Regardless of life circumstances, with proper care, plants continue to progress through their stages of life. This visual reminder of the passing of time was particularly evident during the recent summer months when days often felt monotonous as many of us worked from home and were restricted from traveling. There was an influx of people who turned to gardening last summer seeking some recreation to fill their days. It is common to gush over the beauty in the garden during the active growing season. This fall take time to reflect on the relief the garden has brought during a very challenging year by creating a natural fall arrangement and find the beauty that exists even when all of the blooms are gone.
A natural fall arrangement can be made up entirely of pieces found in nature or it can be supplemented with purchased flowers and greenery. The key is to create a unified piece by ensuring the basic design elements are achieved. This includes maintaining a balanced design where all of the components fit together in harmony. You can incorporate various textures but they should be repeated throughout the design. The same is true for color. I prefer to work with odd numbers. This means each component of my design is repeated elsewhere in the layout three, five or even seven times, depending on how large the final arrangement will be.
The container used to hold your arrangement should not have holes in the base so it will hold water to keep the arrangement fresh. It may be decorative or plain and of any size and composition. Many floral designs cover the container, but if your container will show you should select one that will complement the colors in the design. Once you know what container you will use, you are ready to gather your design pieces from nature.
Begin your adventure with a trip out to the landscape. This can be in your private garden space or in a park or other natural area. Search the ground and plants for seed pods. Gather pods of varying shapes, sizes and colors. Some of your best specimens may be on plants that have not been dead-headed. Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has an intriguing seed head once the spent petals have been removed. Sunflower (Helianthus spp.) is another plant with attractive seed heads.
As a natural fall design, the colors should be on the warm side of the spectrum. This includes typical fall colors such as oranges, reds, browns and yellows. Fortunately, these colors abound in the landscape right now, but if you purchase additional items for your design remember to stick with your color scheme. Look for leaves of varying colors and also twigs that can add height to the arrangement. Avoid pruning branches off shrubs and trees at this time of the year as that can allow frost damage.
After gathering your materials, you can begin designing the arrangement. Typically, the height of the arrangement should be about one and one-half to two times the width of the container. Following this guideline will keep the arrangement from being either top heavy or overshadowed by the container. Choose smaller-sized buds, seed pods or other components for the higher positions in the arrangement and maintain the focal point with the larger blooms at the base and center of the design. Place the primary features such as seed heads and flowers first. Then fill in the spaces between these stems using leaves or other filler. Be sure to cover the mechanics, including the container, if desired with greenery.
Finding the beauty in less obvious scenes is a healthy exercise in general. In the garden we can extend the joy we find beyond the growing season by paying attention to the details that nature expresses as the seasons change.
Cynthia Domenghini is an instructor and coordinator for K-State’s horticultural therapy online certificate program.