This bouquet of foxtail grass sits on my dining room table. I enjoy the grace of its arching stems and the green spear-like leaves setting them off.
It brings back memories of my trips to England. When I vacationed there, I made it a point to visit small towns and seek out the small ancient churches. If I was lucky, it might be the day that the Women’s Committee was arranging flowers for the altar. These arrangements were usually large, standing on pedestals. The thrifty committee did not use florist flowers – they used local greenery plus a few garden flowers from their homes.
It was fun to see their creativity. They might be using weeds, grasses, ferns, leaf twigs, fall berries, bittersweet, cattails, seed pods, or colorful fall leaves – whatever was available – weaving them together for an altar tribute. I have not been able to find a photo of such “bouquets,” but every month there is an expensive arrangement of this style in the lobby of the Sackler Museum, and they are also seen in the lobby of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
On my October walks in Rock Creek Park I have noticed a lot of weedy material just right for such bouquets, and I decided to try my hand using materials from my own garden (Remember: It is not legal to pick them up in the park). The foxtail grass is one result.
This bouquet uses two native plants, goldenrod and blue lobelia. Right now, goldenrod is a glory along the roads in Maryland farm country, and less common in Rock Creek Park. The blue lobelia likes some shade – I find it on the edge of woods.
This arrangement is rangy – with upland boneset and miscellaneous seed pods. Boneset is a relative of Joe Pye weed, and it is much beloved by bees. It is everywhere along roads in Rock Creek Park.
I haven’t been able to identify this common grass, but I admire its spiky ochre stalks.
Love that purple! When we used to drive to Cape Cod this time of year, the meadows and fields along the way were full of this native New England aster. I took these from my garden and paired them with the berries of pokeweed and odd seedpods. Pokeweed is common – you can find them in the garden behind the Rock Creek Nature Center.
So, challenge your artistic side and try a natural bouquet. There is lots more material out there – red berries on the dogwoods and the hollies, tiny cones on the hemlocks, seed pods in your garden, grasses on the edge of alleys, leaves turning.
Even if making a bouquet does not interest you, watch for the fall beauty of the ordinary plants and seeds around us when you are walking in Forest Hills or Rock Creek Park.
Photos and arrangements are by the author and Georgia Telmo.
Other autumn-themed Backyard Nature articles by Marjorie Rachlin: