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Learning Floristry Basics with Hedgerow Bouquets

After feeling a growing urge to learn some basic floristry, I watched a series of youtube videos and read the introductory chapter of Floret's A Year in Flowers. I wanted to be able to get to grips with arranging- gain some confidence, experiment and make mistakes- without spending money on flowers or ruining our first flowers. Our flowers are also a way off blooming and I've been getting impatient to experiment!

I am very fortunate to have a nature reserve on my doorstep. The reserve was built on a series of former gravel pits and the organisation seeks to create a variety of environments for biodiversity including ponds and lakes, meadow, hedgerow, heath and scrub, which makes it an excellent place for sourcing a variety of foliage and wildflowers. On a very sunny and stormy, changeable day earlier this month, I set out into the reserve with my clippers, secateurs and bucket. Having read about about the six floral categories- structural foliage, supporting and textural ingredients, focal and supporting flowers, and airy accents- I went out seeking a wide range of texture, colour and shape.

I had no problem finding warm structural foliage.The new spring growth of almost any tree looks beautiful and appealing and so I snipped away at hazel, willow, hawthorn, damson, crab apple. For textural foliage, I found meadow foxtail grass and goat willow catkins, and for airy accents I found cow parsley and branching buttercups. Focal flowers were the category most lacking and I had to make do with a couple of early dog roses and going over crab apple blossom.

Throughout, I followed the general rules for foraging, making clean cuts just above nodes to encourage healthy regrowth (this prunes the tree and is arguably beneficial) and never took more than a third from any plant (I was taking far far less than this!).

Towards the end of my forage, the skies which had been darkening and growing ever more ominous, opened up and the rain and hail pummeled down. I found myself sheltering beneath a willow by the waters edge, desperately trying to protect my delicate buttercups from a beating. I was soaked through in minutes and, once liberated from trying to keep dry, loved being caught in the midst of it! It makes me excited for the many different weathers I will get to experience in my future as a flower farmer.

Once home and dried, as a learning exercise, I tried to sort the tangle of foraged material into the six different categories and laid them out on the table.

I then stripped the leaves from the lower stems and began to gather stems together in my hand, making sure to keep my hand loose as told in a video and turning the stems every time I added to the bouquet to achieve that pleasing twist. I ended up using far more foliage than I had expected to use in a relatively small bouquet and found it hard to keep the bouquet well balanced, resulting in lots of gappy parts. The end result was pleasing, especially considering it was my first 'bouquet' and the material was entirely free.

Although I had low expectations for vase life, most of the foliage and the buttercups lasted pretty well. As to be expected, the already too-open crab apple dropped its petals after two days, as did the hawthorn blossom. The cow parsley dropped a fine layer of pollen on the table and the catkins produced a fluff that went everywhere!

However, the exercise was very enjoyable and good practice for learning the basics of arranging. I also found that I was completely absorbed by the task, especially the foraging, and so it was a very grounding and mindful exercise too. It'd be a lovely exercise to do once every month or two as way of getting to really know the hedgerows and capturing their changes and beauty throughout the seasons.

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