As a child, my love for Mother Nature’s canvas of blooming flowers, curvy tree branches and even colorful weeds were what inspired all my fairytale weddings, garden parties and mud pie picnics. And none of these ‘high society’ occasions could have been done properly without the help of my neighbors’ yards. It seemed like everyone around us had a green thumb – yards and gardens filled with blooms I simply couldn’t resist. Some adults were willing participants, others…Not so much. Sorry Mrs. Wheaty, I know you told me not to pick your tulips and daisies, but I just couldn’t resist.
Still to this day I’m very much a ‘habitual clipper.’ But my old neighbors will be happy to know that I’m no longer a foliage felon. Instead, I keep my eyes open along our beautiful East Texas roads. I’m always on the lookout for branches that can be used in my store, wildflowers that would add texture or depth to a party centerpiece, or greenery that would be the perfect finish to my fall door wreath. In fact, I always carry clipping tools and a bucket in my vehicle, just in case!
While I’m not advocating that you turn your car into a terrarium on wheels like mine, I do hope to encourage you to see beyond the lovely highway scenery. I want you to see your front and back yards as more than just landscaping. My goal is that you’ll consider using the great outdoors as your florist for your next special occasion or house party.
I just can’t stress enough how important it is to stop and ask yourself a few questions about your event or project before you start clipping, gathering or (worst case) shopping. The last thing you want to do is cut unnecessarily.
First decide on where you want to place/use your arrangements as this will help determine what sizes and kinds of containers are needed. Based on its purpose and location, do you need height or width? My husband Jack and I hosted an outdoor Easter Celebration this past April. Because of the space and the length of the table, I needed both width and height to achieve my tablescape design. To address width, I used oversized containers. To achieve the height, I mixed tall, trumpet-like agapanthus stems with other flowers of varying sizes. Full disclosure: in this particular instance, I used artificial flowers. My color scheme needed white and there were none to be found growing at that particular time in my yard or their neighbor’s yard. I have nothing against incorporating artificial flowers into your natural arrangement as long as they look real – very real. During this dry time of year, blooming flowers may be in short supply. Don’t rule out incorporating store-bought live flowers or artificial ones with natural foliage from the outdoors.
Before you head out to gather your spray of goodies, you will need a few essentials. Most importantly, you will need a very sharp knife, clippers or shears in order to make effective cuts. But keep the kitchen scissors in the drawer, as they will only crush the vascular systems of anything you clip and prevent proper water uptake. Have a rubber bucket with lukewarm water handy to immediately place your clippings in. And gloves are a must. You never know what thorns, bugs or poisonous plans may await you. When out on your nature walk, look first for foliage that will bring strong coloration and contrast to your arrangement. Next, be sure to look closely at the stems prior to cutting to make sure they’re free of insects and/or diseases. Also, make sure you’re not about to cut poison ivy, poison oak or sumac (the ultimate tablescape fail!). When you’re ready to cut, make a 45-degree cut about an inch from the main stem and place it in the water bucket immediately. My word of advice in this hunting and gathering stage – cut way, way more than you think you will need, because you will always need more than you think.
Once you’ve got more than enough, head inside to your kitchen sink area to start creating your masterpiece.
Step 1: Be sure to clean your container(s) with soapy water in order to prevent bacteria growth.
Step 2: Make a preservative. This is a must to ensure your arrangement lasts more than just a few hours.
2 teaspoon of lemon juice 1 teaspoon of household bleach 1 teaspoon of sugar 1 quart of lukewarm water Mix well and add to container
Step 3: Cut the leaves. You will want to remove any leaves that might sit in the vase water.
Step 4: Build your arrangement. While some people add foliage first then the flowers, I personally like to start with a good base of flowers, add foliage then finish it off with more flowers.
Start by clipping the stems underwater to the length required then begin placing them around the vase in varies heights. Usually when I have a complete circle of flowers, I will add foliage. Lots of foliage. Next, I’ll fill the dead space up with more flowers, and then finally add to the arrangement’s base with a combination of flowers and foliage.
A couple of tips: To keep stems from falling over when going for the clear vase look, create a grid by putting a piece of chicken wire over the top of vase that’s held in place with a rubber band. Also, be sure to change the water out every two days (add the preservative), and remove any wilting flowers or foliage. There you have it, a beautiful arrangement that truly brings the great outdoors into your home!