Reading list: Flower Philosophy by Anna Potter

As we inch towards autumn, this excerpt from UK florist-with-a-following Anna Potter’s second book, Flower Philosophy, shares a way to capture her luxe and wild style.

A rich, earthy scent like no other hangs in the air in autumn, an aroma laced with overtones of ripe and rotten, mulch and damp. This is a season for slowing, gathering and storing — a season of lasts: the last dahlias, the last chrysanthemums, the last leaf to fall. And what is left exposed and revealed to all? The jewel-like orbs of elderberry, hawthorn and rosehip, fiercely guarded behind sharp, gnarly thorned protectors, tiny birds darting between them in a dangerous dance.
Berries give themselves for plumping, nourishing and feeding the local beings. Packed full of vitamins, antioxidants and flavonoids, they present themselves as a medicine for the winter months ahead — Mother Nature providing for her wild children.
I have never regretted taking the opportunity to make and store with hedgerow treasures. There are few greater pleasures than sitting fireside drinking a hot spiced elderberry cordial, held in the warm embrace of the season’s abundance. With the not-so-edible berries, I arrange, complete with branch and withered leaf and the last blooms in the garden. Privet, viburnum and amelanchier gently holding the rose, dahlia and chrysanthemum. Meanwhile, elderberries, hawthorn berries, sloes and rosehips find their way into syrups and jams.
I enjoy these practices equally. One mainly nourishes my creativity and one mainly my body — both, however, feed the soul. The project on the following pages sees berries take centre stage in the form of a fruiting still-life arrangement.

You will need
Chicken wire measuring 30 x 30cm
1 vase measuring 30 x 13cm
Wire cutters
Gardening gloves
Florist’s pot tape
Secateurs or strong scissors
4 viburnum branches
3 hawthorn branches
5 privet branches
6 pressed bracken leaves
7 dahlia stems
5 chrysanthemum stems
3 rose stems
5 crocosmia stems

1. Loosely scrunch the chicken wire into a shape that fits inside your vase and stretch a few strips of tape across the top, creating a grid into which you can insert your stems. Fill the vase with water.

2. Choose a couple of sculptural stems to establish the bare bones of your design. I chose an elegant branch of viburnum loaded with berries.

3. Add a few of the sturdier hawthorn and privet branches, haphazardly crossing them to create a framework to support the less sturdy stems. Use these and the bracken leaves to set the overall shape of your design by creating its highest and widest points.

4. Place the largest focal blooms next, following the marker points you’ve set with the foliage.

5. Add a few off-centre blooms in the middle area too.

6. Make sure you have some foliage hanging over the sides of the vase here and there. Intersperse your design with the smaller dahlias and the crocosmia stems, placing them between the larger blooms (as seen in the main image at the top of this page).

Edited extract from Flower Philosophy: Seasonal projects to inspire & restore by Anna Potter (Allen & Unwin, $55).

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