Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Some of the different kinds of foliage used in floral design have become staples in the trade. That’s been the case for some of the ferns like leatherleaf, and also for salal.
Salal is also known as shallon and lemonleaf. This plant is native to parts of the Northwest. It is found from Alaska to British Columbia along the Pacific Coast to southern California. This species grows in the Cascade Mountains to 2000 feet elevation.
In the wild, salal forms low, dense thickets. It is well adapted to both sun and shade in wooded areas. This is a member of the Ericaceae family along with the familiar azaleas and rhododendrons.
Among florists, salal is noted for its glossy, dark green leaves. These are alternately arranged on the tall woody stems. The individual leaves are up to 5 inches in length. In the trade, salal stems are usually available year-round, though the supply may not always be as great in mid-summer.
This foliage is valuable to floral design because it is so adaptable. It is used both fresh and dried. For drying, no particular effort is required. It air dries just fine. Just place the stems in a shady, dry place. As the foliage dries out, it tends to lose a little bit of its color, but not much.
Other techniques also work for salal. It is often used in wreaths—both fresh and dried—because it can be cut and trimmed as needed. This can be easily glued in place on wreath forms.
In fresh arrangements, salal is most often used to give appropriate background for flowers, and as mass or filler. For such uses, it will normally last for three weeks or so. Salal is used in bouquets and other arrangements, including corsages and nosegays. It is very common in wreaths at Christmas, especially those made in the Pacific Northwest.
Though salal is typically found in the wild, it is also seen in cultivation. Typically it is used as a ground cover, and would not be a great choice for most cut flower gardens consisting of annuals. This woody plant reaches 5 feet in height in its native habitats. As with all the Ericaceous plants, salal prefers a rich, organic soil that is acidic. This is hardy to zone 3. Because it doesn’t like full sun in hot climates, shade is preferred in the eastern U.S. Salal has attractive, bell-like blooms in the late spring. These are either pink or white. During the fall, salal produces an abundant crop of blackish-purple berries.