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In the most personal of her several books, Val Easton leads us gently through the seasons as she demonstrates the ease with which she brings her garden indoors to decorate her home. ... Petal & Twig is a book for anyone who wishes to bring cut material indoors-from even the smallest of gardens. While the palette in Val's arrangements is decidedly Pacific Northwest (after all, she splits her time between Whidbey Island and Seattle), the message of Petal & Twig is definitely non-regional: grow your own, cut your own, observe what you have, and learn to play with it. Let your bouquets exemplify nature's artistry brought indoors.
Pacific Horticulture Magazine
Open your eyes and keep it simple: those are two lessons Easton (The New Low Maintenance Garden), a garden writer and Huffington Post columnist, passes on from her own 40 years in the garden. When selecting and arranging flowers for bouquets, you needn’t spend a bundle buying a bundle of imported flowers. Instead, check what’s in stock in your own backyard. Easton, who gardens in the Seattle area, offers refreshing counsel for thinking about bouquets through the year. They needn’t contain only colorful flowers. Add grasses, twigs, and foliage. Easton offers guidelines and principles (one can own a lot of thrift shop and garage sale vases) as well as a journal of possibilities through the seasons. Gardeners not in her area will have to substitute for some of her core list recommendations, and think very strategically in winters in less mild USDA growing zones about seedpods and branches. The result, however, will be unique, local, imaginative, and inexpensive. Color photos throughout illustrate and inspire.
The next best thing to being surrounded by the real thing is immersing yourself in a floral volume packed with pretty pictures and, hopefully, sage advice. Valerie Easton's latest book, Petal & Twig...is just such a treat. The popular gardening writer (a longtime columnist for the Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest magazine) has created one easy-to-follow, season-by-season tutorial on how to turn your homegrown flora into fabulous floral arrangements... The book's simple, personal-journal approach—Easton even snapped most of the book's featured blooms, which were mostly culled from her 2,400-square-foot garden—is not only a particular pleasure, but makes it easy for gardening newbies to dig into its contents.... Here's to a fun read, and to cooking up your own cool custom bouquets year-round.
A refreshing take on flower arranging, offering up inspiration for creations using plants from your own garden...
Gardeners will learn to create beautiful seasonal bouquets with blossoms, branches and grasses from their yards in this lovely book featuring numerous color photographs. Even in the winter, Easton uses twigs and the most resilient plants in her yard to bring nature into her home, and Petal & Twig chronicles her efforts over the course of a year. Readers will also benefit from Easton's gardening and arranging tips, and a useful list of the best times to grow different plants.
Alaska Airlines Magazine
Garden columnist Valerie Easton is an enthusiastic supporter of creating seasonal bouquets from a garden’s bounty of blossoms, branches, and grasses. She relates the great joy that can be found in the use of “what nature offers up.” Easton describes the pleasure one receives when employing the many forms—buds, seedpods, seedheads, berries, branches, twigs, and, of course, blossoms. The author reviews guidelines for collecting and preserving living materials and comments on the choice of containers, while providing tips on plant selection, color, and design. To spur the reader onward in a celebration of garden materials, there is a chronicle of photographs of seasonal arrangements and a listing of suitable plants to grow for use in bouquets.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Cute new little book from one of our favorite local garden writers. Open your eyes and keep it simple: those are two lessons Easton passes on from her own 40 years in the garden. When selecting and arranging flowers for bouquets, you needn’t spend a bundle buying a bundle of imported flowers. Instead, check what’s in stock in your own backyard. Easton, who gardens in the Seattle area, offers refreshing counsel for thinking about bouquets through the year. They needn’t contain only colorful flowers. Add grasses, twigs, and foliage. Easton offers guidelines and principles (one can own a lot of thrift shop and garage sale vases) as well as a journal of possibilities through the seasons.
