When it comes to gardens, flowers with large displays and showy natures, such as sunflowers and dahlias, are often chosen by homeowners, along with more moderately sized, but brilliantly colored options such as roses and irises. The smaller flowers are often overlooked, forgotten or added as an afterthought, yet these are some of the most versatile types of blooms available.
Edible flowers can be eaten directly, used as a topping, frozen in ice cubes, floated in drinks or cool soups, or used as a decoration. The flowers can also be crystallized for a sweeter, longer lasting treat by brushing them with egg white and coating them in super fine sugar.
Violets and pansies are versatile edibles. Violets prefer cool weather and moist soil, coming back year after year. Pansies are a spreading biennial, but often used as an annual. Pansies enjoy full sun and are popular choices for containers. They come in a wide range of colors and are known for their "monkey face" appearance. According to Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens, both of these flowers are Violas, infused with a wintergreen or perfumed flavor.
Low growing and lovers of light shade, lobelia can fill in and brighten odd corners of the garden. Lobelia flowers attract butterflies and range in color from purple and blue to white, scarlet and pink. Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia) is an annual groundcover and excellent border plant that can blunt sharp transitions. Particularly good around walkways, the plant has a spreading mound form covered in miniature blossoms. Impatiens come in a variety of bold colors. These annuals thrive in shady spaces.
Small Flowering Bulbs
Small bulbs--like those of crocus and grape hyacinth--can be forced to bloom indoors or allowed to emerge on their own in the yard or garden, where seasonal changes trigger their appearance. The University of Missouri Extension Service suggests that a 6-inch pot can hold three hyacinth or 15 crocus bulbs, which should be planted 1 inch deep in lightly packed soil. Water potted bulbs right after planting.
Small cut flowers can be brought into the home for display. Flowers with a stem several inches long are best because a fresh cut should be made to the stem once you have the flowers indoors and ready to go into a vase of water. The University of Minnesota Extension Service recommends that gardeners use a floral preservative to extend the lives of cut flowers, warning that short-cut home preservatives do not work. Cut flowers do best when exposed to light, cooler temperatures and moisture. Lavender, particularly known for its distinct scent, makes a good cut flower.