A fresh arrangement of summer flowers, or foliage, brightens the home and the soul. When I was a kid, you could find me spending every moment of my free time with my grandparents. It was my grandmother who curated my love of gardening. She taught me so much about growing flowers and then how to arrange them. Not only did we use flowers we had grown, but we also incorporated natural varieties plucked from the surrounding landscape. We combed around the rolling pastures and farmland looking for wildflowers and branches loaded with beautiful foliage. Her method of arranging them is one that’s rooted in simplicity and rejects the rigid, formality of traditional arrangements. The result is an arrangement that seems as though it’s living and growing from the container; perfectly, imperfect as it would be found in nature. I still fashion all of my arrangements, no matter the event, in this manner. Whether large or small, foliage or flower, with a little creativity and a bit of practice you’ll be well on your way to custom arrangement suited for any, or no occasion at all. I had such a blast collaborating with my good friends at City Farmhouse in Franklin, Tennessee on an arrangement of bold, summer foliage for their fabulous new Event Space at the Factory in Franklin. He’s how we made it.
Begin first by identifying the container for the arrangement and determine if it can accommodate the needs of both space and the flowers. Think outside the box when deciding on a container. Large, bowls, ironstone pitchers, or crates make unusual and appealing vases. Here we used an antique terracotta urn, which is available for purchase on the City Farmhouse online store, because of the patina and ability to hold large cuttings. Use tape to create a gridwork pattern over the opening of the container. This will serve as the framework for placing the cuttings. Fill the container with room temperature water, and add a couple tablespoons of vodka to extend the life of the flowers. Replace the water every couple of day to prevent any bacteria from forming.
Next, decide on the contents of the arrangement and stick with an odd number of flower varieties. Groupings of three, five, and seven would most certainly be sufficient. If cutting flowers or foliage outdoors, harvest only in the early morning or late evening. Cut at an angle with clean, sharp garden shears. Place in a container of water for at least a half-hour before starting the final arrangement. Collect flowers or foliage that’s in season, and that would most likely be found growing together in nature. For example, a stem of mountain laurel would pair nicely with baptisia which can be found thriving in a shaded laurel grove. Be sure to cut stems much longer than needed. They will be trimmed and shaped up later.
Build the arrangement by starting with a foundation layer of foliage. This will act as a filler and support the other components of the arrangement. Keep the foundation loose, and spilling over the sides of the container in balanced yet natural manner. We used a combination of Pecan and Evergreen Cedar foliage for the base. Add a little height to the center using the foundation foliage.
For the secondary foliage choose cuttings that have nice texture or coloring. Here we used a couple of bold, white Magnolia blooms for fragrance and visual appeal and evergreens with blue seeds. Scatter them throughout the arrangement so that the eye moves about. Follow your judgment and place them where it seems aesthetically pleasing.
Last, add in wispy, sculptural varieties like grasses into the top and sides to add a tiny bit of height. Make any adjustments at this point and concentrate on any areas that may be disproportional or in need of more bulk. Place the arrangement in its desired location in an area free of direct sunlight. Enjoy!