I've been having fun experimenting with mason jar bouquets over the last week or so. They're wonderfully easy things to make: there’s no need for complicated wiring, frogs, or florist’s tape, and it’s a great way to gift flowers.
These bouquets are very cottagecore, I've been told, a term new to me, but I rather like it: a design aesthetic and lifestyle trend based on the romanticization of rural life or, as reddit explains, “your grandma, but like, hip.” Just a pity I look so awful in prairie style floral prints.
For those of you who, like me, didn't spend the last two years of the pandemic on TikTok and haven't progressed much beyond shabby chic, cottagecore took off during this time with the emphasis on homespun activities that flourished with lockdowns. Seems like everyone was into sourdough (what did you do with all that starter that accumulated in the fridge?) or making the New York Times no-knead bread (I ruined my husband's prize cast iron lidded pot). Some people got into knitting and crocheting, others made jams, started canning, learned pottery. Gardening suddenly became trendy, rather than something you took up when you got old: online sales of seeds soared, growing your own food became a must, cutting gardens a life essential. And once you cut those flowers, the only vase with cottagecore cred was the mason jar.
Of course, you can't just stick in any old flower. For your mason jar, what you're looking for are traditional flowers, ones you might find (or at least you imagine you might find) in a country garden, including anemones, clematis, cornflowers, dahlias, daisy flowers of any kind, delphiniums, dianthus, forget-me-not, foxgloves, hydrangeas, lavender, lilacs, love in a mist, phlox, roses, snapdragons, sunflowers and sweetpeas. Since that pretty well sums up my favourite flowers, I think I was born for cottagecore arrangements.
Most mason jar bouquets keep the flowers short, so that they are all sitting at the top of the vase. All a matter of personal taste, but this doesn’t appeal to me. I like a wilder, looser look, and I'm inspired by Hillary Alger's guide to mason jar bouquets for Johnny's Seeds: see the video on their website here. The main thing I would add to her tutorial is this: always add a flower with wonderful scent. It should be a joy to sniff as well as to see.
1. Decide on your flowers before you cut them. Forget about foliage. Choose a variety and colour of flower that you have quite a few of then choose a selection of other flowers in colours that you think complement your main flower. Aim to have a variety of different textures, forms, and heights.
2. Cut the flowers and strip off any leaves that would end up under water, and put them in a containers of cool water ready to arrange.
3. Start by using the strongest and most branching flowers you have. I’m starting with pink cynoglossum, sometimes called Chinese forget-me-not, and a stem of lacecap hydrangea (if you use hydrangea, place the bottom inch of the cut stem in just boiled water for two or three minutes and it won't wilt. If you use poppies, do the same for ten seconds). Place the stems criss-cross in the jar to help secure them. Now, still using the strongest flowers, build up the base until it’s about half full. I've added cosmos and phlox.
4. At this point I started snipping off the hydrangea leaves which, as you can see in the photos, are just in the way. Now add the more delicate flowers. I’ve used sweet peas to add fragrance.
5. Add some textural details. I went for Dianthus ‘Loveliness’ for its feathery petals and also its stunning scent.
6. Very importantly, if you are going to make changes now, don’t try pulling anything out. It's guaranteed you’ll spoil it all. If a flower looks wrong, cut it out.
The finishing touch?
Many like to doll up the jar with some ribbons or burlap or even glitter and paint. All a matter of personal preference, but be aware there's a fine line (if any) between cottagecore and twee. I prefer to leave the jars alone and keep the focus on the flowers, but a bit of raffia tied in a bow is a nice touch, especially if you are giving them as a gift: makes it easier to attach a homemade gift tag.
But there are exceptions to my preference for keeping the jar pristine. One is when you are making them for weddings, when lace and ribbons and the like seem more appropriate, and the other is when you’re making them with children, who might enjoy painting them or sticking on a bit of glitter or whatnot, adding sea shells or lemon slices, or even giving their jars ears, eyes and a nose. In these two cases, don't hold back: anything goes.