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Botanical Brouhaha Expert Discussion Panel: No. 87


Do you forage material for your arrangements? If so, do you use foraged material in wedding work? Where do you gather it? How do you make sure it lasts through an event without wilting? I often see foraged material in arrangements on Instagram that appears to have begun wilting during the event and would like to avoid that if I include it in my wedding work.

Passionflower floral photoshoot in a forest for Botanical Brouhaha Expert Panel 87

Passionflower | Jennifer Ilene Photography

Botanical Brouhaha Expert Panel 87 Answers:

I definitely use foraged material in my arrangements and wedding work.  I have foraging spots all over town- in my yard, my neighborhood, my parent’s and in-law’s yards, abandoned lots, and yes, on the side of the road.  I must admit, my attention is not always *on* the road as it should be, but on the side of the road, looking for promising new spots!

Passionflower | Susan McCleary | Jennifer Ilene Photography

Passionflower | Jennifer Ilene Photography

Some of my favorites to forage include: eleagnus, Russian olive, spirea, lilac, smokebush, mock orange, dogwood, hornbeam, copper beech, grasses, oak, bittersweet, and privet.

Passionflower photoshoot in messy foliage for Botanical Brouhaha Expert Panel 87

Passionflower | Ethan Harrison Photography

I’ve learned to pick a few days before, and hydrate before using. This is especially important early in the season, when plants are tender and more prone to wilt. I’ve added Chrysal hydrating solution to my routine to help ensure successful hydration. After I bring in my haul, I re-cut, strip the lower part of the branches, dip into Quick dip, and set the bunches in water that I’ve added hydrator to. I allow them to drink for a few hours outside of the cooler, then pop them in. As for wilt during an event, this shouldn’t happen if the materials were properly processed, properly arranged, and properly chosen for the event. Some materials do not do well in flower foam, or were cut too young, or put in an environment that’s too hot. I wouldn’t use young lilac in foam, at an outside ceremony in July, for instance.  My suggestion would be to test materials that you find, then you’ll have confidence that they’ll fare well.  All this said, there are some who don’t mind a little wilt, or browning leaves, or a bug eaten leaf… if it fits the aesthetic of the composition, I actually think it can add richness and emotion to arrangements.

Susan McCleary (Passionflower)

I forage for almost everything I do. Being in the Pacific Northwest is like being in Mother Nature’s own cutting garden. The vines, foliages, wildflowers are amazing.

I don’t find that there is anything different about foraged material over other types of material with regards to it lasting – if I’m foraging for flowers like say a certain type of vine, I might sear the stems just like I would if I was getting it commercially. Like anything, some things just last better. If I’m foraging for foliage as opposed to flowers, I’m often doing it because it’s material that holds up well that I can’t easily get commercially (like copper beech or wild plum foliage for example).

I usually forage along municipal road ways, which aren’t off-limits. I will occasionally venture onto private property (residential or commercial) but only if I have the a.o.k. from the owner. I don’t hesitate to ask though – people are usually really open and generous when they hear how you plan to use the material. It helps if you approach it confidently and with knowledge on how to say prune a hydrangea or smaller tree with care not to damage the plant.

A helpful tool for me is google maps – it’s easy to forget year to year the gems that you discover so what I do is pin locations with notes about what I foraged there and when.

Another great source for foraged material is local landscapers. I’ve made friends with some amazing gardeners and landscapers who will let me know if they are pruning something I might be interested in. I’ve received some AMAZING product this way.

Clare Day (Clare Day Flowers)

Yes, I see a lot of semi-wilted and downright wilted foraged materials in arrangements on FB.  This is the result of not properly conditioning the flowers to prep them for use, to last.  All materials you use in design work should have been tested for longevity before use anyways.  Don’t leave it to chance…  this is just bad business.  I use foraged material all the time – it’s the absolute best way to get a natural look to the design.  To bring nature in is absolutely the best thing to do, to get away from the commercial look. But the material needs to be harvested, best early in the morning, or in the evening.  Cut, and re-cut and dip in Quick Dip to hydrate fully (especially if the stems were gathered and might have been without water for some time) – then put into bucket with fresh water with preservative.  If the flowers that were cut went straight into water, then it needs still to be re-cut and put into water with floral preservative.  It is best to forage the day before so that the flower stem can harden and the flower take up as much moisture as possible for use the next day.  It is also a good idea if it can go into refrigeration, or keep in the coolest place possible overnight – this will firm up the blooms. The flowers will be ready to use the next day WITH CONFIDENCE.

