ISSUE 3  |  Tropicana

Bouquet of the Week: Foraging for Hibiscus in Costa Rica

January 22, 2014 5:00 PM

BY Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Somewhere along the line, the “tropical” arrangement unfortunately acquired a bad reputation. Images of banana leaves lining a vase and oddly stiff compositions pop into mind.  The funny thing is, the jungles I’ve seen are nowhere near as orderly, contained, or vertical as some of these tropical arrangements have become. 

The jungle certainly has its generous share of giant graphic leaves, whose shapes are almost cartoon-like, but they are also lush and overgrown, unruly, and covered with vines that droop and climb all over the place.  It’s this mix of the graphic, the looser and the wild, that I think is key to creating a more exciting tropical arrangement. 

Photographs by Sophia Moreno-Bunge.

Above: I was lucky to spend a week in Costa  Rica this month, where I created a fun tropical arrangement using plants and flowers I found along the side of the road (including this pink hibiscus flower).

Above: A beautiful pink flowered tree whose shape I used as inspiration for the arrangement. (I’m not positive on the ID, but it looks a little bit like a robinia tree, with larger and droopier blooms. Any experts out there?)

(Stumped on plant IDs? See our post on Plant Identification Apps.)

Above: Ti plants (Cordyline terminalis). There are so many different Costa Rican trees and shrubs with amazing variegated leaves. I used a similar plant with striped leaves for my final arrangement. (See Some Like it Variegated for even more striped inspiration).

Above: My foraged and found materials.

Above: Another unidentified pink flower.

Above: Pink and green variegated foliage and hibiscus flowers.

Above: To begin my arrangement, I created a base with my tropical foliage. I made sure the stems all reached the bottom of the vase and turned the vase around to create a full shape that looks good from all sides. I love the way the arrangement looked just like this; I would even have kept it this way–perhaps with a few more foliage stems–but for the sake of experimentation, I added a few other floral ingredients. When I’m back in New York shopping at the flower market (See How to Navigate the NYC Flower Market for pointers), I might experiment with creating a tropical arrangement made with crazy tropical foliage and leaves alone.

Next, I added four stems of the tropical foliage with pink blossoms that reminded me of jasmine blooms.

To finish: I added a few stems of hibiscus flower. Notice how the final shape mimics the tree above?

Hoping for a taste of the tropics but finding yourself stuck in the snow? Make yourself a Hibiscus and Lime Thirst Quencher or brew a cup of Summer Goddess Tea.