Unsung beauties

These look great in bouquets

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Bells-of-Ireland (Moluccella laevis). Columns of apple green bells on long stems. Unusual color and shape; long bloom season. Flowers are also handsome when dried; the best drying method is right in the vase.

Cleome (C. hasslerana). Large, rounded heads of pink or white flowers with long, protruding stamens. Dramatic flower, long season. Foliage has a strong, haylike scent. Dried seed capsules also useful in arrangements.

Cosmos (C. bipinnatus). Daisylike flowers, 3 to 4 inches wide, with tufted yellow centers; available in shades of white, pink, and dark rose. Charming appearance, proliferation of bloom, long season. For longer vase life, cut while yellow center florets are still closed.

Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena). Spurred, 1-inch-wide flowers in shades of blue, white, and pink; followed by decorative seedpods. Quick reward, but the flowers have a short season―in mild-winter areas, resow in fall for a second crop.

Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus). Long (to 18 inches), pendulous ropes of red flower clusters. Handsome mixed with bold companions like zinnias and sunflowers. Good dried flower.

Phlox (P. drummondii). Large clusters of small flowers in pastel and bright colors, some with contrasting eyes. Great mixer; long season; clean, pleasant fragrance. Make sure you select a tall (about 11/2-foot) rather than dwarf (6- to 8-inch) strain.

Strawflower (Helichrysum bracteatum). 21/2-inch-wide papery flowers that look like prickly pompons. Available in pearly pastels and brights. Interesting shape, long season, excellent dried flower. Cut before the flowers are fully open or centers will turn brown.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Large (4- to 8-inch) daisylike flowers with black centers, plus chrysanthemum-like forms; mostly yellows, also bronzes and chestnut reds. Bold blooms, long season. To avoid pollen stains on tablecloths, select pollenless varieties like 'Valentine'.

Zinnia (Z. elegans). Large (3- to 5-inch) dahlia-like blooms in every color (but blue) plus peppermint stripes. Long season. To prevent powdery mildew, allow for air circulation between plants and avoid overhead watering.

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