Hitomi Gilliam (Design358)

Fleuoropean floral arrangement for Botanical Brouhaha Expert Panel 87

I do often forage material for arrangements. There is so much natural beauty to be found in the outdoors, and I find that a bit of Mother Nature’s wild side seems to add a special touch to most floral displays. There is much discussion around the ethics of foraging, but to me, foraging responsibly means cutting only small amounts from specimens that grow en masse and are not on a list of protected plants or located within protected areas. Most often (and definitely for wedding work), I try to pick along my own (very rural) street or ask friends, family, and neighbors if I can pick from their property. Sometimes you just have to stop your car and pick a stem or two alongside the road… which leaves me with both a huge smile and a tiny tinge of shame, but that’s just me 🙂

Foraged Hops | Fleuropean

Regarding the viability of foraged foliage, it’s all a question of trial and error. Many foraged goodies last surprisingly long when left in water. I have found that most vines and wildflowers (hops, wild clematis, queen anne’s lace, etc) tend to wilt when out of water if not conditioned properly. Most often, however, even though the foliage might wilt a bit, the seedheads and flower pods hold up very nicely. Most foliage (beech, oak, honeysuckle, elderberry, etc) lasts wonderfully when in water, but (much like foliage grown specifically for florists) will dry out or wilt when used on an arch, chuppah, or as garland. I would suggest testing out the wild wonders that catch your eye before using them for an event. This way you will know how they behave and what you can expect from them.

Emily Avenson (Fleuropean)

I have been using foraged material more and more in my wedding work. It is economical and also makes for interesting greenery and accents. I am lucky that I am able to forage a lot in my own yard as well as locally along the side of the road. Once you start foraging you will notice that you are constantly sighting new things that you never noticed before. In Connecticut I am able to find Birch Branches, Honeysuckle, Bittersweet, Viburnum, Dogwood, Asclepsia, Queen Anne’s Lace, Sweetpeas, Seagrasses, Winterberry, Rosehips and lots of vines and greens that I don’t know the names of. I always try to test things out before using them both in water and out of water. When using foraged greens I always use a chicken wire or frog as a base so they have fresh water to drink instead of being put in floral foam. I also deliver all bouquets in water and tell the bride and bridesmaids to leave it in water for as long as possible until it’s needed for pictures/ceremony to prevent wilting.

Beth Zemetis (Blush Floral Design)

I use foraged material in weddings. It usually comes from my garden or surrounding fields / woods. I experiment with every type of material before using it by gathering some and keeping it in my studio for several days in water to see how it evolves.

Laetitia Mayor (Floresie)

We use a few specific foraged elements in our design work, but only that which we have tested extensively to know that it holds up throughout an event. We forage from around the hedgerows and forest that surround our farm. If you are interested in using something you see growing wild, I would suggest cutting some of it and testing it before using it at an event. Cut it, hydrate it in the cooler overnight and then make a little test arrangement. Let that arrangement sit out in a sunny warm spot for several hours. If it still looks good later, then you can use that foraged element. If it doesn’t, then it may be best to skip it.

Jennie Love (Love ‘n Fresh Flowers)

Jo Flowers

Jo Flowers

Jo Flowers

Yes, I use foraged materials for my arrangements & weddings. As well as ingredients ‘foraged’ from friend & family gardens, orchards, farms. I always pick very early morning, when there’s plenty of moisture & condition as I would normally. As with any living material used in floral design, wilting does occur if starved of water, but to be honest..this rarely concerns me. Using these ‘foraged’ ingredients gives a design more interest in terms of shape, structure & texture that you simply cannot buy from commercial wholesalers.

Jo Rodwell (Jo Flowers)

Jo Flowers cake floral design for Botanical Brouhaha Expert Panel 87

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