Floral Designs with Tree Leaves, Twigs and Pine Needles
By Tony Tomeo


Referring to a sample of diseased Japanese black pine on my desk, my neighbor said, “What a pretty arrangement.” Although I realize this was intended as a compliment, I found it interesting that the most notable item in my office was a vase full of diseased pine foliage and that the various exotic, tropical species were ignored. Then I was reminded of all the strange plant parts I have seen used in floral design or as a substitute for it. For example, one of the crop science professors back at Cal Poly always kept a vase of wheat on his desk.

Many species provide non-floral parts that may be added to cut flowers brought in from the garden, or enjoyed without flowers. The most commonly used non-floral parts include foliage or fruiting parts such as berries and seed capsules. Stems and even bark of some species can also be useful. In fact, one of the clients who visits the nursery to select his stock also collects gnarled stems covered with lichens that have been pruned from the apple trees.

Huckleberry, Southern magnolia, African boxwood, coastal redwood, Japanese euonymus (cultivars), various species of acacia and various species of eucalyptus are only some of the examples of species that Flowers_TreePartsAidInFloralDesigns_VictooIDreamstime.comprovide ornamental foliage. Leaves (without stems) of New Zealand flax, bird of paradise and some palms may be useful as well.

Showy berries may be collected from firethorn (pyracantha) cotoneaster, hawthorn, Indian hawthorn, toyon, barberry and some species of holly. Interesting fruiting structures can also be observed among crabapple, California pepper, strawberry tree, nandina and citrus (those with small fruit, such as kumquats) as well as dried corn and gourds. Small pumpkins are currently popular.

Dried seed capsules that may be useful include those of clematis, jacaranda, goldenrain tree, southern magnolia, sycamore and various species of eucalyptus. Some species of eucalyptus also provide very interesting bark or foliage. Coarse, shaggy bark may also be obtained from coastal redwood and various species of melaleuca and bottlebrush.

Like foliage, ornamental stems may be collected from any species that seems appealing. Various species of bamboo, dogwood, moosewood (maple) and filbert are among the most popular.

Cat-tails, pine cones, fir cones, flower stalks of New Zealand flax and various species of palm are floral parts that are very different from typical flowers that have been used creatively. Of course, their is no limit to the species that may be used in one form or another for floral or ‘not-so-floral’ design.

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