For Love of Flowers and of People (excerpted from Chaotic Gardening blogspot)

     This past weekend I sang in harmony. Harmony with fellow humans whose values I share, time I cherish and future I support through this song. Harmony with the plants I have loved, known and still defy understandings. Harmony with my own skill sets so often unrecognized by others and then, least of all, by me. Harmony with my own family, choices in life and the wealth those things together accord me. Convergent harmonies to overcome attachments (sometimes to what I do not know) and blend with nature, culture and people-expressed with intimacy in media I know and share best.

     Would the song be the same for all? I hope not.  For me, it was an expression of harmonious creativity based in the love of flowers and of people.  And though harmony was the intent, knowledge was created, interpreted and shared here:

Collecting, Assembling and Interpreting
     I spent a week or more collecting, practicing and ok, looking on YouTube (there's a few answers there).  For three days in advance of the wedding, I spent most of the day collecting plant material from generous neighbors-all natives (ok, one or two naturalized).  To keep the flowers fresh, I made all the arrangements the night before.  Lucky for me, it was a cool May night-not always possible in SC-so keeping the flowers outside was almost as good as refrigeration.  The ribbons were earth tones-brown and celadon-perfect for a couple so connected to the land (and a bride who likes frogs, she says giggling).  The floral themes emerged as organically as the design, building on my knowledge of their lives and my hope for a fulfilling and long-lived future for them together.

The brides' bouquet: 
-Thistle (Carduus nutans) in honor of the grooms Scottish heritage (2-one for each of them).  Such a beautiful flower with such prickliness (a little like marriage) surrounded by
-Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) on the backside of the bouquet surrounding the thistle.
-Galax (Galax urceolata) For its round and therefore balanced, shape-hope this gets conferred to the couple-not the roundness, but the balance :-).
-Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis) of course!  Persistent stems after last fall's bloom-very nice ethereal background plant
-Rabbit's foot clover (Trifolium arvense) For good luck, naturally, no rabbit's killed for a vegetarian bride.
-Goat's rue (Tephrosia virginica) Roots are used in ball play by Cherokee people-perhaps to confer strength as the roots are incredibly strong-much needed for married life!
-White wild indigo (Baptisia alba) White for the bride in a long wand-like bloom (we all need a little magic!)
-Barbara's buttons (2) (Marshallia obovata) which are pollinated by Euphoria beetles (how appropriate!) in honor of the entomologist bride.
-Fawn's breath (Gillenia trifoliata) Another scientific name that has been used is Porteranthus-in honor of the new couple's dog Porter (their other is named Cole-and I just couldn't see putting that in a bouquet!).
-Log fern (Dryopteris celsa), which my friend and owner of Crow Dog Native Ferns says is a fertile hybrid between two different ferns.  I know you're probably grinning, but this is balanced by the Queen Anne's lace, used in Watauga county as birth control.  It's their choice, not the flowers.

The groom's boutineer:
-Rabbit's foot clover
-Love grass
-Barbara's buttons (2)

     Other boutineers included all of the plants of the grooms except for Barbara's buttons.  Really, euphoria is for the couple--for them alone!  I traded Barbara's buttons for climbing hydrangea (Decumaria barbarens)-this is the plant that the groom accidentally cut from the bride's cabin-fitting that the men should wear it to help them remember. :-) I made a number of corsages for mothers and friends.  I added Fawn's breath and love grass to theirs as a way of tying the women to both bride and groom.  You'll note that the men were not tied uniquely to the bride's bouquet-instead were a reflection of the groom's.  To my mind, it is the sensibility of women and their wisdom that best shepherd a couple into their new life together.  Men have contributions in other ways, she says with great love to the men in her life. 

Two flower girl baskets were made:
-Queen Anne's lace
-Catawba rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense)
-Goat's rue
-Fawn's breath
-White baptisia
-White penstemon (Penstemon digitalis)
-Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
-Rabbit's foot clover
-Tied with green ribbons on aged white baskets

     Two large baskets were also made to accompany the couple to the top of the mountain where they said their vows.  The baskets were planted with log ferns (Dryopteris celsa), maindenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum), silvery glade fern (Deparia acrostichoides) and either bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) or Jumpseed (Polygonum virginianum).  I used leaf litter as a top mulch. Ferns were from Crow Dog Ferns-such good spirit in them!  The rest, I grew from seed, some harvested with a good friend.  These plants I chose mostly because I thought they'd grow well at the bride's cabin-a good wedding gift for nature friends. Interpretation up to them-here's hoping it takes years in the saying.

Practical knowledge for your own bouquets
     So, of the flowers above, the hardiest were the thistle (though I did wire the flowers)-they lasted 3 days in vases outside on my cool porch; white baptisia; galax (of course, well known in the floral industry); Queen Anne's lace (although younger flowers open up more as time goes by); Fawn's breath; Lovegrass (it's dried anyway); rabbit's foot clover; log fern.  Catawba rhodo and laurel did not hold up well.

     I also made vases/baskets for the wedding party tables.  They consisted of remnants of the above and more that I collected on my way to the party including: Cigar tree (Catalpa speciosa-did not last well); Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (lasted pretty well); ragwort (Packera spp.)-held up OK, not great; Trillium catesbaei, T. luteum (held up well foliage-wise, the flowers were on their way out anyway-I just pulled off the petals); Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens); purple clover (Trifolium purpureum)-held up well; weeping willow (Salix babylonica-held up well); sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua-held up well); mulberry (Morus alba-weeping-held up well and others.  I had the good help of friends of the bride and we wrapped all in brown and green ribbons with large burlap ribbon decorating the posts of the barn.  Satin and burlap ribbons seemed appropriate as one can be reused and another can go back to the earth quickly. Just as these ribbons and flowers, through me came to be connected to other lives, so, too will they find their way to new connections-as I hope all of this inspired.

© Karen C. Hall, 2010