My Edmonds News
To me, flower arranging involves a lot more than flowers, and much more than arranging, but I can't find a better name for it. —EDWINA VON GAL IN FRESH CUTS
Flowers are a plant's sexual parts. We're attracted to their colors, shapes, and sweet scents just as the bees and butterflies are. But flowers are fleeting; once they've performed their reproductive duty, a plant no longer needs to put all that energy into producing such beauty. What you're left with—foliage, bark, twig, stem, fruit, seedpod, and branch—all have their charms. To enjoy both your garden and bouquets year-round, it pays to get over flowers and appreciate plants' more subtle offerings of texture, shape, and form.
Buds hold all the promise of spring in their closed-up-tight potential. How can such small packages contain all the leaves, flowers, and twigs for the coming year? Buds vary greatly in size, shape, and texture; some are fuzzy, while others are bumpy or silky. No matter their surface, all buds are dramatic as they slowly crack open, often changing color as they teasingly unfurl the petals inside.
It's as if the slow, slow silent opening dance of buds plays on our longing for spring. They increase our sense of anticipation by drawing out their time on center stage. Sometimes buds themselves are the main show, as with the sweet, gray furriness of pussy willows and the tight coil of fern fronds. Other times, buds may be thrilling but soon forgotten when they pop open to reveal flowers as gorgeous and fragrant as magnolia blooms. Magnolia 'Elizabeth'
From pinecones to the striped, round puffballs left behind when nigella's blue blossoms fall, late summer and autumn are the weeks and months to gather these textural wonders. They can be piled in bowls, lined up on a windowsill, or left on stems and branches as eye-catching elements in a bouquet, as with the silvery, moon-like pods of the old-fashioned money plant (Lunaria annua).
These wonderful little additions to bouquets, whether cut from ornamental grasses, pasqueflowers, or clematis, usually start out with silky filaments that turn to fluffy puffs. Because they don't last very long, I've rarely seen seed heads for sale; they are among those special bits you need to grow yourself to enrich your bouquets. Best of all, you just come across them as the garden ages, nodding atop what used to be an alpina clematis flower, now a whole new little curiosity.
Many plants that we think of for their flowers, like roses and viburnum, give a second season of interest when they fruit. Fat, red and orange rose hips, the ethereally pale-green berries or the shiny black ones on mahonias, and the metallic lavender fruit on callicarpa, are every bit as eye-catching as most flowers and are especially welcome in autumn when not many flowers are blooming anyway. And don't forget to swipe a few canes and stems of fruit like raspberries, blueberries, and tomatoes, all of which look great in bouquets as well as served for dinner or dessert.
Branches and Twigs
They may be the bones of the garden, what's left behind in winter, but the varying textures, colors, and graphic shapes of branches and twigs bring height, drama, and line to the vase. Red and yellow twig dogwood, coral bark Japanese maple, and ghost brambles (Rubus thibetanus 'Silver Fern') are intensely colored in winter. Just about any bare branch can be clipped to lend an interesting line to an arrangement. Boughs of broadleaf evergreens like magnolias and camellia, or conifers like pine and cypress, plump up bouquets with their texture and bring the fresh, tangy scent of winter into the house.
If you're one of the many gardeners afraid of ruining your garden's looks and even health by cutting its bounty, here's a mantra for you: It's okay to alter the shape of plants, remove a few flowers, and generally plunder the place—it's your garden, after all, and it benefits from being thinned a bit.
When done with care, cutting improves the look of plants while allowing more light and air circulation into the garden. Many plants continue to bloom only if you keep cutting. If you slack off on regularly clipping roses, pansies, sweet peas, and bleeding heart, the plants move on to their next life stage and you're out of flowers for the season.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to the garden is how closely you pay attention to your plants when you're out there cutting for bouquets. While you pause, shears in hand, to contemplate colors, textures, and line, you can't help but notice what's going on. As you stretch to pluck a rosebud or duck beneath a shrub to cut a crossing branch, you see which plants are struggling with disease or pests and which are being squeezed by their neighbors or leaning toward the sun so much they'd benefit from a transplant. Mostly, you just tune in to which plants might need a little extra water, space, staking, or general attention.
