Take a deep breath. Do you smell that? As the summer sun begins to fade, the relaxing smell of fresh cut grass makes way for the light fragrance of falling leaves. It’s a bittersweet scent that blooms in Fall, when nights get longer, days get cooler, and vibrant reds and pinks become bold shades of orange and yellow. So, take out your cardigans and pour yourself a Pumpkin Spice Latte (or Apple Cider, we don’t judge!) because we’re going to take you on a little hike through a fresh Autumn garden.
First Autumn Flower: The Mighty Sunflower.
The name, “sunflower”, refers to the popular annual species Helianthus annuus, whose large, round flower heads look like the brilliant sun. In Greek, helios means sun and anthos means flower, thus the name Sunflower.
For centuries, people have cultivated the Sunflower because it is a valuable source of food (for humans, cattle, poultry, etc) and medicines. It is currently one of the world’s leading oilseed crops. While the Sunflower is native to North America, it’s benefits are global. People throughout the world eat the seeds, grind the kernels into flour, and extract oil for cooking and cosmetics. Before modern manufacturing, sunflower petals and pollen were components in dyes for face paint, textiles, and baskets.
Medicinal uses of sunflowers once included everything from treating coughs, removing warts, and treating snakebites and sunstroke. Today, people still use sunflower oil to aid in constipation, lower cholesterol, and apply the oil topically to heal wounds and skin injuries like psoriasis, and arthritis.
Another Beautiful Autumn Flower: The Dahlia.
Dahlias are native to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, as well as parts of South America. These wildflowers were first cultivated by the Aztecs for their starchy, inulin rich tubers, which could be eaten like potatoes but also used medicinally. The skin of these tubers have natural antibiotic properties and were used to treat many illnesses. In addition, the inulin in the tubers can be converted into a natural sweetener.
Today, only about six of the 40 different species in the Dahlia genus have been bred for ornamental flowers and are popular in the floral industry and in gardens. They are classed into a variety of types, including single, double, pompon, cactus, waterlily, peony-flowered, and dinnerplate dahlias. They begin flowering late in the summer and continue blooming until the first autumn frost.
Autumn Flower Favorite#3: Chrysanthemums.
Typically known as “mums”, Chrysanthemums have an interesting history. First cultivated centuries ago in China, the chrysanthemum was used as a culinary herb. Its petals and young shoots were served in salads; its flowers and leaves brewed into teas.
The Japanese later adopted the flower and were so smitten with it that they gave it the status of royalty. The flower was used on the Emperor’s official seal and crest. In addition, the highest level of decoration that can be awarded to an individual for distinguished service to the nation is the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum. To this day, the Japanese celebrate National Chrysanthemum Day, the Festival of Happiness, which is one of five ancient festival days in the country.
Today, Chrysanthemums decorate autumnal porches with a gorgeous array of shades ranging from purple, pink, red, yellow, bronze, and white. Some varieties have different color ray and disk flowers, and others have magnificent bi-colored ray flowers.
Our Final Autumn Flower Favorite: Chinese Lanterns
Chinese lantern (also called bladder cherry, Japanese lantern, or winter cherry) is a hardy perennial that’s perfect for fall. It can be grown in the ground or in containers, a fast-growing plant with blooms like little lanterns, which are actually seed pods that start out green then change to a bright pumpkin-orange by the end of the early fall. This lantern is called a Calyx, a 2-inch-wide paper-like pod that serves as a protective cover for the flower and fruit.
People have been using Chinese Lanterns in herbalism for hundreds of years. However, all the parts of the plant are poisonous, and you will not find it in most modern medicines. Historically, Chinese Lanterns came in herbal blends for urinary and skin diseases as well as internally for the treatment of gravel, suppression of urine, fevers and gout. Additionally, herbalists often suggested it for the malaise that follows malaria, and for the weak or anemic.
Weddings and Autumn Flowers
There is nothing more beautiful than an Autumn wedding, and putting one together is as easy as one, two, three!
- Choose your venue – A sunny autumn day is ideal for an outside ceremony! Instead of saying your vows in a hall, look into outdoor areas, like a nearby park, to take advantage of the natural beauty of the season.
- Dress your attendants – Pick Bridesmaid dresses in seasonal colors such as burgundy, pumpkin, or terra cotta. Be sure to choose coordinating colors for your groomsmen ties and cummerbunds.
- Coordinate your flowers – Instead of traditional wedding flowers, ask your florist to create a bouquet of autumn flowers, like chrysanthemums, dahlias, amaranthus, or cymbidium orchids dressed with bright fall foliage. Don’t forget about the boutonnieres and centerpieces, too! A splash of reds and oranges against the backdrop of white will surely please your guests and look incredible in photographs.
Make Your Own Dried Autumn Flower Wreath
Credit: Better Homes and Gardens
Use a medley of dried grasses, flowers, and berries to create an organic wreath that can stay up well past Halloween.
- Sunburst grapevine wreath
- Matte white spray paint
- Assorted dried grasses and flowers
- Florists wire
- Wire cutters
- Floral scissors
- Hot glue gun
Step 1: Paint Wreath
In a well-ventilated area (or outside), lay down a protective surface. Place a sunburst grapevine wreath on the surface and spray paint it matte white. Let the wreath form dry completely before continuing.
Safety Tip: Always use spray paint in a well-ventilated area or outside. Wear a protective mask and gloves, and cover any surrounding surfaces to protect against the excess spray.
Step 2: Make Bunches
To create the first two bundles, we used dried pampas grass, blue star grass, bunny tails, and a few sprigs of pink dried arrow grass. Gather a few sprigs of each and secure with florists wire to create groupings. Use floral scissors to trim the stems so they are short and uniform.
For the pink dried flower bundles, we used preserved baby’s breath, mini strawflowers, and dried arrow grass. Arrange a few sprigs of each flower and secure bundles with florist wire. Trim the stems to about 2 inches long so you can tuck them into the wreath form.
Step 3: Assemble Wreath
Arrange the first two bundles on the bottom of the wreath form. Once you’re happy with the placement, use florist wire to secure the bunches to the wreath. Add a dab of hot glue to secure any stray branches. Place the pink flower bundles on top of the dried grasses and secure them with florist wire and hot glue. Fill in holes and bare spots with cut flower bunches and additional sprigs of pampas grass. To hang your finished wreath, create a loop with a length of florists wire and display.
You’ve learned a ton about Autumn Flowers. Now what?
- Send a bouquet of fall blooms to to an Autumn Lover in your life.
- Learn even more about the best flowers for bouquets in our blog A Rainbow of Flowers – The Most Popular Flowers by Color
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