT: Some species of fritillaria are used in Chinese medicine to cure cough and even hyperthyroidism. HOWEVER, these preparations are obviously made by professionals and best left to the experts, as most varieties contain poisonous alkaloids and can be deadly if ingested. Yikes!

Below, I highlight some basic properties of each of these flowers and then demonstrate a simple, seasonal hand-tied bouquet.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the post after the jump!

Cheery white freesia have a sophisticated look all their own.

This pink variety opens into a cabbage-like shape — just gorgeous. This is ideal for a bedside table or side table, so the fragrance can be enjoyed.

I love the green tendrils on freesia blooms. Sometimes, there are what I call extra “elbows and knees” of these green tendrils sprouting away from the bottom of the stem. I like to pluck them apart from the main bloom, cut them short and place them in a tiny vase. Sometimes after a few days, they also start to bloom! If not, they make a sleek, green posy.

The vivid pink blooms are so happy and smell amazing . . .

I like to put fritillaria in a vintage-looking vase, often an apothecary jar. To me, the flower has a rather Victorian feel.

The tiny ceramic bulldog seemed an appropriate companion for these delicate buds :)

See how sweet the freesia and fritillaria are just displayed as single flowers? But, of course, I like to make it a bit more interesting . . .

So, let’s add some other blooms to the mix. And this gorgeous peony above just happens to be called a “Festiva” :)  “F” could have easily been for Festiva . . . but I shouldn’t get distracted.

To make a hand-tied bouquet, I like to group each flower I am going to use and then spread them across my workspace. This makes for easy handling. One hand will be managing the bouquet and the other will be selecting individual flowers or groupings.

I added some petite Black Beauty roses in a rich red because frankly I was feeling a bit Valentine-y over here :) Simply gather some blooms in your hand and cluster the roses and freesia together. Try getting the flowers to bunch together on almost the same plane.

Continue adding clusters of flowers to the bouquet. I like putting the large-headed peonies together with the more delicate blooms for contrast. Try adding the fritillaria so it peeks just above the flatter blooms in the bouquet; this creates a little flourish of texture.

Simply keep adding individual blossoms and clusters in varying shades until you feel you have a nice, round shape. The next step will be securing the bouquet.

With your free hand, chop the ends of the bouquet with sharp clippers at a nice angle (the angled cut increases the surface area with which the florals can drink).

Take floral tape (found at your local craft or floral supply shop) and wrap the bouquet in two places so the “handle” is sturdy and easy to work with. Try holding the bouquet in one hand and twisting the bouquet into the tape as the tape is held firmly in place by the other hand. This can be easier than using the tape hand to wrap.

These two bands of tape will help guide the next step.

Lush velvet ribbon seems like the best idea for this romantic bouquet. Wrap the ribbon around the handle between your two strips of tape, slowly working your way up and down and then snip the end, leaving a tail.

Hold the tail in place with your thumb.

With the other hand, fold the tail under to form a smooth edge.

Use a pearl pin to secure the ribbon. Insert the first pearl pin at the bottom edge of your folded tail at an angle, pointing upward toward the blooms. Slowly push the pin up the handle of the bouquet at a sharp angle so it remains tucked behind the stems. Be careful not to poke through to your fingers on the other side. If your angle approach is off, simply pull out and start again.

Repeat with a second pin at the top of the folded tail. So tailored . . .

Plunk the bouquet in a vase at an angle for a modern twist on this vintage look.

If you have extra flowers, practice with another bouquet and/or create tiny bud vases of joy.

Join me back here in two weeks and we can talk more about being your own floral Valentine, when “g” will be for . . .

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  • I have a few white freesia stems winding down in a vase near my desk; it cheers me up to look away from my computer and see how they’re continuing to open day by day. Your photographs are beautiful, and your post so informative — please keep choosing multiple flowers for each letter — the resulting arrangements are so inspiring!

  • Flowers A-Z! I love this idea! And freesias always have been my favourite flowers. In my birthday all my room are full of freesias!

  • Reminds me of that Meryl Streep line in “The Devil Wears Prada” warning Anne Hathaway that they’re better be no freesia in the flower arrangements. They have become a little ubiquitous, but still one of my favorite fragrances.

  • Fritillarias are a ridiculously SEXY genus (and as a landscape designer, one of my favorites!). Their colors are dark, brooding, smoky. Their palette is wine, plum, dijon, checkered, even! Stems are lithe, leaves blue-green and fine-lined.
    Kudos to widening the audience to such a beautifully designed botanical.


  • Freesia is such a beautiful flower, and so spring like in this bitter cold weather. Bringing them into the home is a beautiful idea. Your photographs are amazing! I am inspired!

  • What a wonderful article about the freesia flower and giving such “sweet” tribute to my business namesake! I am a floral designer in the Atlanta area, specializing in weddings, and my sister referred me to Design*Sponge…great submissions, photographs and articles of personal interest and business related, too. My logo is a lavender Freesia. Keep up the good work…I look forward to reading more on Design*Sponge!

  • Not so sure the bouquets really honor the flowers… the fritillarias are squished… they need to drape and nod along with music. I adore freesias! What a joyful scent, and such soft blooms, repeating imperfectly. Lovely!

  • Fritillaria are one of my favorites! For freesia I like the brown ones the best that are available in the fall, but sometimes the peppery fragrance is a little to much. I like this alphabet of flowers theme–thanks for sharing.