A few commonsense guidelines to help you cut effectively, safely, and unobtrusively:
* Cut early in the cool of the morning, when flowers are freshest. What better excuse to get outside and enjoy your garden first thing in the morning?
* Always cut so as not to disfigure the plant. Start by clipping branches or stems that have been broken, are trailing on the ground, sticking out at odd angles, or that cross or rub on other branches.
* Avoid cutting next year's buds on plants like peonies and hydrangeas.
* Remember the whole garden offers up cutting possibilities, and spread your plundering about. If you cut from trees and shrubs as well as flowers, from raised beds, hedges, and pots, no one plant or area of the garden will be greatly reduced.
* If you're allergic to sap or if you're dealing with thorny plants like roses or quince, wear heavy gloves to protect your flesh and clothes.
Keeping Flowers Fresh
Once you've made the cut, plunge freshly severed stems into tepid (not cold) water as soon as possible. Toting a basket or trug around the garden with you while cutting may be picturesque, but it's better for the flowers if you have a water-filled bucket close by so the cut flowers can be plunged right in and start hydrating as soon as they've been picked.
Your flowers will last longer if you have an hour or so to let them rest in a cool, shady spot—a garage, carport, or under a big tree is ideal—before putting them in a vase. But if you're eager to get arranging, go ahead, it doesn't really matter very much.
A cut flower's ability to drink water determines how long it will last. Crush or split woody stems, and recut all stems right before arranging. (It takes only a minute or two of dryness for the stem ends to scale over so that they are unable to drink.)
Flowers are resilient. Cutting in the cool of the morning keeps flowers fresher longer, but if you're inspired to run outside on a warm afternoon and clip a quick bouquet, that's good too. So often spontaneous arrangements give the most pleasure, even if they last a shorter time than if you follow all the steps.
I'm not convinced using a preservative really prolongs a bouquet's life span significantly, but when I'm putting together a big bouquet, or when the weather is especially warm, I sometimes mix up the old-fashioned homemade floral preservative that follows. It does keep the water from getting slimy and stinky, which makes emptying the vase at the end of a week or so a more pleasant chore.
For the floral preservative, mix together:
3 cups water 1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon vinegar 1 crushed aspirin
Once you start in with the wires and tape and other floristry paraphernalia, you're manipulating rather than working with a plant's natural attributes. You don't need to fix a flower or transform it into some ideal. Wire and tape rob plants of their organic look. Just as a bad staking job in the garden makes a plant look stiff and unfortunately military, so do wired flowers lose a sense of life and movement. Put up with a little flopping, and your bouquets will benefit.
As with pie dough, leaves, stems, and flowers are best handled as little as possible. Touch your materials only briefly—your goal is to get the plants plopped into the vase and slurping water.
Making a bouquet can be as easy as sticking flowers loosely into a container so that you can see the special character of each. All you need are sharp clippers, fresh water, a watertight vessel, and a thoughtful, appreciative eye. We don't need to treat flower arranging as a ceremony, but it helps to acknowledge that working with nature is an art form rich in spirit, inventiveness, and appreciation. Sometimes a little ritual around the work does just that.
Strip or cut all lower leaves off every stem because you don't want any foliage beneath the water line in the vase. Clean, stripped stems keep the water as clean as possible, and the flowers fresher longer. Sometimes as I take off leaves, I see how much better the flower looks sans foliage (as with tulips); go ahead and remove all the foliage if you like how that looks. It can be fun to try sticking foliage from a different plant or plants altogether in there—it's your bouquet, after all.
When you recut stems to the right length for the vase, cut them at an angle so they absorb as much water as possible. Use a hammer to crush or mangle the bottom inch or so of woody stems like those of red twig dogwood, lilac, or mock orange. For hellebores, split the stems up an inch or so to encourage them to keep drinking water. To keep "bleeders" like poppies and euphorbia fresh longer, singe the bottom of each stem with a match or a lighter for a few seconds until it turns brown.
