The Scrounged Bouquet

by David Perry on October 25, 2010

in Gathered in the Wild,Home-Grown,How We Did It

Because perfect isn’t always in the cards.

A "Scrounged Bouquet" gathered from every corner of my garden.

Try to imagine if you will that today and only while you’re reading this, of course, you feel less than stunningly talented, less than utterly gorgeous and believe it or not, maybe even somewhat shy of perfect.  Are you with me so far?

Now atop that crazy, outlandish scenario, add in the painful awareness that money is a bit tighter this year than it was a few years ago and that on this particular day (like many of your other days, actually), you find yourself nearly overwhelmed by all of those impertinent demands of time, patience and money your life extracts from you just to keep from losing ground. Still following along?

Stir all of those criteria into the equivalent of an imagination smoothie, trying to ignore its slightly bitter aftertaste, picturing yourself instead within that slide of shortening October days, zooming full tilt through the depths of autumn and toward winter. Sigh.

Too far?

So, within our imaginary scenario you should now see a red arrow flashing on your mental map that says boldly, “You are here.”

And though you’re certainly not complaining, and though you know deep inside that everything, ultimately will be just fine, some part of your heart-informed brain asks: “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to give yourself a few little bouquets to cheer yourself up, to brighten and feather your increasingly indoor-centered nest?”

This simple, and vertical tussie mussie was made from gleaned materials by Mary Pyper from her late season garden. Included are Phygelius x rectus 'Moonraker', Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis 'Aurea', Zinnia tenuiflora 'Antique Red' and a single frond of Autumn fern.

“How about a simple bouquet for the kitchen table?” you wonder, “And maybe a couple of tussie mussies, one for the bathroom window sill and maybe another for the bedside table?”

Problem is, after paying for all the kids back to school clothes and supplies, and the inescapable fact that it is nearly the end of the month, and well, with those holidays speeding toward you like a runaway freight train, there really isn’t much of this month’s budget left, nor of next month’s to spare for buying non-essentials, no matter how essential they might feel. So what do you do? Go without? Surely no one would fault you, or probably even notice. But you’d notice.

Of course, you would happily cut flowers and foliage from your own garden (or the pots on your deck), to cheer up your home, but it is rather late in the season and with all the rains and the wind, and these recent chilly nights, pretty much everything left out there looks a bit (or a lot), tattered and faded, and worn. And really, there isn’t enough of any one thing, let alone two or three, still blooming in enough profusion to make much of an elegant floral statement.

Which makes this the perfect time to put on one of those other hats in your fresh-cut, flower-craving wardrobe, one that helps you see the grand adventure in foraging when you can’t quite manage to harvest in bulk . . . or while you’re gleaning from the vacant lot next door rather than using your credit card at the grocery or the florist, or the big box store. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is time once again to practice the magical and underutilized art of the scrounged bouquet.

A tussie mussie doesn’t take much. Really, a couple of sprigs of rosemary, a blade or two, maybe three, of ornamental grass. Then add in a few blooms of whatever you can still find blooming in some sheltered corner of your garden and within a few minutes of playful searching you’ve gathered a sweet little visual punctuation mark for one of  your visually hungry rooms. Over the years I’ve come to see this as a fun, wintertime challenge: how much and what sort of magic can I scrounge up in measure enough to populate a tiny bouquet or two.

The tussie mussie pictured just above is one of several happy little bouquets made yesterday by my sweetie, Mary, for her homey cottage. As you can see, in this one she’s tucked several tall, slender, light-catching elements scrounged from her nearly dormant garden into an elegant, narrow throated, antique bud vase.

Just below is another of Mary’s tussie mussies, this one a shorter combination of scrounged ingredients, including a few straggler, Aster frikartii blooms, a bit of Pieris japonica foliage, a few gleaned lengths of generous, Geranium ‘Anne Folkard’, a cluster of Skimmia japonica (red berries and leaves), a couple of small Autumn fern frondlets and the very last of her mahogany colored Rudbeckia flowers.

