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Anything But Ordinary – Inspiring & Unique Flowers

As a gardener and as an artist and photographer, I have long been attracted to more unusual plants — those that are showy, quirky, alien-like, and over-the-top — anything but ordinary. Any plant or flower that makes me ask, “what in the world is that?” has a place in my garden! Many of these flowers can also be used in bouquets, adding a touch of the exotic and unusual to any arrangement.

Unusual Flower Types & Photos

Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)
Globe Thistle

Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro)
Globe Thistle is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial with coarse, prickly leaves with 1-2 ball-shaped silvery-lavender-blue or dark blue flowerheads blooming in early to late summer on rigid branching stems 24-48 inches tall. These beautiful ornamentals grow best in full sun to mostly sunny areas and attract bees and butterflies. In the garden, they will tolerate heat and are deer-resistant. They make excellent cut flowers as well as great additions to dried bouquets.
This flower IS available from your local florist*.

Allium Bulgaricum (Nectaroscordum siculum)
Allium Bulgaricum

Allium Bulgaricum (Nectaroscordum siculum)
This ornamental allium is easy to grow, deer-resistant, and hardy to zone 4. They thrive in sunlight and bloom in May and June. Also known as Mediterranean Bells, Sicilian Honey Lily, Ornamental Onion and Sicilian Garlic, they are native to the Mediterranean. The individual florettes begin in an upright position and gradually relax to a cluster of tricolored bells and begin to drape like a floral chandelier. They make an interesting addition to flower arrangements.

Bat Face Cuphea (Cuphea llavea)
Bat Face Cuphea

Bat Face Cuphea (Cuphea llavea)
Also known as St. Peter’s plant, Tiny Mice and Bunny Ears, Bat Face Cuphea is a tender tropical evergreen perennial native to Mexico. Bat Face Cuphea prefer partial to full sun and its distinctive red and purple flowers blooms from March through October. Attractive to hummingbirds and bees, the plant is low maintenance, drought-tolerant and makes a great plant for pots, planters, and beds. The plants will grow 2-3 feet tall by 3 feet wide. In early summer, pinch growth off to encourage branching.

Cat’s Whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus)
Cat’s Whiskers

Cat’s Whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus)
Part of the mint family, Cat’s Whiskers are herbaceous perennial flowering plants originating in tropical East Asia. They grow up to two feel tall and three to four feet wide. The flowers have an orchid-like appearance and are white or lavender, sprouting long stamens that resemble cat’s whiskers. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds and can be harvested to use in herbal teas.

Family Jewels Milkweed Tree (Asclepias physocarpa)
Family Jewels Milkweed

Family Jewels Milkweed Tree (Asclepias physocarpa)
This species of milkweed is also known as White Butterfly Weed or Swan Plant. Native to Jamaica and South America, this perennial herb can grow to over six feet and prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It is a food source for caterpillars and is a food and habitat plant for the Monarch Butterfly. The small flowers are creamy white and orchid-like, followed by translucent, inflated 2″ green balls covered with soft bristles that are the resulting seedpods. It is a fast-growing tender perennial and grows best in Zones 7-10.

Firecracker Vine or Spanish Flag (Mina lobata)
Spanish Flag

Firecracker Vine or Spanish Flag (Mina lobata)
A tender perennial grown as an annual, this fast climber can grow 10 to 20 feet tall. The incredibly intense-colored 1.5″ blooms are reddish-orange fading to orange yellow and white flowers from mid-summer to fall. Two cultivars include Citronella (cream flowers and red buds) and Mexican Fiesta (red and yellow flowers). A member of the morning glory family, Spanish Flag can be grown in sun to partial shade and is best grown on a lattice.

Red or Yellow Hot Poker (Kniphofia)
Hot Poker

Red or Yellow Hot Poker (Kniphofia)
Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia uvaria) and Yellow Hot Poker plants are grown from bulbs, and are heat and drought tolerant. They can grow 36″ tall. This variety is ‘Sally’s Comet’ Yellow Hot Poker. Native to Africa, they are known as Torch Lilies. Upright, rocket-shaped blooms produce ample nectar during blooming and are hummingbird magnets. They must be grown in full sun and require good drainage to prevent crown rot. They may spread up to three feet wide. Hardy to zones 5-10.
This flower IS available from your local florist*.