Top off vases with cool water every day or so. You'll be amazed at how quickly some bouquets drink water.
If the flowers flop, you can revive them by recutting stem ends and refilling the vase with fresh, cool water.
Leonardo Da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication," and this is especially true for bouquets. When you're dealing with materials that by their nature are luscious, colorful, and vital, the less you intervene the better.
We don't really need to work hard to arrange flowers because we can simply place them in a pleasing manner, in their most natural form, into vessels that enhance their beauty. Think of it this way: we can't really improve on nature—just display it thoughtfully and sensitively. You don't need any special training or talent—just an honest eye, a willingness to observe what's growing right outside your door, and the time to play around with the possibilities. The art of making bouquets lies in your readiness to respond in the moment to what is growing right outside your door, cut flowers and foliage that appeal to you, and combine them in ways that look right at that moment.
You especially don't need to ponder whether you're a minimalist or prefer English cottage-style bouquets stuffed with colorful blooms. Some days, a big mixed bouquet might look ridiculously overblown; on other days and in other seasons it might lift your spirits and be just right. Look to your materials and your mood on any given day. It depends on how you feel, what vase appeals, and most of all what cuttings you have in your hand. When I worked as a librarian, we were always told to catalog the book we had in our hand, not some past edition or other possible version. This immediacy of dealing with just what you have before you applies to arranging flowers, too. Work with what you have.
Much depends on where you plan to place the bouquet in your home. You can start out with a spot in mind and cut and arrange to suit that spot. Or you can be inspired by the garden and figure out where your bouquet should go once you've created it. But a giant, fluffy bouquet in the center of the dining room table isn't a good idea if anyone is going to sit down and eat there. And you don't want to display tiny, delicate treasures on a huge chest where they'll look dwarfed or where no one can come close enough to see them. I have favorite spots in my house for bouquets—by the bed when I have fragrant flowers to cut, always in the guest bath when I have company coming, and on the kitchen island or windowsill where I see them most often.
If you're working with colors you love as you cut and arrange, you won't go wrong. Step back sometimes to look at mass and form. Blur your eyes to get the overall effect. As with accessories, when something doesn't look quite right, you're better off removing it instead of adding more material in an attempt to fix it. If a bouquet doesn't please your eye, try taking things out rather than stuffing more in. If you can practice the difficult art of not- too-much, especially challenging in late spring and early summer when the garden is exploding with possibilities, you're likely to end up with a bouquet that pleases you. The exception to the less-is-more rule is when an arrangement cries out for more foliage. Adding leaves can often mediate between competing flowers and settle a bouquet into harmony.
Whenever I find myself having a Martha Stewart perfectionist moment, I remember the Japanese art of wabi sabi, which elevates imperfection, messiness, decline, and decay to an art form. It's all about the nature of change and humble materials, which pretty much defines flower arranging from the garden. Wabi sabi finds sweetness in restraint and satisfaction in simplicity—and so will you if you can leave your bouquet alone enough to be just what it is.
The most comforting thing about wabi sabi is the idea that blemishes and irregularities are good things that bestow character and ensure modesty. This attitude helps keep flower arranging a subtle and intimate art. Other wabi sabi principles, such as attention to detail and an aim for simplicity and balance, serve the bouquet maker well.
Excerpted from petal & twig by VALERIE EASTON Copyright © 2011 by Valerie Easton. Excerpted by permission of SASQUATCH BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted January 4, 2013
I bought this as a gift for my daughter who has become interested in flower arranging. I was quite surprised that there are very few photos. I considered sending it back but ended up keeping it for myself since I did find some of Ms. Easton's ideas interesting but it really would have been improved by photos.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 22, 2012
I found this to be more of a pretty journal of a year's worth of flower arrangements than the instructive how-to manual I was hoping for, so I was a little disappointed. However, it would make a great gift for a garden enthusiast!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.