JERI MORAN of Montague, Mass., thinks cut flowers belong in every room of the house. ``Put them in the bathroom,'' she says. ``There's nothing nicer than cut flowers in the bathroom. Put them in the bedroom. Don't just put them on the kitchen table or the dining room table.''
Her own home is testimony to her philosophy. Dried flower bouquets abound in winter and fresh cut flowers in summer. They're all arranged according to rules such as ``balancing the arrangement and breaking the line of the vase.''
Ms. Moran says she learned these basics in a two-year horticulture program in Wooster, Ohio. Then she supplemented her schoolwork by studying seed catalogs and gardening.
A yardful of specimens
Her arrangements begin in the garden. ``There are two ways to line out a cut flower garden,'' she says. ``In rows, which are easy to cultivate, or in arrangements, which can be complicated or simple.'' Hers are simple.
``I use nine or 12 plants in a square [plot], so I have a mass of color. And I put the tallest plants in the back, of course.''
As for which flowers to grow, Moran believes that ``the most important thing is to grow the flowers that you like.'' After that, she suggests growing ones with long sturdy stems in a variety of shapes and colors.
``It's important to have a color range of flowers of similar size,'' she says, but adds that her own passion is for pinks and purples.
Moran also grows plants that lend interesting foliage to arrangements, such as the artemisia or scented or regular geraniums.
She especially likes the foliage of scented geraniums, because it's easy to bend down to break the line of the vase - and the leaves smell wonderful. Purple basil also populates her cutting garden for the same reason. The more variety the better
``Grow something for all seasons,'' Moran continues, ``like tulips and daffodils in the spring and mums in the fall.
``And you should grow some flower that's white. I can't emphasize white enough. It highlights the brilliance of other flowers. It makes reds look redder.''
Preparing the flowers for arrangements is a bigger job than people often realize, says Moran. It involves cutting stems, separating leaves, and picking bugs before arranging ever begins.
``Before you come in with an armful of 100 flowers, think about the arrangement you want and how much time you have. Start modestly,'' she advises.
Regarding containers, Moran gets right to the point:
``Get a lot of jars. Go to flea markets. Get tall, thin ones and big fat ones, ones you can put a lot of flowers in. Just be sure the necks are big enough and deep enough.
``And get some nice squatty ones, like baby food jars. Or get some juice jars. Maybe other people don't have this problem, but when I give flowers to someone else, I don't want to give them one of my good vases.''
When asked to describe two simple arrangements for a beginner, Moran first lists flowers and foliage for a ``squatty'' arrangement in a baby food jar: small buttonlike zinnias, small asters, marigolds with a long-enough stem, calendulas, and sprigs of basil or artemisia.
Then, for a tall vase, she suggests a mass of daylilies.
``I tend to have just one kind of flower in a tall vase, because I don't have that many different kinds of tall flowers,'' she says.
But Moran can't stop at two arrangements.
She goes on to recommend calendulas and marigolds for a ``great hot yellow-orange arrangement.''
She does not put any floral preservatives in the water for her arrangements. ``I'm cheap, and I'm not going to use more chemicals than I have to. And I have a zillion flowers.''
Most of those ``zillion'' seem to be in her home at any one time. But a peek out the kitchen window shows a zillion more waiting to come in, waiting in a patient parade of blocks of color.
A to Z of Moran's cut flower garden
These are some of the flowers that Moran grows in her garden and arranges in every room of the house. She speaks of some fondly, like she would speak of her friends:
Calendulas - ``I use calendulas a lot. I love them.''
Dahlias - ``I use dahlias, but the stems tend to be weak and the flower is short-lived.''
Liatrus - ``It's a gorgeous cut flower, dramatic, but it needs a real tall vase. It wouldn't combine well with zinnias.''
Lisianthus - ``Lisianthus has a real long life but it's hard to grow from seed and has a long season before it blooms. It's not good for the beginner to grow from seed - it's best to buy transplants.''
Marigolds - ``They're fun for tiny arrangements, but there's a problem with their small stems. You end up cutting off several buds to get one flower, and I have trouble doing that.''
Purple basil - for foliage and scent.
Sweet peas - ``They're real nice.''