Liatris or Blazing Star (Liatris)

Liatris or Blazing Star (Liatris)
Hardy perennials White Liatris (Liatris spicata ‘Alba’) and Purple Blazing Star Liatris (Liatris spicata purple), are also known as Gayfeather and Button Snakeroot, and are a member of the Aster family. They bloom from the top down, which is unusual with flowering plants. Each spike is comprised of tiny flowers that are a magnet for pollinators. Ranging from 2-4′ tall, they add height to flower beds and are a popular cut flower in summer floral arrangements with a long vase life.
This flower IS available from your local florist*.

Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena)

Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena)
Love-in-a-Mist is a beautiful Victorian garden annual blooming in soft shades of blue, pink, white, and lavender. Because its fern-like leaves look similar to fennel, it has also been called fennel flower. This annual herbaceous plant is in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), readily self-seeds, and is common in old-fashioned cottage gardens. It grows in full sun to partial shade and blooms from late spring through fall. Nigella is short-lived, so for continuous bloom, repeat sowing every four weeks. You can cut and deadhead this plant to keep it flowering longer.
This flower IS available from your local florist*.

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Fall–The Garden’s Grand Finale

Fall is my garden’s grand finale, the last big hurrah of color before the long hibernation of winter. As the multitude of green hues of spring and summer fade, leaves begin to change color with the crisp cool air and sunny shortened days.

The fall season showcases plants in a rich palette of jewel tones—deep regal purples, pale lavenders, rich russet reds, the punch of orange, velvety maroons, sunny yellows and amber-like golds.

Fall blooms tend to last the longer, too, in both the garden and in bouquets—an added bonus to late season gardening! Try adding some of these plants below to bring jewel tones to your own garden. Many work beautifully as cut flowers for stunning bouquets that can bring the season indoors.

Helichrysum Bracteatum (Strawflower)Strawflowers (Helichrysum Bracteatum)


Strawflowers (Helichrysum Bracteatum) are “everlasting” annual flowers that can also be dried for winter bouquets. Hardy up to frost, they prefer sun to partial shade and are drought-tolerant. Native to Australia, where they grow as wildflowers, they come in a wide range of hues: yellow, orange, red, rose, white and pink, as well as this two-tone variety.


One of my favorite flowers to grow and photograph is the perennial Spiderwort (Tradescantia x Andersoniana). These unusual three-petaled flowers grow in clusters and work as excellent filler flowers in arrangements. Other varieties include ‘Snow Cap’ (pure white), ‘Valor’ (deep purple-red), and ‘Concorde Grape’ (deep violet).

The original Spiderwort species, an easy-care favorite in country gardens, is Virginia Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana). It is one of the longest bloomers in my garden—putting on a show from June until fall. Spiderwort prefers full sun or very light shade for the most prolific blooming. It can be also grown indoors as a houseplant.

Tradescantia x andersoniana (Spiderwort)
Spiderwort (Tradescantia x Andersoniana)

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A Passion for Purple Flowers

first-paragraph-photo2Every spring, I begin the process of taking stock in my garden. What survived the cold winter? What areas just need sprucing up or an extreme makeover? Then, I head to my favorite nursery and begin my annual indulgence—plant shopping! The color I gravitate to most is purple—from pale periwinkle to luscious lavender to deep, velvety jewel tones.

Purple adds drama and mystery to my garden. I add yellow, pink and white flowers to add contrast and lighten the palette. To create great focal points with intense color, I combine shades of orange or gold in front of a swath of purple blooms. My favorite color combination is combining a punch of chartreuse with deep purple—talk about eye candy!

