Behind the Scenes: A Preserved Botanical Canopy with our Creative Photo Stylist


We’re always brainstorming new ways to work with dried and preserved botanicals—their versatility, beauty, and variety are constantly motivating us to push the boundaries of what “planting” can mean. And over the course of eight hours in our studio this month, our creative photo stylist truly captured the essence of everything we love about dried stems with this incredible canopy. We chatted with Beth Clevenstine to learn the inner workings of this installation, from inspiration to execution.

terrain: Wow! Beth, we’re completely awed by this canopy you created. Can you talk to us about your inspiration for this installation?

Beth: Thank you so much! I was inspired by the moodiness of Dutch floral painting, the large installations from the Australian artists at Looseleaf, and the current trend of painting natural stems. The tropical stems were so beautiful on their own, but I wanted to reference the darkness found in those old master paintings so I started by using several tones of blue-black and mahogany spray paint to partially paint the tropicals. After seeing how well they turned out, I let them guide me in creating the installation. I wanted to create a feeling of balance between dark and light with unexpected and subtle pops of color. My favorite pop of color comes from the natural rose tone in the dried star flower.

terrain: We know you have a background in installation and public art, so you’re well versed in constructing something of this size. Can you talk to us about how you made this work structurally? Was it heavy? Hard to contain?

Beth: Sure! I created an armature out of chicken wire wrapped and used zip ties to secure it tightly together. I attached three load-bearing wires to the armature to hang. After I hung it with the wire, I began sticking the dried and preserved stems into the chicken wire. The chicken wire really helps acting as a grid to support the stems. It really wasn’t that heavy! The wire is very light weight as are the stems.

terrain: You used a mix of dried, preserved, and fresh stems—can you talk about why you like working with these? Are there any drawbacks to the different types?

The dried stems are great because then offer a pretty natural tone and they hold their shape. They’re also paintable with spray paint! Preserved stems are nice to add more fullness and color that will last. The only fresh stems I used in this piece are the grasses. They’ll dry nicely in place but will shed over time.

terrain: The New York Flower Market is such a special place, and we know you visited earlier in the summer to gather some of the botanicals you used here. How do you navigate the flower market when you’re working on a big project?

Beth: I love the flower market! There are two stores in particular I love—Carribean Cuts and the Dutch Flower Line. First things first: definitely try to go before 8:30 am when the neighborhood is much quieter and there’s free parking on the street! Whenever I go to the market, I have a “grocery list” in mind, not necessarily a specific list of stems, but an idea of color and texture. For this piece, I knew we wanted some dried tropical stems, so Carribean Cuts was just the place to go. They have a terrific assortment of beautiful dried exotic tropical stems like palm, banana, lotus, starflower, and beyond.

terrain: We’d love to know how you chose the specific stems for this installation. Why were you drawn to them and what do you think they add to the installation?

Beth: Pampas grass is really important because it defines the space in a light, airy way. The variety of dried palms are also great to define space and add texture—some of these were painted in deeper tones to help add dimension. The dried banana leaf has this beautiful, organic line and the dried grasses and preserved stoebe in grays, pinks, and purples are key to filling in and covering up the armature. To finish, the dried lotus and star flowers gave that pop of color and specialness!

terrain: This installation is so incredibly full and lush. How many stems do you think you used?

Beth: I used about 30 larger tropical dried stems, 3 fresh palm stems, 3 packs of stoebe, between 6 and 9 pampass grass stems, some foraged grass stems that can dry in place, 3 lotus flowers, 3 starflowers, and some assorted whitish dried stems for contrast.

terrain: What is it about large scale installations that you think we all are drawn to—what is the magic of it?

Beth: Large scale installations change the space we exist in, bringing our attention not only to the piece itself, but to seeing surrounding space in a new way. The ability to be somewhere familiar and suddenly feeling transformed is so magical.

Feeling inspired? Our Design by Terrain team can help you create a unique floating canopy above your own dining room table. Click here to contact them today!

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