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NATURAL AUTUMN FLORA…plus chicken rice soup with red cabbage, lime, cilantro, and avocado!


Being outdoors is the greatest joy of living in California. If you are lucky enough to have a great yard, it is an added bonus.  There are plenty of outdoor pleasures to be found in winter and summer, but fall and spring are by far the most inspiring.


Floral arranging with fresh greens and flowers from one’s own garden is very satisfying with such a bevvy of materials to choose from.  You will need a few vases to start and some inexpensive materials. A list of greenery that works best in floral arranging follows.

Here is a simple list of things you will need, most of which you probably already have in your kitchen or tool kit…
1.   sharp garden clippers 
2.   frogs (little glass or metal things you put in the bottom of your vase to keep the stems in place)
3.   floral tape
4.   bamboo skewers
5.   a variety of vases with large and small openings, tall, short, clear glass, ceramic
6.   novelty containers
7.   baskets
8.   floral preservative powder
9.   vase inserts (I like large cottage cheese tubs) for non-water tight vessels and baskets
10. a hammer
11. reindeer moss and Spanish moss
12. “Oasis” (the one that holds water!) at most floral supplies and craft stores


The easiest way to do fall floral arrangements…

1. fill your sink or a big bucket with water
2. gather your cutters and fill vase with water, preservative, and frog
3. cut your arrangement materials at a sharp angle
4. keep them cut side down in water while working
5. start with the materials that have the firmest stems as they will provide structure
6. hammer the ends of branch-like stems well so they can absorb water
7. fill in with remaining greens and flowers

To determine the length of the stem before cutting, simply place the vase next to the end of the counter and hold the branch or flower up next to it at the preferred height. Eyeball the spot where the bottom of the vase ends and cut your branch there. Err or the long side and re-clip as needed.

Stand back and look at the arrangement from different perspectives. Does it have balance, symmetrical or asymmetrical?  Are the color and texture contrasts pleasing? Is the vase interesting and of good quality?  Trim off any extra long twigs that will catch on clothing as people pass by.

Conditioning plant, shrub, and tree cuttings for fall arrangements...

bear breeches-dip in boiling water before arranging
maple-hammer stems, place in water
laurel/bay- hammer stems, place in water
Michaelmas daisy-crush stems and dip in boiling water before arranging
barberry-crush stems, place in water
birch- hammer stems, place in water
dogwood-hammer stems, dip in boiling water before arranging
ferns- char stem ends with flame and place in water
privet- hammer woody stems, place in water
olive- hammer woody stems, place in water
cotoneaster- hammer woody stems, place in water
kumquat-hammer woody stems, dip in boiling water before arranging
nandina bamboo- just cut and place in water
pyracantha- hammer woody stems, place in water
pomegranite- hammer woody stems, dip in boiling water before arranging
fig- hammer woody stems, dip in boiling water before arranging
persimmon- hammer woody stems, dip in boiling water before arranging

The floral tape is for loose hanging fruits. Choose dark, natural green to blend in with stems and leaves and use as a support to keep fruit from falling off. I also like to use masking tape to criss-cross over the opening of the vase which adds extra structure to the arrangement.The skewers are for heavy flowers like sunflowers. Reindeer and Spanish moss are excellent fillers in baskets and other wide mouth vessels.

Chicken and Rice Soup with Red Cabbage, Lime, Cilantro, and Avocado

This soup is absolutely delicious and very flavorful! I love to make it for myself when I feel I’m getting a cold.

1 32 oz. organic, free range chicken stock
1 32 oz. organic vegetable stock
3 chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 C. long grain rice

place the following ingredients in bowls and let guests serve themselves…
red cabbage
fresh  lime juice
avocado slices

In a large stock pot bring to a gentle boil chicken and vegetable stock, chicken, and garlic. Let simmer until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken and shred.

Add rice and cook covered 25 minutes, stirring only once.  Add water or more stock till desired consistency. You now have the basis for the soup and guests can decorate their soup bowls with as much cabbage, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro as they prefer.

Serves 4