April 29, 2016

Foraging – A Wild Garden Style Floristry Secret

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WORDS: Kathryn Cronin PHOTOS: Ricky Bache
Avase of flowers arranged in wild garden style adds atmosphere to a room like nothing else. The sweet heady scent is almost always there but then you have the blooms to gaze at in the mix too.

The secret to a wild garden style arrangement is quite simple. Foraging. Foraged foliage has been bent to nature’s own shape, each branch uniquely curved as it reaches for its share of light. Every arch allowed the movement and space to do so. Usually each piece is slightly less than perfect: no straight soldiers here like you’d see from the Dutch wholesalers. That said, the truth is this type of arrangement need both nature and the wholesaler to be their best, so I would always add in blousy roses and other florals to compliment the natural in my designs.

Foraging feels like a very green and ethical thing to do but like most things of that ilk, for it to work, it has to be done responsibly and with a conscience. I have my own set of rules, well, more in the way of guidance really. No snipping when it’s in someone’s else’s garden, however tempting, even if the branches are hanging over the edge of the property. I wouldn’t want my branches being snipped to my boundary line and I suspect not too many others would either. Never a wild flower. Ever.

One quick step through my gate and I’m straight onto the canal towpath lined with hedges of hawthorn and trees covered in beaded ivy.

I live in a forager’s paradise. Even Sarah Winward, the fabulous designer who has inspired a whole movement in foraged material, would be jealous. One quick step through my gate and I’m straight onto the canal towpath lined with hedges of hawthorn and trees covered in beaded ivy. I am a huge fan of Sarah Winward’s work. She adds such unique texture by incorporating locally foraged material that is a wonderful extension of the surroundings; and because it’s snipped right there and then, it always illustrates the season at that precise moment in time.

Sometimes, I come back with a bag full of foliage after a canal bank foraging session. It is always from different locations. I know that the Canal and River Trust will be doing the same thing (cutting back the over growth as they see it) so my logic is that I am doing them a favour in foraging really. As you can imagine dear readers, my darling did raise an eyebrow at this but sure enough, over the next few days even, the chain saws came through to ensure the towpath is kept clear. My conscience was clear.

In a wild garden style flower arrangement, every branch has its spot in the limelight, its unique opportunity to be its inalienable self. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to this style of arranging. Despite the obvious imperfect stems, or perhaps because of them, the whole effect is totally uplifting. It’s like having your own share of a wild garden right inside the house. I am torn of course with cutting my garden blooms – that’s the gardener in me. I think there is a balance between leaving some flowers there and having sufficient blooms to create the floral arrangement.

Chicken wire is my newfound friend! I suspect it was also the ally of many a flower arranger in the generation before the advent of floral foam. It is fast becoming my mechanism of choice. I don’t know about you but I don’t always get my placements right first time. If you want to make a move with floral foam, you’re left with a big hole. Chicken wire is a lot more forgiving, and lets face it my darlings, the environment is going to thank you for it too, with much less waste and chemicals, chicken wire is looking like the perfect reusable mechanism from my vantage point.

Chicken wire is my newfound friend!

And my favourite foraged foliage? It’s different for every moment of every season. Having explored this over some time now, my view is that Nature tells you what to choose when you are out foraging, each branch almost calls to you with its form, or colour or texture. This spring week, I’ve cut snow white pear blossom, gorgeous orange flowering branches of berbers darwinii, a barbed but beautiful purple leaved variety, each one for a quite different wild garden arrangement. Each said spring to me on that day with the florals that I had.

Read more from Fierceblooms on the floristry blog.

On the site, there are also lots more articles about my evolving canalside cheshire flower cutting garden.

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