Below are some of my favorite purple blooms:

balloonflowerx21 Balloon Flower or Chinese Bellflower (Platycodon) is a perennial plant known for its large, showy blossoms that resemble hot air balloons right before they open. The plant forms in clumps and each stem bears bell-shaped flowers in pink, purplish-blue and white. Grown in full sun or partial shade, they bloom throughout the summer.
Easy to grow, the striking Bearded Iris is a drought-tolerant plant with blooms in a rainbow of colors. Grown from rhizomes, these perennials blossom in spring, although there are summer-blooming irises. The blooms are large, showy and make a great backdrop in your garden. beardediris


Harbingers of spring, Crocus are one of the easiest bulbs to grow. Best planted en masse, these perennial flowers grow in full sun to partial shade and are ideal for naturalizing. With minimum growing conditions, they will reward you with a profusion of colorful blue, purple, yellow, white, orange, and even variegated flowers.

Grown from bulbs, Gladiolus have multiple blooms on long, sturdy stems. These sun-loving plants come in a wide array of colors and make great cut flowers. I’m always amazed that Gladiolus bulbs are so inexpensive—I’ve purchased a bag of 100 bulbs for as little as $12! And yes, I managed to plant all of them!


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Got The Blues? Check Out These Blue Flowers

Himalyan Blue Poppy courtesy of istock photo

courtesy of istock photo

Adding cool blue to your garden lends a feeling of calmness and restfulness. Because there are so few flowers that are truly blue, this color is most coveted by gardeners. One of the most beautiful blue flowers in the world is the Blue Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia). I haven’t tried to grow them because they are temperamental and quite a challenge to grow in hotter areas, such as my Zone 7. The sight of a cluster of Blue Himalayan poppies blowing in the breeze will make you sigh.


Introduce lovely old-fashioned ‘Nikko Blue’ or ‘Blue Wave’ hydrangea to your garden as a foundation plant. Hydrangeas have the ability to change color based on the alkalinity of the soil. That means even the lovely ‘Nikko Blue’ has a chance at blooming pink instead of blue! The bloom colors will be pink in alkaline soil. In more acidic soil (5.2-5.5ph), the bloom colors are blue. To ensure that stunning blue hue, you need to manipulate your soil’s pH level and mineral content. This must be done several times during the growing season. You can lower the pH by watering with 2 tbsp of aluminum sulfate per gallon of water. The results are well worth the extra effort!

delphiniumConsider the enchanting Delphinium (also known as Larkspur). Delphinium derives its genus’ name from the Greek word for “dolphin” and is suggested by the shape of a gland in the blossoms that secretes nectar.  Delphiniums make wonderful long-lasting cut flowers and bloom in red, blue and yellow, as well as blended varieties. They prefer cool, moist places and bloom in late spring. Often growing six to eight feet tall, there are some dwarf varieties that top out at just two feet in height. They grow best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade, and need staking to keep the stems upright. Keep the soil moist to feed quick growth and add a general purpose fertilizer once a month until they have bloomed.

loveinamistThe ethereal, light and airy Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena) is a beautiful Victorian garden annual blooming in soft shades of blue, pink, white, and lavender. This annual herbaceous plant is in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), readily self-seeds, and is common in old-fashioned cottage gardens. It grows in full sun to partial shade and blooms from late spring through fall. Nigella is short-lived, so for continuous bloom, repeat sowing every four weeks. You can cut and deadhead this plant to keep it flowering longer.

grape-hyacinthIt just wouldn’t be spring without masses of tiny Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) planted as bulbs in swaths throughout your garden. Growing no more than 10 inches tall, the tight conical heads of tiny round flowers do look like clusters of grapes. Blue is a predominant color but they also come in pale ice blue, white and yellow. Muscari, a member of the Lily family, are quite prolific, making them perfect for naturalizing. Look for the popular ‘Heavenly Blue’, bright blue ‘Dark Eyes’, mid-blue ‘Cote d’Azur’,  sky blue ‘Valerie Finnis’, and the frosty ‘Blue Spike’.  I  have the double-flowered ‘Fantasy Creation’ variety in my garden—their flower heads look like clusters of blue broccoli! Easy to grow in full sun to part shade in zones 3-9 and low-maintenance—what’s not to love about these little blue jewels?