Don't let the terminology fool you. Scrounged materials can be beautiful, too. In this tussie mussie, Mary tucked a few sprigs of Autumn fern, a few gleaned lengths of Geranium 'Anne Folkard', some Skimmia berries, some asters and one ruddy Rudbeckia flower, all in a simple little glass bead-ringed vase.

As for the first bouquet at the top of this blog post, those elements were gathered by yours truly a few days ago, all located, clipped and then arranged within a few minutes.

I really just wanted something cheerful for my kitchen table and decided it would be fine if it looked slightly wild and disheveled, not unlike my work schedule of late. What you see in that photo is simply what I could manage to procure and then poke into that water-filled vase within the few minutes I had between work projects.

Candidly, I consider it, like many of my other scrounged bouquets, a sort of  vegetable soup bouquet, you know, where you attempt to build a satisfying broth out of whatever flavorful bits of goodness you can find in the refrigerator, making something good from them before they go bad. In this case the refrigerator was my chilly October garden, and what I found out there was a smorgasbord of texture and color in slightly tattered ones and twos.

Geranium ‘Anne Folkard’ and Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Golden Celebration roses and White Meidland roses; these are plants that  keep on giving. Then there are Autumn fern fronds and Asters, and a sprig or two of Cotinus leaves and a half dozen shiny red, Lonicera (honeysuckle), berries, and some Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo), foliage and a few magenta mums, and finally, several elegant pink, Schizostylis coccinea (Kaffir lily), stalks. More than enough when stirred all together.

Then, before bringing this gleaned floral melange indoors, I set it carefully on a block of wood on the garden path, framed up a low-angled, tight-cropped shot with my 2oo mm lens (to stack up the perspective and throw the background way out of focus), carefully making sure that a remaining cluster of uncut Schizostylis and a bramble of sun washed witch hazel branches gave texture to the blur beyond.

The entire project took just a few minutes of my time and not a single dollar of cash from my wallet, and I’ve been enjoying it now for most of the week. As much as I love buying bunches and bunches of flowers throughout the year from the people who so lovingly grow them and arrange them, some weeks scrounging is the difference between having an abundance of flowers in my house and not having flowers. Pretty simple, really.

So, how about you? Scrounge bouquets much?

Think you might wanna try?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary October 25, 2010 at 10:30 pm


Nancy Bond October 26, 2010 at 5:15 am

Absolutely beautiful and my very favourite kind of bouquet! I’ll take any one of these over a vase of punctiliously arranged roses any day.

Sheila October 26, 2010 at 6:20 am

There was a time that I used to go out walking around town after dark so I could pick “flowers” from the public places to make bouquets when I had no garden!

M A October 26, 2010 at 8:39 am

Exquisite. Just exquisite.

Marcie October 26, 2010 at 9:04 am


David Perry October 26, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Dear Gary, thanks, sir. And Nancy, you have just been awarded five extra credit points for using the word, ‘punctiliously’ in a sentence. I mean, how often does that happen these days? Please accept this heartfelt gift with my gratitude and remember, don’t make that old mistake of spending them all on one measly little simile when you could probably get at least a metaphor. Sheila, this is a new insight into your darker nature. I’m grinning like a total goof at the picture in my mind. MA, thank you, sweet thang. Just thank you. And Marcie, a heartfelt thank you to you too. I love that you’re all so willing to come out and play.

Terri October 28, 2010 at 7:30 am

So pretty…I’m inspired to go out to my gardens and “scrounge” for a bouquet. However, we’ve been colder for much longer here, (E. WA), so I’m not sure how much I’ll find. But, I’ll give it a good try. Thanks for sharing.

Scholarships for Women November 10, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it!

Lisa Hilderbrand November 12, 2010 at 9:13 am

These are my kind of bouquets…full of heart, garden-love and fun!

Nancy May 11, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I just recently gathered clippings from my old fahioned confederate snowball bush and boughs from a cedar tree that has blue berries on them to make a scrounged bouquet!
Your pictures are marvelous!

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