Magazine article Sunset

Foraged Flowers

Magazine article Sunset

Foraged Flowers

Article excerpt

Create beautifully untamed bouquets using finds from the wild or your own backyard

"Wild materials bave interesting shapes and imperfections that add character. " -Max Gill

Ten years ago, while creating flower arrangements for a wedding, Max Gill found himself short of greenery and had to improvise. "It was the night before the big event," he recalls. "I was frantically foraging a friend's garden for pittosporum clippings and fennel fronds." The arrangements turned out just fine. In fact, their beautiful "undoneness" has become a trademark of Gill's business, Max Gill Design.

Much of the plant material that he uses for his arrangements comes from the wildly abundant quarter-acre lot behind his Berkeley home. But he also forages from his friends' gardens. "I like to call them 'community-supported flowers,' " says Gill, who moonlights as the floral director at Alice Waters's Chez Panisse. To make his arrangements, he snips magnolia leaves or raspberry brambles from Waters's garden (with her permission). Alta Tingle, proprietor of The Gardener shop in Berkeley, has given him access to her eucalyptus trees, for their blue-gray foliage. Gill often yanks rattlesnake grass out of sidewalk cracks- their spikelets make great bouquet "charms." He never practices vigilante pruning at public parks, though. "If I'm going to forage, I want karma on my side."


Harvest blend

"Cut just a few flowers and buds from each marigold plant to make sure blooms keep coming," Gill says of the small bouquet. For the larger one, Gill explains, "I arranged cherry tomato stems in my hand before placing them in a bottle."


Strawberry cups

"For this study in strawberries, cut just enough foliage for foundation and structure, then add the taller stems of immature alpine fruit and almost-ripe 'Earliglow' strawberries. If you can find them, add a few fleetingly pristine strawberry blossoms at the end."


1 Chocolate & mints

"For this fragrant composition, use herbs as a foil for chocolate cosmos, adding them in bunches of five to seven stems at a time. The mint geranium is the final touch; a botanical bow, if you will ."

2 Sprays of gold

"Love-in-a-puff is my favorite weedotherworldly, with tiny white flowers and chartreuse seedpods. I've found it growing from cracks in the sidewalk. Use the cuttings to arrange a 'nest' in the vase, then add the Rudbeckia [R. laciniata 'Herbstsonne']. Finish by tucking in a few clusters of unripe 'Sweet 1 00' tomatoes."

3 Berries & blooms

"The sooner you prune blooming clematis plants, the more likely they are to flower again later in the season. …

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