spring-starflowerStar-shaped, pale blue Spring Starflower (Ipheion uniflorum), with grass-like foliage is a spring perennial grown from bulbs and is very long-blooming (3-5 weeks). This plant naturalizes very swiftly, spreading by self-seeding and from bulb offsets. Often used in rock gardens and woodland gardens, they grow just 4-5 inches tall, and are perennials in Zones 6 to 7 (with mulching to protect from frost) and in Zones 8 to 9 without mulching. They can be grown in full sun to part shade, require medium watering, and are low maintenance.

morning-glory-1In my humble opinion, a garden without ‘Heavenly Blue’ Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor) is incomplete. Their fleeting beauty will take your breath away. These vigorous climbers are grown from seed and will cover a trellis or wall in just one season- growing up to 20 feet and blooming prolifically. One year, I counted over 300 blooms on the vines that covered my front wall! An herbaceous annual twining vine, it will reach out in a clockwise direction and take hold of anything near it. The 4-5″ trumphet-shaped flowers come in a variety of other colors, including reds, pinks and purples—but there’s nothing more heavenly than the classic  ‘Heavenly Blue’ variety.

bluebellsThe buds of the herbaceous perennial Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica), a member of the Borage family, begin as a pinkish shade and transform into pale blue-violet colored, trumphet-shaped flowers as they mature. Blooming in mid-to-late spring, they can be found growing en masse in moist woodland areas in partial to full shade. Plant them with hostas and ferns as companion plants.

blue-eyed-grassBest planted in large groups for maximum visual impact, Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium), a member of the Iris family, is a late spring-blooming perennial with very tiny (less than 1/2 inch!) iris-like blue flowers with yellow centers. Blue-eyed Grass does well in moist areas with some sun, and if happy in its spot, will spread to form stands. Its diminutive size makes it great for adding a grasslike addition to a small garden where ornamental grass would be overwhelming.

brookside-blue-hardy-geraniumThis Hardy Geranium (Geranium ‘Brookside’ cultivar), also known as Cranesbill, is a deciduous, herbaceous perennial that forms a neat mound that is about 18″ high and wide. Flowering begins in spring. If you cut it back after flowering, it should bloom again in the summer. It makes a great filler for mixed borders or full-sun perennial beds and grows well in containers. It prefers full sun but can tolerate part shade for half of the day. It does best in moist, well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 5-8.

Salvias also provide that saturated blue color that gardeners seek. Look for Mealycup Sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’), a member of the mint family. This herbaceous perennial is commonly grown as an annual in cold areas. Striped Squill (Puschkinia libanotica) is a beautiful spring bulb flower growing just 4-5 inches tall, with pale white-blue petals with darker blue center stripes. If you’re an Iris fan, look for the lovely blossoms of the Giant Blue Flag Louisiana Iris (Iris giganticaerulea) with its four foot stems; or ‘Sky Beauty’ Dutch Iris with its combination of white and french blue petals with a single lemon yellow blotch. Agapanthus, or ‘Lily of the Nile’, with its blue ball-shaped clusters and funnel-shaped flowers on four foot stems, is a showy addition to any garden.

forgetmenotsAnd finally, we can’t forget the diminutive Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis alpestris)! This perennial grows 5-12 inches high in alpine meadows (or your garden!). Each dainty flower is a mere 1/3 inch wide, with sky blue petals, a white inner ring, and a tiny yellow center. Blooming in May and June, hardy Forget-Me-Nots prefer partial shade and spread by reseeding. These charming old fashioned flowers can help fill in the blanks in your garden!

If you don’t have the blues, you certainly should – for your garden, that is!

Don’t keep the blues to yourself.  Did you know that local florists use many of these blue flowers, Hydrangea, Delphinium, Niegella, Grape Hyacinths, Iris, Agapanthus, and Forget-me-nots, in flower arrangements? So even if you don’t have a garden full of blue flowers, you can share a beautiful blue bouquet with a friend.

Cindy Dyer is a freelance graphic designer and photographer in Alexandria, Virginia. Visit her blog at www.cindydyer.wordpress.com and her botanical gallery at www.cindydyer.zenfolio.com. She can reached at dyerdesign@aol.com. All photos © Cindy Dyer, unless specified otherwise.