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A Floral Topiary for Mother’s Day

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We all share special memories of our mother, some out-sized, others a snippet, some prompted by a song,  another by an occasion… and still others by personal items that we treasure. Every time I walk into my dressing room I see her designer shoes, propped up on my chair, elegant watered-silk taffeta Herbert Levine’s  (7 AAAA) from way back in the 60s. Her shoe collection fascinated me  as a child, and still does.


It is these memories that form an important part of our psyche and our perception of reality. As I clock more years and experiences on this earth, I am also forever grateful that I listened early on to my mother’s “words of wisdom.” Not only did I respect her, but I felt loved unconditionally, knowing that she wanted me to have the fun growing up and into young adulthood that she had enjoyed (I fondly remember her waiting up for me when I came home from a date, wanting to know who I’d danced with, relishing all the details.) She was a Southern lady, a blithe spirit and a romantic at heart.


To this day, my friends love to pass along their rememberances of  my mother, being a guest in our home, the wisdom she imparted and they too  cherish.

Some of her favorites, and now mine:

“Life will teach you what it wants you to know.”
“When you see it, buy it (for it won’t be there when you need it.)”
“Never take a step empty-handed.”
“It was meant to be.”
“It’s not what happens to you in life, it’s how you handle it.”
“Inch by inch it’s a cinch…yard by yard it’s hard.”
“Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.”
And one bit of wisdom that she lived every day, and was that much saner for it…”denial is not a river in Egypt.”

As you can see in the portrait of us together in my home, she loved fuchsia, magenta, hot pink. So in her honor, I’m passing along a table centerpiece that I devised many years ago for that was always my contribution to any dinner party or holiday occasion. What makes this topiary so compelling is the infinite possibilities for colors and plant material. And a big bonus is that you don’t need lots of various flowers; a limited number can be very effective…as well as keeping it simple for “beginners.”

Bettie Pardee Easter-52

Taking my cue from her dress, I chose alstroemeria (which lasts forever) in magenta shades, paired with complimentary lavender stock at the base. The contrast of the deep pink with lavender is more interesting than all of the same. Since it’s Mother’s Day, I’ve added spring green ivy to capture the season (in winter I might have chosen leaves in grays and bluish greens.)

Bettie Pardee Easter-5

Topiary How-To From My Flower Arranging Room


Preparing the Container and Topiary

  1. Soak oasis blocks in water; place in plastic bowl with top of Oasis extending approximately 1 ½” above lip of flower  container. Center container on lazy susan so that you can turn the container as you work, insuring that all sides of the design will be balanced. 

  2. Gather individual stems of the alstroemeria in a circular fashion, keeping some of the flowers high and others low to create the desired effect of a round ball.
    NOTE: The height of the topiary should be approximately 2 ½ times the height of the container, so cut the collection of stems to the desired length after you’ve gathered them.

  3. Holding stems tightly at their base and throat, plunge the stalk into the center of the Oasis until it reaches the bottom of the container, for stability. 

  4. Starting at the throat, right below the flowers, lace 2-3 strings of raffia back and forth creating the pattern as shown, until you get to the base of the stems. Tie off and snip the loose ends of the raffia. 


Now for the “Window Dressing”

  1. Arrange plant material into the Oasis around the base of the  topiary’s trunk, extending material out beyond the edge of container. Start with the ivy (there are many types available, see below) choosing trailing stems that have an interesting curve. Also add short pieces under the topiary ball, at its throat. 

  2. Lavender stock is the work horse here, its multi-flowered stems providing the weight and balance to the tall topiary. Distribute them generously throughout the base, turning your lazy susan as you work. 

  3. The purple lisianthus comes next, spotted around the base where its deep color will add depth to the design. This wonderful flower is very versatile for not only do you get the fully opened flower, but each stem also has a lovely bud. These add highlights to the final design. 

  4. Finish with the Teatree stems, whose small leaves and interesting flowers add texture and scale. 

  5. Carefully add water to the plastic container holding the Oasis, and be sure to check daily; the flowers, and topiary, obtain their moisture from the dampened Oasis. 


    Don’t forget to mist all the flowers! 



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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

6 thoughts on “A Floral Topiary for Mother’s Day

  1. Oh Bettie, this brought back so many memories for me of your dear Mother! She was so beautiful and gracious and fun!! What a wonderful treat to see the photograph of the two of you together. Much love, Sue

  2. Beautiful, as always! And thank you for reminding me of the flower name Alstroemeria. I can never remember that!

  3. Oh Bettie, I just love the pic of you and your Mom. Great legs! I wish I had met her. Her words of wisdom are wonderful – some I have never heard, but will definitely repeat! And this centerpiece – what a magnificent, and doable, masterpiece. Thanks for the inspiration. Is your Elizabeth Magnolia in bloom yet?

  4. Bettie,

    Loved your Topiary. I just made my first one to raffle at Garden Club. Now I
    know I should have had some alstroemeria short and others long. I had mine
    all one length. Love this blog.
    Yours in flowers and song,
    Linda Souza

    1. LOoed that you made your version of this topiary for the raffle!
      Didn’t you enjoy the proceaa? And evevrytime that you create one it will look different and you’ll learn something new.
      Aaaah, the pleasures of flower arranging. xB

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