The 7 Rules of Responsible Foraging for Floral Design
One of my greatest joys of owning Moonset Farm Floral is the freedom it gives me to experiment with different and unique elements of design. Growing my own flowers allows me to explore different textures, colors, and forms, while also allowing me to reach beyond the typical and use all the resources at my disposal—including foraging on our 140 acres here in Western Maine.
Foraging is an excellent way to increase interest, romance, and variety to your arrangements. Foraged elements add depth, contrast, and dimension to your creations. Foraging is economical, allowing you to create bespoke floral designs and maximize the impact of your compositions. Though foraging is a simple concept, it is a skill that requires knowledge and care.
The 7 Cardinal Rules of Foraging
1. Know your environment and potential hazards
When foraging, knowing your environment and its possible hazards can prevent uncomfortable or dangerous situations. One example is bald-faced hornets found here in Maine. These are an aggressive member of the yellow jacket family and will attack anything (or anyone) that invades their space. While they abandon their nests after one season, they are active in the summer and can sting repeatedly—and their sting is excruciating. On more than one occasion, I have disturbed a bald-faced hornet nest and, luckily, I have been relatively unscathed. For those with wasp allergies, being unaware of the nesting practices of bald-faced hornets could prove to be fatal.
2. Only forage with permission
Foraging on your neighbors’ land may seem harmless to you, but to the landowner, it may be seen as stealing and trespassing. Getting approval before you gather is imperative. When asking for permission, make sure the property owner knows that you will respect the land and take only what you need.
3. Know the local, state, and federal laws about foraging in your area
On public and private lands, federal, state, and local foraging laws and rules vary greatly and are often contradictory. Most information available about foraging concerns food. However, the same rules and regulations apply for foraging plants for your designs. For more information about the laws of foraging, see Baylen J. Linnekin’s article “Food Law Gone Wild: The Law of Foraging.”
4. Take only what you know
Know which plants are endangered or rare species before you forage. For more information, check out your local and state environmental agencies and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
5. Be aware of poisonous and/or plants THAT Irritate
You don’t to forage a beautiful piece of flora and then discover it’s harmful to you or a client. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all contain urushiol and can cause a rash that may require medical treatment—not to mention a great deal of discomfort. And all you have to do is brush up against stinging nettles for an unpleasant hour or two. Giant hogweed is a phytotoxin that can cause second-degree type burns when the sap is exposed to the sun. For more information about poisonous and plant irritants, visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
6. Know what plants and insects are invasive and how they spread
You’ll want to prevent unwelcome pests in your studio or unwanted botanical invaders into your fields. Asiatic bittersweet celastrus orbiculatus is a commonly collected decoration that quickly invades. While beautiful, your venues would frown upon you introducing invasive plants to their carefully cultivated grounds! For more information, check out the National Invasive Species Information Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
7. Remove only what you need without damaging the plant or environment
Unless you’ve used the individual components previously, experiment with them before using for clients. All live elements need to be well hydrated and tested for durability and sustainability. Checking for insects is an absolute must, as having ants crawling all over the groom’s jacket during the ceremony is not ideal!
Using foraged elements in your design can elevate your creations to the next level, so be brave and give it a shot.