Ask Ella: Can Baby’s Breath Be Redeemed?
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 ask one of Big Questions, one of the ones that keeps us up at night: can baby’s breath be redeemed?
For many people, there is no worse flower crime than Baby’s Breath. But really– what did baby’s breath ever do to you?? Sure, when paired with red roses it screams “I bought this on my way home because I totally forgot about that important thing and it was right next to the peanut M&Ms that were on sale, which is what I actually went in to buy” but on its own, considered apart from unflattering companions, it is actually quite a charming little flower, small and pale and with a dainty streak. By that same token, however, it can also evoke a stale, dusty vibe, as if it belongs in a bathroom next to a sad watercolor of a duck.
But you know what? We like Baby’s Breath. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say we love Baby’s Breath.
It’s true. We’re ready to admit our secret passion. While we might not say we’re head-over-heels (we’re in a long and complicated relationship with peonies), Baby’s Breath is like our great, supportive friend that everyone keeps dismissing because they don’t dress as splashy as everyone else. (And if we’re in a reflective mood, that might be some classism.)
First of all, Baby’s Breath is probably the cheapest floral filler you’ll be able to find. (Obviously greens will almost always be the cheapest.) Second, Baby’s Breath is ubiquitous. You can find just about anywhere, during any season. Third, Baby’s Breath is hardy. Heat? It’s chill. No water? No problem. Baby’s Breath might have a tender name, but it is tough— it’s like the Kristin Dunst in Interview With A Vampire of the flower world, but with less of the predilection for being a sociopath.
“But how do you use it?!” you are no doubt asking, distraught at all these years you have missed out on the fabulous, delicate beauty of Baby’s Breath. No fear. We are here to share our secrets.
The most important to remember when dealing with Baby’s Breath is what makes it look bad: namely, overly perfect red roses. Baby’s Breath does best when paired with elements that have an especially organic feel, like greens (ferns, eucalyptus, lemon leaves, and the like). Your palate should be relatively monochrome: think pale and pastel, with lots of dusty, rich greens. (Did we mention a lot green? You need a lot of greens. You’ll want to jot that down. We’re only going to mention it one more time.)
Otherwise, the most valuable piece of advice is to use it sparingly. Add it to your base (of greens) and thread other flowers through its stems to break it up and keep it from overwhelming any one section. A little goes a long way and used right, gives an extra punch of wildcrafted charm to any arrangement.
Ready to try something else outrageous? Try our guide to DIY botanical chandeliers.