Ask Ella is a reoccurring Garden Collage feature where we ask our in-house florist, Ella Stavonsky, about floral design– including the history of, origin, and maintenance that goes into some of the most intriguing flowers on the market today. This column is dedicated exclusively to common and rare varieties of flowers you’re likely to find at your local market. This week, we spotlight balloon plant milkweed, a curious clipping that gives arrangements a dynamic look.
Balloon plant milkweed (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) goes by many evocative names: balloon cotton-bush, nailhead, gooseplant, and swan plant (we’re not sure about that last one, either). Not easily mistaken for anything else, the balloon plant is characterized by its dangling, airy, almost hollow orbs, which when opened reveal a core of seeds. They are a fresh, pale green and are accompanied by elegant, thin leaves (which we always like to leave on in our arrangements). Sometimes the orbs can take on a slightly reddish hue around the center, but always maintain their distinctive, prickly shape.