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Native Touch

Photography by Scot Hill

Floral arrangements made from native wildflowers and plants help bring nature indoors at all times of the year. Gathering plants from your yard or garden and assembling them in containers for indoor display allows you to share your passion for regional plants with visitors and guests when cold weather keeps you from entertaining outside.

Regardless of locale, the landscape offers inspiration for novice and advanced floral designers. Janet Hampel, owner of Florabella Designs, began designing floral arrangements in the ‘90s and works mainly in Austin, Texas, western Michigan, and Aspen, Colorado. She doesn't feel limited by working with what a region's native plant palette has to offer nor by designing in months when blooms are hard to find.

Hampel recently created a winter-inspired table arrangement of native Michigan plants that included the bark of redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea), leaves of red sumac (Rhus glabra) and white pine branches (Pinus strobus).

Janet Hampel combined rain lilies (Cooperia drummondii), beauty berry (Callicarpa americana), Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) pods and snow on the mountain (Euphorbia marginata) in this arrangement.
She says that, "In every flower design the elements of shape, color, proportion and texture are vital to the contrast and harmony of the finished effect."

Because color comes from the plant material but also from the container and the "roomscape" in which the arrangement is placed, Hampel recommends designers keep in mind the surroundings and the mood they wish to create. "I prefer a more ‘disarranged' arrangement that allows the flowers to fall with natural grace. Bunching and grouping plant material gives definition," Hampel says.

Wildflower Center volunteer Maggie Livings teaches a course at the Center about designing cut flower arrangements-this year it will be on April 18. She offers beginning designers the following advice. "It's good to place support material and the largest flowers in the container first." She says that gradation - placing like materials in an ordered sequence - largest to smallest, darkest to lightest - gives rhythm or movement. Shadowing - placing one object directly behind another like it - gives a three-dimensional appearance.

Use a container about one-third the total height of the arrangement to achieve proportion. It's also useful to contrast textures, form and color by using vastly different types of plant material in a single design.

Livings urges using care when collecting natural materials. Collect wildflowers during the coolest part of the day and place them immediately into clean water.

"The most important thing," Livings says, "is to enjoy your native plant arrangements, treat them gently, give them plenty to drink, and they will reward you with a week or more of beauty. Learn a bit about them - their names, their habitats, their growth characteristics.  The more you learn, the more you will want to know."

© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center