Weed Whacker Design or Found Color

Recently, my sister Mig, and her husband, Michael hosted a family dinner for thirteen of us. With two hours to go, Mig called me, stressed. "I thought I could handle everything, but it turns out I need your help. Can you do the flowers?

Here's some background on my family. My niece, Shawn, gave me a wonderful way to describe us:

Some families are primarily "masculine" families. Those families are always active - doing various sports outside together - moving, always moving. Meals are almost an after-thought, take-out or rustling up something from the fridge is sufficient. They sit down for a quick meal and then get active again. After dinner they may play various games together.

On the other hand, "feminine" families are deeply into food and aesthetics - the meal, the lighting, the music, and the table-settings are all important.

I looked at Shawn and said, "We are definitely a 'feminine' family." Her eyes grew wide, "Yes!" she said affirmatively.

In fact, we have a running family joke about how compulsive my sisters and I are about getting the music volume and dimmer setting just right before we begin eating. Serving a delicious meal, setting the appropriate mood and being attune to beauty, matters to us.

Everybody in my family is an excellent cook except me. I don't cook, but I do bring the beauty.

Five years ago my husband and I purchased a house that sits on 1 1/2 acres. Its old growth trees and expansive pastoral setting inspired the latent gardener in me. With such a beautiful canvas to work on, I immediately set to work. Gardening has become my abiding passion.

Fortunately, the day of our family dinner party was in early spring. I didn't have much time to pull arrangements together, but I did have my gardens. I walked outside and thought, "what can I use from my gardens that will be easy to arrange into centerpieces?"

I also considered Mig and her style. Every time I do an arrangement I tailor my plant choices to the person I'm doing them for. Mig is earthy and unpretentious. She favors straightforward classics like hydrangeas, azaleas and loropetalums. What would she like to see on her tables?

First, I gathered greens. My autumn ferns and variegated euonymus needed some pruning so I clipped the best of them. (In some places euonymus is invasive, but it hasn't behaved that way on my property.)

Next, I needed color. A sea of deep purple caught my eye. My violets were blooming. This humble plant is considered a weed, but it is oh so pretty - charming bouquets of deep purple rising above heart-shaped, emerald leaves. It calls to mind grandmother gardens. And it attracts pollinators. Perfect. It is so Mig.

I could rid myself of violets that were invading my paths. I grabbed a shovel and dug up a flat of violets.

Arriving at Mig and Michael's, I happily discovered they had dressed the dining table in white linen. The white linen would provide a sharp contrast to whatever colors I set against it. I selected three white bowls from Mig's dishes, cleaned the violets a bit but left the soil, and centered them in each bowl. I graced the table surface with autumn ferns and variegated euonymus.

I stood back and took in my creations. They looked pretty good, but something was missing. White. In the dimmer light of this evening event, I needed light-hued flowers to make the arrangements more visible and striking.

I walked outside to see what Mig's front yard might have to offer. The garden gods were with me. Awaiting my clippers was a camellia laden with elegant, white blossoms. I accented the violets with the camellias and softened the edges of each bowl with euonymus.

Deep purple, various greens and white came together in a lovely color composition with interesting textures, all accomplished by weeding and pruning my garden.

Let's hear it for Weed Whacker Design!

Days later, I dropped by Mig's house. Immediately, she showed me the floral arrangements I had made. The violets were continuing to bloom. "I love them," Mig said, delighted. "We're going to plant these in our yard."

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