“Let there be something alive in every room of the home,”I once read in an article on home-decorating. Though I haven’t the luxury yet of designing my own home, I do love to put the touch of extra elegance in a room or two. One of the easiest and most satisfying ways to bring a room “alive” is to add fresh flowers. I’m terrible at keeping potted things alive; my orchid, Veronica-Millicent-Agnes-And-Jane, died last year because I kept it in a draughty spot with the window open all fall. Miraculously, I kept it around long enough that it sprouted a new leaf and perhaps in a year or so there will be second-generation blooms. Succulents are also an option. Succulents are cute but somehow don’t grab my heart like flowers. Maybe it is because blossoms are kissable and cactuses are inherently not. Am I alone in that I sometimes can’t help but kiss a flower I especially love? Probably. Still, the impulse is there, just as it is when I pick up a kitten or a chubby toddler, or any other sort of sweet, innocent thing. In my house, flowers get kisses.
The transition from summer’s bounty to autumn, however, can be a little confusing. The garden still grows a smattering of zinnias, but they cling to the aura of a pool-party in their fuchsia and orange and determined yellow. The roses out front are having a revival, but I’m not ready for roses either. Roses of this hue (a perky raspberry pink) say “spring-summer” to me. The September season is especially puzzling because I don’t want to bring out the cranberries, russets, olives, and plum colors that belong to October and November. If I start to make the house look like Thanksgiving two months early, I’m tired of it by the time there really is nothing else to go with. In the stores, the only summer-fall-segue arrangements seem to be hell-bent on sunflowers. Don’t get me wrong: I love sunflowers. But one can have too much of a good thing and sometimes sunflowers are too robust and…dare I say it….architectural for softening a corner of a room? Besides, I have a constitutional dislike for doing what everyone else is doing. This is where I steal from the Master Artist and pretend like it was my idea all along. What I like to do come the autumn is to take a look at what is growing wild. What colors are rioting together naturally? Have you ever seen anything prettier than the bank of a country road in autumn? Jewelweed hangs its red and orange lanterns with promises of healing properties, the Queen Anne’s lace is taking a hiatus and bowing out in favor of a bevvy of Jerusalem Artichoke and Goldenrod. And popping up to join the farewell-to-summer are a dozen different kinds of purple and blue flowers ranging in color from periwinkle to Cookie-Monster to violet. So what is my choice for an early-autumn palette for the indoors?
Purple & Gold.
Some, if not most, of the blue and purple wildflowers do best left growing outside. They don’t cherish being brought into the house and either drop their petals or turn to seed-fluff in a day or two. I’m not sure why, but that has been my experience. So when I saw deep purple stock being sold at Trader Joe’s for a very reasonable $3, I knew I had to take it home. I scoped out the banks on either side of the road on my way home and, fixing on a good patch of goldenrod, began to plan. Of course the stock would have been pretty enough on its own, but an early-evening walk to snip some gold (and a few seedy rushes) was half the pleasure.
My number one tip for creating beautiful wild-inspired arrangements is to look at how it is growing, how it is arranged in the wild, and to replicate that indoors. Go with your gut. I’ve made the most gorgeous arrangements with no real flowers at all, just seed-pods, seed-heads, and graceful branches. So I’m going purple and gold this week. And the best part of it? After the stocks hands in its apron, I can cut a little more golden-rod , pull out of my blue glass, and have early-autumn Round Two ready to go. I know not all of you have the luxury of living out in the country, but certainly you can find a roadside or an empty lot where the stubborn ones, the hangers-on of summer, have elbowed in. I drive through the city often. There are always “weeds” and it only takes a cock-eyed optimist to change a weed into a wildflower.