Okay, I’ll admit it—I came slowly and reluctantly to the green revolution. I’m not talking about green as in eco-friendly, I’m talking about the profitable world of foliage-based greens. I was late to the green party for many reasons but firstly because when we started growing flowers for market we grew FLOWERS. I didn’t use any greens in our bouquets because we didn’t grow any. I had my first green epiphany with our first harvest of Bells of Ireland—wow! A handful of flowers, a few stalks of Bells and presto—insta-bouquet! The Bells made bouquets easy to assemble, miraculously transforming a small amount of bright flowers into a beautifully balanced bouquet that swelled up large enough to fill our biggest sleeve.  Duh!
    
This should have triggered a winter of research resulting in a good list of greens ready for the next season but it did not. We live and farm in the small-town rural west but our market is small-town/up-town western chic and one of the first things I discovered was that my clients don’t use “fillers”. Whoops! I made the mistake of considering greens as merely fillers and it took a special request from a client for my head to pop out of the box. During an order a designer wished aloud for something green to complete her order. Eager to please, I casually mentioned some sage (I grew it in small amounts for an herbal class I taught each fall). She jumped on it and bought up every stem we could scavenge. Our cutting-edge designers may not use filler, but they know how to complement their designs with perfectly placed greens and are hungry for greens that are way outside the box.
    
The following year we planted three succession crops of bells of Ireland, extending them throughout the season and invested heavily in herbs. We planted several mints, oregano, dill, bronze fennel, basil and long rows of sage. The first sage we grew was Salvia officinalis which has beautiful silver-green narrow ovate leaves—but its early bloom makes its sale window very narrow, unless you trick it into a late bloom by severe pruning in spring. Then a few years ago I found a beautiful sage, ‘Berggarten’, at our local nursery that I planted just outside the kitchen door for handy cooking access. We were enchanted with its large round leaves and I suggested we try some in the field. As the year wore on we discovered that it did not bolt into flower at all, affording a longer cutting time (though it is so appetizing to grasshoppers that it is our “marker” plant to determine insect pressure). It has taken two years for all of our clients to discover this gorgeous green, but it was a must on everyone’s order last week.
    
We have grown several varieties of mint but have stuck with spearmint and applemint.  The spearmint is very traditionally shaped, harvests early and is a rich deep green with a subtle minty but not overpowering scent.  About the time it goes to flower the applemint is ready.  It is a lighter mint, variegated white and lime green, resembling leaves tipped in frost, emitting a sweet apple/mint fragrance. (Applemint is my favorite for designing, spearmint is my favorite for making mojitos!)  
    
If greens are the gravy in the cut flower world, perennial greens are the lemon meringue pie—once established they are high yield and low maintenance.  Some of our favorite work-horse greens have been surprise revelations—viburnum and sedum.  We planted l viburnum opulus for the lacy flowers in early spring but just as soon as the berries are set and of any size we begin to harvest and sell it again.  I have been delivering viburnum for months!  Double bonus, last week a client requested viburnum foliage, he did not care if it had berries or not, he just wanted the foliage because it is almost indestructible.  
    
Sedum “Autumn Joy” was another surprise money maker.  We decided to phase out our sedum last year (because it takes up so much room on the truck) so we “reused” most of it as landscape material around the house.  Naturally we started getting requests for it early this spring.  The requests continued so we put it on our weekly availability list and have sold a ton.  Consequently, we will be replacing our field plants so our landscaping can remain unmolested.  
    
Describing the look she wanted for a wedding a good friend/client asked for sweet pea vines, not necessarily with flowers.  She wanted something unusual for a long, low, head table piece but we were between sweet pea crops and my vines were not long enough.  Ping—an image of clematis popped into my head and out of my mouth!  She ordered 100 stems, loved it and has continued to order it.  The first cutting was mostly vines with large pearl-like buds, for the next few weeks the vines were covered with buds and blossoms (we use the late, white blooming clematis, a very vigorous grower).  For this week’s order the vines are a mix of blooms with star like seed heads.  Everyone that has seen it on the truck has asked for it so we included it on the availability list as a cut to order.
    
Defining green has been the latest lesson in my out of the box seminar.  As an artist anything with the slightest whiff of green is green—this includes the faintest silver whisper of green (Artemisia), dusky gray greens (Salvia), luscious limes (Applemint), screaming chartreuse (‘Golden Alexander’), new grass green (Alchemilla), olive green (Dill), deep forest (Spearmint), dark blue-green hunter (Rue), rust/red green (Persicaria) and almost black/purple green (Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’).  This year’s R&D green is heuchera ‘Palace Purple’.  It is dynamite, seriously—it’s a little short, even under shade cloth, but the huge sculptural leaves are glossy green/black on top, like diamond tuck leather and a deep sexy purple underneath—wow!  (Imagine blue phlox accented by a collar of these black beauties and all the various shades of blue, green and violet bouncing around and you get it!!)
    
Lesson learned.  I am a card-carrying member of the green party and thinking outside the green box—greens are not fillers, they are accents, greens can be anything that doesn’t wilt and is green-ish, greens are low maintenance and offer huge return.  Now I wander the fields with scissors in hand cutting bits of everything growing and checking vase life.  Okay, so my “green trepidation” still stymies me in the studio but never again will I leave the farm without a good supply of greens.

Jeriann’s Favorite Greens

Artemisia ‘Silver King’   
Bells of Ireland
Bupleurum
Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’
Clematis – Paul Farges
Dill
Euphorbia marginata
Horehound
Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’
Hypericum
Lemon balm
Alchemilla mollis – lady’s mantle
Lysimachia ‘Firecracker’
Lysimachia ‘Golden Alexander’
Menthe
  Variegated mint/applemint
  Wooly mint
Nepeta  ‘Walker’s Low’  
Physocarpus ‘Diabolo’
Oregano  ‘Hopleys Purple’ is far superior to Herrenhausen
Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’
Pycnanthemum – mountain mint  
Salvia officinalis
Salvia ‘Berggarten’
Sedum – ‘Autumn Joy’, ‘Mohrchen’ red/chocolate foliage