Friday, 8 March 2013

A Wild Mother’s Day

Posted by Dr Trevor Dines.

I’ve not bought a bunch of flowers for years.

Don’t get me wrong - it’s not that I’m a misery guts or lack any sense of romance or occasion. The symbolism involved with giving and receiving flowers is incredibly powerful (which in itself reveals the deep, subconscious relationship we have with plants; we don’t after all, say it with seagulls). I honestly don’t think there’s any better way, in a very personal manner, to express your love for someone.

But what better way to do this than with a bunch wild flowers that you’ve picked and put together yourself? It’s much more thoughtful than the flaccid forecourt fodder on offer at the local garage. Walk into any supermarket or garden centre this weekend and you’ll be faced with row upon row of the most garish, unseasonal and unnatural blooms. Flown in from all over the world, they remind me more of plastic supermodels dressed for tarty night out in Ibiza. Certainly bright and brash and bold they may be, but such flamboyance fades quickly, offending the eyes by the following morning.

Instead, a bunch of hand-picked wild flowers will mean so much more. It will be unique, personal, and will have a very special local feeling too – a blend of flowers and foliage that reflects where you live rather what some nursery manager in some far-flung continent thought what your mother would like. When you factor in the cost, wild flowers become even more attractive.

Mother’s Day, of course, occurs when many flowers are yet to bloom - it’s just a bit too early in the year. But if you rise to the challenge, the finished product will carry much more meaning. You’ll need to get outside and see what’s around. I did just this yesterday and was surprised at what I could find.

So what kind of seasonal bouquet can I recommend? Rather than big and blousy, I’d suggest keeping it tasteful and refined. A mix of subtle colours and leaf textures can be bought together in a small, hand-tied bouquet. And you don’t have to be purist about it either; other garden flowers that are out now or a small bunch of tasteful blooms from the florist can be brought to life with the addition of some wild, foraged leaves and flowers.

You can see the result of my efforts in the photo above. Here, I’ve put together the following:

  • Snowdrops: Although not native flower, they’re beautiful and familiar woodlanders that are wonderfully pure with their white and green nodding flowers.
  • Hazel: A sprig of this with some catkins looks very spring-like and very architectural.
  • Polypody fern: Evergreen and deeply lobed, these sometimes have bright orange spores on the back.
  • Ivy: The flower stems and young berries are very distinctive and architectural.
  • Yew: A wonderful evergreen, which flowers early with beautiful pale yellow bobbles that go on to form its red berries.
  • Bog myrtle: Dark mahogany coloured stems with distinctive short catkins. Not common but grows in western upland areas.
  • Lichen: Small fallen twigs with some lichen can be included for unusual colour and texture.

It all depends on what you find. Keep you eve out for other early flowers such as violets, and primroses, other textures from different ferns, and even dried seed-heads from last-year’s flowers.

But what about picking wild flowers? Isn’t that illegal? Usually it’s not. At Plantlife, we not only endorse but thoroughly encourage people to pick common wild flowers when it legal to do so. For full details, click here.

We want people to literally get back “in touch” with their wild flowers, bring them back into their lives and use them again, making those connections we used to have. So on this Mother’s Day, why not find time to reconnect with wild plants? Your mum will probably be delighted.

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