Arrangements Using Wild flowers

Laws vary from country to country so make sure you don’t collect any endangered species. Best to cultivate your own wild flowers if possible, as there are many seed packs available nowadays.

The general objection to using wild flowers for indoor decoration is that they do not last. This is something I. have seldom found to be correct. Of course there are some wild flowers which die quickly, but this fact applies equally to some garden flowers. Many wild flowers last surprisingly well when they are treated with the same respect and care which is usually reserved for specially cultivated blooms. They can hardly be expected, any more than florist’s flowers, to stand up to the journey home unless they are well wrapped or have their stems in water. Clutched in a hot hand, exposed for some length of time to the sunshine and, almost as bad, to draughts (of all the discomforts that wild flowers have to suffer draught is the most dangerous), and kept out of water for some hours, it is hardly surprising if they droop at the end of it.

They have been known to survive (in excellent condition) first a local bus journey and then three hours in a train, when wrapped in a compact parcel of newspaper, (if they are wrapped in strong newspaper, and covered completely so that no outside air gets into the parcel, they will repay any trouble taken over the packing), or settled in a tall enamel jug with their stems in the water.Arrangements Using Wild flowers

Here are a few which have proved their staying power: the little white flowered jack-by-the-hedge, with its curved stem, pale green pods and heart-shaped leaves.

Bluebells and primroses which should be carried home wrapped in a cool dock leaf or some damp moss, and given a long deep drink as soon as possible on arrival.

Spurge, one of the most decorative plants, which goes on for weeks, to add to a green group.

Cowslips, buttercups (if picked in bud and the older flowers cut off, as they die.) Garlic, sheep’s bit scabious, all these, together with some of the hedge-parsley family (particularly angelica), white campion, ox-eye daisy, clover, meadowsweet, and foxgloves. Another flower and a most graceful plant, coming this time from the hedgerows is wild clematis. (Instead of dying in the usual way by becoming limp or dropping its flowers, it actually dries while still in water, and the small bunches of flowers become soft, grey, fluffy clusters, looking almost more attractive than before.) I once had a bowl of ox-eye daisies, Queen Anne’s lace, and spur valerian which lasted perfectly for eight days. After that time the valerian and the Queen Anne’s lace began to fall, but the daisies lasted for a further five days. A week is usually considered a good record for most cut flowers and these little field daisies, which often last beautifully for as long as a fortnight, ought to have a special mention.

There does seem to be one difficulty which sometimes arises when arranging wild flowers. By their nature they are usually more delicate and very often smaller than most plants, which means that they may not produce such a definite effect or such a firm outline. It is important then to arrange them against a plain background and to be sure that they are not overpowered by too many ornaments or Victorian paraphernalia. Of course, there are some wild flowers and leaves which can compete perfectly well, but on the whole wild flowers show off best in simple surroundings.

There is a charming and interesting appeal for the use of wild flowers in a Cassell’s Household Guide of about 1860, which shows a refreshing approach to the whole subject: ‘It is to be regretted that a more general use is not made of our lovely field flowers for purposes of table decoration.

Even the most skilful and professed bouquet makers know of no substitute for the ‘totter’, or quaker grass, and .. . the ragged robin, scarlet poppy, wild clematis, butterfly orchis, honeysuckle, lady’s mantle, bluebells, wild anemones, and the ever welcome daisy… abound wherever there are green fields and hedgerows’. It goes on to suggest that ‘a handful culled at random in an evening’s walk’ should be kept from day to day ‘to gladden the eyes of those whom daily toil debars from outdoor pleasures’.

Finally there is the fun of collecting wild flowers and seedheads for a dried arrangement for the winter.

Growing in the hedgerows, amongst many other treasures, are foxglove seedheads, knapweed, and meadowsweet. The foxglove stems are useful and decorative, but, for some reason, often rather difficult to find; the growth of knapweed (this ordinary weed is condemned for ‘blunting the mower’s scythe’) is its chief attraction.

Let us turn now to the subject of branches and leaves suitable for decoration, especially in the spring. Willow, alder and hazel are three of the most valuable trees for cutting in the first months of the year, when their catkins adorn the hedgerows and bring indoors the expectation and cheerfulness of the season. Although they are sometimes accused of dropping their pollen badly, I think that they are worth the trouble of a little extra dusting and I have noticed that if they are cut as soon as they show signs of coming out, this practice will not happen.

The fresh green of wild arum leaves is a welcome addition to a small arrangement of flowers, especially coming early on as they do before many other plants are even showing. Foxglove and primrose leaves also provide some of the first patches of green and they are closely followed by bursting buds of beech, silver birch and hazel.

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