Last week was exhilarating. Temperatures neared 70 and the sun was out and bright. The snow was gone. Fantastic. Beautiful white snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, covered my yard. It was a blanket of white, a white different from the snow. And then it was Friday and the snowdrops were buried under a foot of snow. Yes, they will survive — as a matter of fact, when I looked out this morning, they were returning to their full glory. Can the tulips be far behind? Just a reminder: Deer love tulips, so you had best protect them now.

All this change in weather got me thinking about the green lawn and the beautiful foliage of summertime that I so enjoy. Perhaps, I thought, the trees will start leafing out, at least. Then the snow came down and the dream disappeared. All of this got me thinking green. No, not St. Patrick’s Day green, but the foliages that we use every day at the flower shop. Tthe foliages that are in the arrangements are there and you see them, but don’t see them. That’s right: They are there, but we tend to pay little or no attention to them. They are important.

They are there to fill in the spaces and to give the flowers a background to show against and to hide the mechanics. Looking at an arrangement and seeing the foam, or where the stems go into the vase or foam, certainly does detract from the beauty. We use foliage to create lines so that we can create spectacular arrangements. We even use foliage to create a focal point for an arrangement. Galax leaves are a good example of this. The oval leaf is generally 5 or 6 inches across and is always one on a stem. I can take one leaf and roll it into a cone shape, and then add another and another and move until I have formed a rosette that will draw attention to the center of the arrangement.

The foliage that you most see in today’s arrangements is called leather leaf, sometimes baker fern. It grows in huge, shaded structures in central Florida. It has become popular because, until recently, it was relatively inexpensive and each piece covered a lot of space. Though it is still our No. 1 foliage, the hurricanes, floods and winds have torn the industry apart. Available fronds are relatively small. Hopefully the situation will be resolved, in the not-too-distant future.

I love using myrtle. We get it in bunches and the stems, long and narrow, can be up to 3 feet in length. With good styling, and by tucking a few flowers in that line, you can create a beautiful, tall arrangement. Now, with that in a vase, you can tuck carnations and daisies around the base and have an exotic creation.

Do you remember those large philodendron leaves? One of the plants was called the Swiss cheese plant. It was very large and indeed had holes in the leaves that resembled green Swiss cheese. Next time you have company and have flowers on your dinner table, try this trick to create a conversation. Take a large leaf from that plant and spray with leaf shine; for effect, turn the leaf over and cut that large vein from the back so that it will lay flat on the table. Now place your arrangement on it. That one leaf just added a lot of pizazz to the table.

And foliages are not all dull and all green. There are some fantastic varieties out there. Ti leaves are spear-shaped and anywhere from 10 to 18 inches long and 5 to 6 inches across. They come in green, green and white, and burgundy. They make a fantastic background to any arrangement. Euonymus is another of my favorites. The 2- to 3-inch long oval leaves along the stem are edged in white or yellow. You may even have some of this in your backyard. It grows well here.

More on foliages next week.

Carmen Cosentino operates Cosentino's Florist with his daughter, Jessica. He was elected to the National Floriculture Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2008, received the Tommy Bright award for lifetime achievements in floral education. He can be reached at or (315) 253-5316.