When I first started arranging flowers, I used my frequent trips to upstate New York as an opportunity to play with the materials that were growing in abundance on the side of the road or in a friend’s backyard. On visits to see my parents in suburban northern Virginia, I’d “forage” from the trail I walked down when I was growing up. (The last time I was home, we saw blooming magnolia trees, raspberry bushes and purple wildflowers.) It was a creative and inexpensive way for me to learn about form and shape and movement, while also working with what was available. Every time I clip a bit of greenery it still feels like a treasure hunt. I love the wild, natural arrangements foraged materials create.
This summer, I returned upstate, gathering blooms in the usual places and discovering a few new spots. That’s the beauty of foraging: it opens your eyes to all the amazing things growing and thriving around you—once you start looking, you suddenly see things you wouldn’t normally notice. And the more you forage, the more you become familiar with the different seasonal flowers. Some of my favorite summer finds are tiger lilies, rosehips, Queen Anne’s Lace, raspberry and blueberry bushes, wild roses, honeysuckle and cosmos. In the late summer, keep an eye out for asters, goldenrod and marigold, as well as leafy branches that are starting to change color.
Once you get out of the city, roadside wildflowers start popping up everywhere. The trick is to come prepared with a pair of sharp floral clippers, a basket to carry all your findings and a bucket of water to keep your blooms fresh. I like to clip stems at an angle (creating a wider surface to drink up the water) and as close to the base as possible, so I can play with length and height in the arrangement. It’s best to forage for blooms either very early in the morning or at dusk, before the heat of the day gets to them—you’ll have less of a chance of the blooms wilting. You also want to get them in a cool, temperature controlled environment as soon as possible. In addition to roadside wildflowers, a stroll down almost any trail leads to an abundance of ferns, which I love using in arrangements—they’re so wild and green, and remind me of the dreamy haze of summer and the damp coolness you feel when you’re in the woods.
After collecting a good amount of flowers and greens from a handful of different places, I usually stop by a clip-your-own flower farm to round out my arrangement with harder-to-find blooms, such as snapdragons and marigolds, and visit a farmer’s market to buy bouquets cut right from the field out back. (You can even delve into the produce aisle; artichokes on the stem and various stone or citrus fruits add an unexpected accent to a bouquet or dining table setting.)
Lastly, look to the backyard of friends and family. For my arrangement here, I went to Church Des Artistes Bed and Breakfast in Kingston, New York. Owner Julie Hedrick welcomed me into her shaded and beautiful courtyard garden, where I clipped branches from an apricot tree and some dying, dusty hydrangea trapped in a climbing vine. And voilà: a pretty and simple arrangement using what’s growing along the side of a road or down a trail, in your very own backyard and at a nearby farmer’s field or greenhouse. Just be sure to be respectful of others’ property and of Mother Nature when foraging—and remember to save some for the next person to enjoy.
All images copyright AndNorth.