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My Secret to Flowering: Foraging

Sarah Winward

I often get asked how I manage to make my arrangements look so unique.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s not about spending a fortune on more product. The answer is foraging!

Greens aren’t merely a base to an arrangement, they’re the bridging pieces that connect an arrangement to its environment and tie all of the blooms together. This is why I forage.

I work in remote areas for many of my jobs, and I live in a city with no flower market. As a result, I never really know what’s coming before it arrives. That can seem terrifying, but I’ve realized over the years that it is so valuable to learn how to create something beautiful out of whatever you’ve got. Once I receive my flower order for an event, I’ll then look at everything I have and decide what I’m missing to bring it all together, be it a certain shape, texture or a color.

Foraging for me is fun and thrilling, but it’s really about completing the color palette. The pieces I forage always end up being the connecting piece I’m after.

A lot of people will say “but we don’t have good foraging here”. I challenge you to look at your environment with new eyes. It’s easy to get used to what’s around you and probably not pay attention to it. No one can ever see what’s normal to them but I’m confident there is always something available to you. You just have to look at it in a different way.

It’s really about appreciating what is abundant where you live, and finding a way to use it. When I go to California, I see wild vines, blooming shrubs, and poppies everywhere on the side of the road, and I’m floored! But the people who live there drive by these all the time, and maybe never think to use them because they feel too commonplace.

Just like you need to work hard to find pieces that make blush and champagne look different almost every weekend for a wedding, you can work hard to forage pieces that make your floral designs look different. This is one of the things I love the most about foraging - how unique the product is. You just can’t buy the product you can find in the natural environment. There are so many different textures and colors when cutting from outside compared to what’s manufactured and grown on farms.

Foraging is also the best way to get the longer stems you need, particularly for an arch or a large arrangement. Being so far from a market, every product I order is shipped to me, which means it has to fit in a 4-foot length box. If I need really tall stems, foraging is my only option.

Do try to be respectful about where you forage, only cutting wild product that’s not owned or cared for by someone. Or, ask permission if you are cutting from something that was planted. Try to cut branches so that they can continue grow properly. When foraging for a destination wedding, cut some clippings of things when you first arrive so you can test how long they’ll last before relying on them for the event.

I will also argue that foraging responsibly is better for the earth than having product grown on farms using lots of energy and chemicals, then having them shipped to you for use. (It’s also free, which is great for business.)

An added bonus? Foraging is always the best way to salvage a flower order gone wrong!

Whatever you need, you can always find it outside.


Continue Learning with the Full Course

A portrait of a woman gathering flowers in a garden

The Nature of Wedding Floral Design: Design Course

Sarah Winward

An in-depth exploration of Sarah Winward’s floral philosophy, design, and execution.

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