With the days getting shorter and the air turning cooler, it’s time to think about bringing the outdoors in. “We need a little bit of life going on because we’re spending so much more time inside than we have been,” says Halifax florist Neville MacKay of My Mother’s Bloomers. When it comes to fall floral arrangements, look at bringing in flowers that dry naturally. “Hydrangea dries wonderfully well,” says MacKay. “If you think of bulrushes before they get too far pronounced, any grasses, reeds, the sort of things you can press and dry to use as floral pieces in the house.”
Branches and big iris seed pods, pine cones and seed pod clusters from lilac branches are wonderful for texture, and you can harvest all these in the autumn months. You can use wildflowers, though particular varieties are going to sleep and haven’t had a long enough rest to be forced into the house. “Make good use of your local florist or market to get just a few stems to bring some more colour and life in,” says MacKay.
Kentville, Nova Scotia resident Genevieve Hearn’s interest in floral décor blossomed after planning her own wedding. “We didn’t have a florist,” she says. “I did a lot of foraging, people donated from their gardens. A relative helped put together arrangements and I just had fun with it. ” An arts administrator, Hearn also runs her own business, Coastal Events. What started two years ago as loaning supplies and décor from her wedding to friends has grown into a venture that includes
rentals, on-site coordination and floral design. She follows a three-step composition rule combining foliage, face flowers and gesture flowers, or wisps. “I try to play with textures, as well,” she says.
“If the foliage is really soft and wispy, then I would use a gesture flower that is stiffer or pointier. The gesture flower is one that gives the arrangement character. They lean outwards or point upward rather than having that perfectly rounded arrangement.” When it comes to the quantities in her arrangements, Hearn says two-thirds is mostly foliage. She also likes to forage her own foliage and keeps it simple yet interesting. “For cooler weather, it’s really easy to forage,” she says. “Our leaves are so beautiful in the fall. For fall arrangements, I go in my backyard or the walking trail and cut branches and bushes.”
Hearn likes a fuller, bushier arrangement. “I would never just go to the flower shop and get a bunch of face flowers,” she says. “That can get really expensive and it wouldn’t fill the arrangement. One third of it would be face flowers: things like peonies, roses, dahlias.” With fall floral design, don’t be afraid to go all out. MacKay sees a trend toward two different looks. One is a bespoke look, which is a mixture of gardening flowers, lots of textures and all sorts of things from dried flowers to cut grasses to cuts of fresh flowers all mixed together. “From that to a monochromatic or mono-botanical,” says MacKay. “Like all hydrangeas and loads of them.”
Potted bulbs can also come indoors. “Amaryllis, even a potted geranium with two meager flowers on it is beautiful to have and will flower most of the winter,” says MacKay. “More elaborate is an anthurium plant, something that has a bit of a tropical flower on it.” Susan Snow runs Moving Designz Interior Design Company in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. She says flowers that are typically associated with fall, such as mums, are great to have indoors. Arrangements of hosta leaves look beautiful when grouped in a few clear vases. “The leaves look nice if they are wrapped around the inside of the vase, submerged in water with the bloom on top,” says Snow.
Just as flowers in the backyard are for your own enjoyment, the same goes for inside your home in the cooler months. They don’t always have to be on display for everyone to see; make them a sweet indulgence just for you. For something unexpected, place flowers in places you may not think to have them, like the bedroom and the bathroom. “Just a stem or two of daises or a longer lasting carnation or lily with a wonderful fragrance,” MacKay says. “Any flower is beautiful in the house when it’s enjoyed.”
Near the front door is another place. “Put a few floating flowers, a rose or two, in a glass bowl or a low bowl on the floor where you take your shoes off,” MacKay says. “What a wonderful treat. People don’t expect to see a bowl of flowers floating at their feet.” Snow visits garden markets for gourds and mini-pumpkins to achieve a seasonal look at home. For a modern touch, spray paint them to complement your colour scheme. They look good simply set out in bowls and wide vases.
Lanterns left around from summer that once held candles also make great vessels. Snow tries to find gourds that are a solid colour, or the least busy. “Orange is really hot this year for decorating. It adds a nice punch of colour,” she says. She also suggests Mason jars as flower holders. “They are inexpensive in fall because they are always on sale for canning season. They come in different sizes and can also be easily painted.” Have a variety of vessels on hand for your arrangements. “Those tall hurricane vases are not going to be great if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner because you’re not going to see the person sitting across from you,” says Hearn, who likes to source objects (like trophies and tea tins) from vintage stores to repurpose into vases.
Think about what might go overtop an arrangement. “I love putting little arrangements under bell jars or in terrariums,” says Hearn. “You can poke feathers in it or put it in a bird’s nest and that looks really cool under a bell jar.” Like Hearn and MacKay, Snow agrees that fall is the perfect time for gathering from outside to decorate inside. Mini-birch logs (the whiter the better) are great not only for fall but will carry over into holiday décor. “Another thing you can harvest in the fall is moss,” says Snow. Lay it down on a platter and place your gourds and mini-pumpkins on top for another modern look. You can use moss as vase filler for a nice hit of green.
For clear vessels, plant right into them for one more perfect way to bring the outdoors in this fall. “It’s nice to see the soil and roots,” Snow says. “It adds an earthy element with flowers popping out on top.” As for MacKay’s philosophy when it comes to fall arrangements, there is not a season he doesn’t have a flower in bloom in the house. “Everyone has to have flowers,” he says. “Flowers anywhere in the house will turn a cold day into joy.”