Foraging for Floristry
* First Posted April 2020
As we come to the end of week 5 of lockdown in the UK, I’m sure there are lots of things we’re really missing now. Hugging our loved ones, shopping, nights out, proper coffee, picnics on the beach, I for one am getting serious flower withdrawals now!
We’ve all had to adapt to a new way of life, focus on what we do have and not on what we’re missing. Whilst I don’t have buckets of flowers to play with right now and my small cut flower patch in the garden hasn’t produced any bounty yet, it’s forced me to look at my garden and surrounding areas in a different light.
I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with different ingredients recently so I thought I’d share these with you and hopefully help you also look at your outdoor space differently too.
Firstly, it’s really important to state, you should only be out foraging outside your garden as part of your one walk a day and ensuring you’re also social distancing yourself from others. Secondly, I’m sorry to be a stickler for the rules but you can’t skip through the countryside snipping away at whatever you fancy, there are a few things you should be aware of before you go…
You need permission, you must ask the landowner before you forage anything from private land. I know this isn’t always possible right now but landowners such as the Woodland Trust will often state they are happy for people to forage responsible for personal use only (not commercial). Check online first or call if possible.
Know what you’re taking. Rare plants are often protected and illegal to pick in the wild, whilst others can be skin irritants or toxic. Protect yourself and the environment by checking a reference guide before you snip.
Only take from area with a bountiful supply. You should always only forage for personal use and ensure plenty is left for wildlife and others to enjoy.
Take care to not damage an area. It should look like you were never there after you’ve foraged, don’t dig up plants or take more than you need, don’t remove rocks or logs and make sure you take any litter home with you.
For more information, check the Countryside Code and the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Right that’s the important bits out of the way, now onto the creative stuff. Here are some of my favourite plants and flowers I’ve found whilst foraging over the last few weeks. Most of these are not grown traditionally to used cut flowers but it’s great to find there are still plenty of ingredients to play with at this time.
One of the most beautiful signs of spring! Many hedges and trees flower with blossom before they produce fruit, blossoming branches make stunning structural pieces either just on their own or as a shape framework with other foliage.
Hawthorn is in abundance near me, what’s great is catching is at different stages. Young fresh growth has bright green decorative leaves, it then blossoms beautifully before maturing into a deeper more forest green. Just be careful when handling as it does have thorns, it’s therefore more suitable for vase/ vessel arrangements rather than gift bouquets.
Not just for Christmas! Another foliage easy to find in abundance. The wiggly stems give fun movement to any arrangement and the berries add colour where flowers may be missing. You can use ivy growing around a tree trunk, however look for branches reaching away from the tree for easier to use stems.
If you don’t have much of a garden or outdoor space, look at your herbs. These can be grown quickly and easily on windowsills and add fragrance to displays. Rosemary, Mint and Lavender are my go to’s.
A common garden plant that always makes me think it must be from an alien planet. It works like a hybrid between foliage and filler flower and can grow pretty tall and straight making it useful as a cut flower. However, make sure you wear gloves when picking as the sap can be a skin irritant. If you’re using it in a bouquet you can limit to sap by giving the cut stems a good drink in cold water on their own with no other stems in the bucket for at least 30mins, then plunge the bottom 3 or 4 inches of the stems into boiling water, do not recut. This will help to sear the ends and reduce the amount of sap coming from the cut stem.
Who can resist these cuties! The tiny baby blue flowers almost look to perfect to be real sometimes and are great additions to gardens as they are loved by bees. They can help soften arrangements or add subtle colour to neutral colour pallets.
Lily of the Valley
Another little cutie I cannot resist! My poor mother isn’t a fan because they can be a bit invasive in the garden but if you have a little corner you’re happy to leave to go wild or pots then I think they are worth it! They smell divine and I like to arrange them in mix match bud vases and jam jars just on their own.
I’ve tried and failed to grow the Instagram worthy Iceland poppies a couple of years in a row now. Not sure where I’m going wrong but they don’t like me, however I can get over it as self-seeded field poppies have started popping up. These bold beauties really stop me in my tracks when they burst open and the seed heads can be saved to be used a dried decoration later in the year.
A really happy common garden plant that I’ve really fallen in love with this week. The long thin stems and small flower heads mean they really bounce and dance around in the arrangement giving a light and airy look but still with a punch of bold colours.
A familiar sight across the English countryside, they may look delicate but they’re actually pretty hardy and will grow almost anywhere. Often seen along the roadside, they are loved by wildlife so are great in ‘green corridors’. Cow Parsley makes the perfect substitute for Ammi Majus, which is more often grown specifically as a cut flower.
I hope that list has given you all something to look out for next time you’re out and about or in your garden wishing you had some cut flowers. It really is about focusing on what we have rather than what we don’t. I’d love to hear if you have other suggestions from your garden or outdoor space or if you’ve given flower arranging a go with anything listed above.