The Prose Poem by
...Of those that travel the local road, few pay that fertile hollow any mind, even those with an eye for what blossoms, vetch and timothy, early forsythia, the fatted calf in the fallow field, the rabbit running for cover, the hawk's descent from the lightning-struck tree. You've passed this way yourself many times, and can tell me, if you would, do the formal fields end where the valley begins, or does everything that surrounds us emerge from its embrace?
Brooklyn-based friends, photographer Tara Donne and florist Nicolette Camille went on a late-fall excursion to collect materials for a magnificent arrangement. Tiny Atlas Quarterly took a few notes from Nicolette about their day trip.
Tiny Atlas: Where did you and Tara go specifically?
Well we left from Brooklyn, but we were essentially all around the Ashokan Reservoir.
Tiny Atlas: What is it like to forage for an arrangement for the fall? What were you looking for? Did you have something in mind that you were going to make or did you just go out with eyes open?
A little of both. I love that time of year. I was looking for apples, crab apples, fruit on the branch, wild grapevines. Late in the fall when leaves start to fall, you can spot tangles of vines that are otherwise in the mess of the trees. I was hoping to find forsythia. There is so much variation in color. Forsythia has a really beautiful arch in the stem and lots of variation in stem color from dark burgundy, brown, rich ocher to chartreuse. Sometimes you will find a pale pale pink one even, those haven't been exposed to much sunlight. We were looking on the side of the road and on the property of friends. The crab apple we found was a gift. We saw a secret apple orchard. The man there sells his apples usually but he gave them to us since it was late in the season and he was going to have to prune them anyway. The swiss chard was from a friend's garden, with a beautiful red base. We found wild clematis that had gone to seed and some side of the road brush and little weedy wild things.
Tiny Atlas: For the novices, could you give some suggestions on how to go on your own flower foraging day trip? Do you suggest cutting at a specific time of day (if it matters), ways to search, ways to cut, favorite tools to cut with, what you should bring in the car, books you might take along to identify Catskills plants or other field guides?
I'm always keeping an eye out for something to cut! It's a good idea to always keep some clippers in the car in case you find something good in your travels.
When you are out and about, pay attention to what is there. For time of day, with branches it doesn't matter; but flowers in general you would want to pick early am and evening. If you see something you like remember to note where it is so if you get time to forage you can return. It’s good to always keep clippers in the car. I use a Japanese brand, ARS, but any kind of lopers are good. Also, we are taking smaller offshoots, nothing enormous, so you don't need anything big. Please respect private property of course. It is important to make a fresh cut right before going into your vase. It’s good to cut on a hard angle, 45 degrees so there is a big surface area for the plant to draw water up the stem.
Tiny Atlas: Any tips on making an arrangement? How might you characterize your style as a florist and help others emulate it or find their own style.
I like to create floral arrangements that feel as if they are still growing in some fantastical garden; a little wild, romantic and haunting.
When arranging always try to showcase the natural shape and gesture of the branch and/or flower. Having variation in size, color and texture will make arrangements more dynamic. It's a good rule of thumb to establish the shape of your arrangement with the branches, then add the focal flowers (in this case we used dahlias) and finish the composition with the little wispy, wild gestures such as grasses and vines.
Tiny Atlas: How can our readers stay in touch with you and your work?
My studio is Nicolette Camille Floral Design. I also teach flower arranging classes all over the country and the world, our site is Little Flower School Brooklyn. My first book collaboration, Bring Nature Home, features flower arrangements through the seasons.
Tiny Atlas: What are some of your favorite field guides or flower books?
For field guides I would mention, An Introduction to Trees by John Kieran, Wildflowers in the Field & Forest, a Glassberg Field Guide and National Audubon Society Field Guide to North America Wildflowers. Also, one of my all time favorite flower books is Flowers of the World by Frances Perry. And I love any gardening books by Piet Oudolf.