A Foraged Bouquet



As cold weather brings gardening season to a close, we're looking for creative ways keep blooms in our homes throughout the winter. One of our favorite ways to bring the garden indoors is with dried and preserved flowers found at home or in favorite foraging spots. With foraging in mind, we asked Georgia florist Mandy O'Shea of Moonflower and 3 Porch Farm to share a found and preserved bouquet to close out the season. She teamed up with friend and photographer Rinne Allen to shoot the results. We loved working with Mandy and Rinne this spring, and they impressed us once again with their gorgeous flowers and photos. Read on for our chat about the foraged bouquet above.

terrain: What are some of your favorite flowers to grow for preservation?

Mandy: Some of the more common flowers that preserve well are gomphrena, strawflower, sunflowers, celosia, amaranth, yarrows and others, however I find that I am becoming more drawn to drying different textures. One of my favorite textures (which is in the featured arrangement) is a radish variety named Rat Tail. Their seed pods are both great fresh for eating and wonderful for drying. Grasses are also a good choice to dry. Once some grasses dry, I notice that they plume out a bit. I am constantly experimenting with drying to see what works and what doesn't.

Rinne: While I do not specifically grow flowers for drying, I walk around my garden this time of year and bring cuttings inside that last for months...many of them have already gone to seed or dried on their own. Things I enjoy throughout the winter are Allium, Cardoon, Autumn Clematis seed pods, various grasses...and I love the way that deciduous magnolia leaves curl when once they have fallen to the ground.

terrain: What’s the best time to cut flowers for drying and/or forage for natural finds?

Mandy: The best time to harvest flowers for drying are when the flowers are perfectly open or just about fully open. If they start going to seed, they tend to either drop a ton of seeds in the drying process (which can be a mess) or start to fall apart quickly once dried. I harvest and dry material year round and then just store them in large rubbermaid containers once dry.

Rinne: I tend to walk the garden every week or so throughout the season to see what has changed or transformed and gather the things that appeal to me.

terrain: Do you have any tips for successfully drying flowers? Are there specific conditions that help flowers dry for long-lasting use?

Mandy: The optimal conditions for drying are cool, dark areas with good air flow. Bright light and direct sun can bleach flower colors out quickly and degrade quality. Air flow is essential to prevent mold and rot. As for drying leaves, its best to just experiment which varieties will hold their leaves and color once dried.

Rinne: I usually place them in vases and jars inside my studio and let them be...they sometimes curl or droop, but then, once they have completely dried, they end up forming these beautiful, unintentional shapes.

terrain: Mandy, can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for the arrangement, and the elements that are included?

Mandy: For this arrangement, I used radish pods, gomphrena, cotton (a new favorite), blackberry lily seed heads, rain tree pods, oats, Queen Anne's lace, yellow Nandina berries, Eleagnus, various grasses and pods (I love pampas grass), and then I incorporated some fresh Fothergilla leaves and variegated boxwood that I know will hold and dry nicely. 

Having many projects going on at the farm gives me limited amounts of time to actually do flowers for myself so when I do an arrangement for us, I like it to be something that will be relevant and last for months. With this arrangement, the Fothergilla leaves are perfect for Fall but will soon fade a bit and then make the lightness of the other material pop, which is nice for winter. I can easily add bits of evergreen and red berries for the holidays if I want and then remove them again for January. 

terrain: Rinne, do you have any tips for photographing flowers? How did you choose the locations pictured here?

Rinne: It is always good to try to photograph things in open shade so that the light is even on your subject (although, I do love the dramatic mood of light quietly coming from a window, and, of course, I also love a good golden hour glow, too!).  I also like to experiment with different depths of field, finding the one that makes you feel like you are "in" the flower. This little shelf where Mandy created this arrangement is a great spot because it lets the flowers have room to spread out and down, giving a feeling of movement to the arrangement.

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