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Andreana Bitsis

Ask Ella: Using Bells of Ireland For Understated Grace

Ask Ella is a recurring Garden Collage feature where we ask our in-house florist, Ella Stavonsky, about floral design– including the history of, origin, and maintenance that goes into some of the most intriguing flowers on the market today. This column is dedicated exclusively to common and rare varieties of flowers you’re likely to find at your local market. This week, we spotlight Bells of Ireland, a long-lasting flower that adds spontaneous height and shape to any bouquet.

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In spite of their name, Bells of Ireland don’t actually grow in Ireland, unless specially cultivated. The name is derived from the plant’s pale green color and the bell-shape of the calyx that protects the flower within. Bells of Ireland (sometimes known as “shell flowers”) originated along the eastern Mediterranean and are a member of the mint family, which means they sometimes have a very light fragrance. In keeping with the Irish theme (however fictitious its origins), the plant is thought to symbolize luck in the language of flowers.

Ask Ella Bell of Ireland 1

Andreana Bitsis

Bells of Ireland flower in July and August, so this is the time of year when they’re likely to start appearing at the your local florist at an affordable price. Bells of Ireland are a relatively sturdy plant– just place them in cool water, recut every other day, and keep them out of the heat and sun to prolong their life. When arranging, be advised that shell flower stems are easily bent, and they have small spines that look gentle to the touch but can be quite sharp.

Ella recommends pairing Bells of Ireland with tropical flowers (like bird of paradise or ginger flower), as their fresh green color offsets vivid hues, creating a summer-y arrangement that feels bold and extravagant. For a less intense look, Bells of Ireland can be added to arrangements of delphinium (whose shape they echo). This softer, meadowy style evokes the richness of summer like only a structured flower can. Bells of Ireland work especially well in large centerpieces, where their color and height make for a dynamic complement to pretty much any other flower.

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