Once or twice a year, during my grammar school days, our class would get to go on a field trip. One school outing which comes to mind was a trip to a natural history museum housed in a quaint rural church. Inside were small rooms filled with closets and cabinets containing preserved specimens of local flora and fauna: insects, butterflies, seed pods, feathers, all labeled and stored in jars or boxes. There were slightly morbid taxidermy specimens…I seem to remember a fox, who I felt so sorry for, and a bat. This cataloging of the natural world enthralled me. I saw it (and still do) as an art form. I would fantasize about mushrooms and beehives and dried flowers, and dreamed of becoming a botanical illustrator when I grew up.
It is so interesting now, in our age of computer everything, that the influence of the natural world is playing such a big roll in home decor and design. Found branches become coat racks, massive gnarly roots become table pedestals. Naturalistic flower arranging has seen a resurgence as we all want to see more natural objects of beauty in our complicated modern lives.
A book which is developing a loyal following is Debra Prinzing’s “Slow Flowers”. Debra wants us to let go of our preconceived notions of floral arranging. She encourages us to walk past the grocery store bouquets imported from a location thousands of miles away. Instead we should all look at what is available outside our back door; to seek and use ornamental twigs, unusual foliage, seed pods and lichen, and to look again at plants which we shelter in a greenhouse or windowsill (I’m seeing a gorgeous begonia on mine). No matter the season, there is beauty in the local flora to celebrate .
This brings me to an event I went to this past week: Flora in Winter, a fund raiser held at the Worcester Art Museum in MA. Talented floral artists selected a classical work of art and interpreted the work in an arrangement. I have to say I was impressed. Yes, many of the arrangements incorporated imported flowers and foliage, but many could easily be interpreted at different times of the year with natural objects found in your neighborhood.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to walk about your yard or nearby fields and woods to see what treasures you come upon. Perhaps you may want to introduce a new tree, shrub or flower to your garden so you will always have a local source. Remember to cast aside any old rules and preconceived ideas about flower arranging. It’s about experimenting and having fun.