A few weeks ago while outside with my dog as he enjoyed a piddle break, I found myself standing close to my garden, suddenly compelled to cut off pieces of my Trumpet Vine plant’s branches. It was the dried, broken open seedpods on them which had my brain stirring.
I quickly understood that an art project would be next, something entirely new for me. Never having had much of an interest in spring and summer flower arrangements on tables and countertops in homes because I would rather have planted versions outside in the sunlight, I would create something with winter’s leftovers from my garden.
So I began to contemplate making a winter flower arrangement, perhaps less flower-rich but still plenty textured and of the brownish hues which I love, from dead plants.
“Wolff’s Apple House seems to have a lot of customers who are gardeners, so I think this would be an exciting topic for many gardeners who might be getting a little case of the winter blues,” were the words of a good friend living in France, in response to this artful concept.
After finding the vase I wanted, I placed my arm alongside it in order to measure the approximate height I’d want for what I cut from the garden, which eventually included Black-Eyed Susans reclaimed from my cold flowerbeds; these too, still held their seeds.
I used pruners to cut the Trumpet Vine branches and Black Eyed-Susan stems to a length slightly beyond the span between my fingertips and elbow.
Moving the plant material around in the vase, I noticed that the especially long and broken-open seedpods of the Trumpet Vine branches took on the appearance of nature’s tired toucans (think Toucan Sam from Fruit Loops cereal boxes). I also call the seedpods “the chattering teeth of winter,” on blustery nights.
A few days later, I stopped at my friend Carol’s house to drop off a few things for her and noticed Norway Spruce cones in her front yard. I picked one up and brought it home.
Holding it up next to the new arrangement sitting on my dining room table, I noticed that the cone would be a great accent and a curious way to add something to a plant which it would never logically be connected to in nature.
I used a heavy duty adhesive from a local hardware store to pair the cone with one of the Trumpet Vine branches, toward the top, so it hangs just like it would on its parenting evergreen.
The adhesive’s label says to allow for 24 hours of hardening on a surface, after use; I followed that rule.
And of course, this kind of arrangement isn’t something which would survive around playful children because it’s very fragile. So if you decide to create your own winter arrangement, think ahead about where you’ll put it, and make sure it won’t be easy to bump it with your arm when you walk by it.
I began sharing photos of this new concept with friends, and everyone seemed to love it. They slowed down in their distracted, busy days to really appreciate how looking at this unexpected plant arrangement made them feel.
Excited to add more unlikely pieces from my garden into the mix, I scoured my backyard for pieces of tassel, like from old corn plants (I’m not positive if they were from corn or another plant since they were scattered and broken across the soil, from the wind). I took the frilly tops, broke them off a few inches down on their stems, and glued those to the top sections of the Black-Eyed Susans. This brought in a lighter color of cream around the earthy browns of the other plants.
And I asked Carol for a few more cones from her yard, which she kindly dropped off in my doorway the next day. So I added two more, after the adhesive cured.
Since leaving hands-on art behind in childhood, I’ve mostly been creative through the written word, through the mail I send to friends and family and sometimes through knitting exclusively in squares. So this endeavor came as a new, wonderful surprise when I found it tapping at my heart.
A great friend of mine, an artist, poet, and standup comedian, died in October—Frank Kelso Wolfe. I have felt myself gravitating to art very strongly since losing him.
While driving to an art show which I was invited to in Pottstown a few months ago, I suddenly understood that every time I move closer to loving art and what artists have to say about it (interviewing artists, hearing their responses to why they think art is important and needed in the world is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my writing work)—it’s all Frank rising up in me. This “rising up” is a concept I borrowed with great love from listening to a book on CD in December, Sweetwater Creek by Anne Rivers Siddons. So creatively testing out this garden-savvy art inside my home in the cold season had direct ties to Frank, I am certain. Art was so important to him, and he wanted to know it mattered.
I encourage anyone who loves the feel of garden soil on their fingertips to see what curiously textured remnants of plants are still leftover in the yard, and discover what makes sense to your heart with a potentially beautiful arrangement to join into the warmth of your home in these chilly days.