Design & Decor - Flower Arranging

Flower arranging tips from a floral guru

Melissa Bigner with Heather Barrie
Photography by
Peter Frank Edwards

Create simple yet stylish bouquets from your garden bounty

Floral guru Heather Barrie runs Gathering: Floral + Event Design in Charleston, South Carolina, and is known for natural arrangements and arrangements that have a deceptively simple, organic yet elegant style. A self-taught designer who learned the art of arranging by "playing" with the flowers that grew in the woods surrounding her suburban Atlanta home, Heather says her sensibility comes straight from her past —and present— stomping grounds. Call her on her cell phone these days, and she's as likely to answer while wading through a field of wildflowers as she is to pick up while deep in the woods collecting magnolia limbs. Here's what Heather advises when it comes to gathering and assembling local flora.

Gathering your blooms
Gathering tools like clippers, floral scissors, gloves, loppers, shears, buckets and more make harvesting blooms a breeze. Rubber boots can be the difference between a glorious gathering experience and a miserable one. Find them for less than $20 at discount chain stores.

Whether you're roving far and wide or looking to your own backyard for plants and flowers, Heather suggests you have the following handy:

  • boots
  • gloves
  • clippers for flowers and greens
  • a lopper for woody limbs
  • a spade
  • buckets (with water for the blooms)
  • bug spray

As for what to cut? Choose what's in season, what's in bloom, what's changing color, what's sprouting berries—these are the things that catch Heather's eye. "Anything you wouldn't necessarily spot in a florist cooler," she says, "are the things that interest me." She goes for a variety of textures (prickly, fuzzy, slick), shapes (rounded, oval, or pointed leaves, for instance), elements (leaves, grasses, branches, vines) and colors (preferring tone-on-tone) until she's got all the puzzle pieces for an interesting bouquet.

In the end, there's a fair dose of Zen in her approach. By working with what's thriving when she cuts rather than heading out with an agenda, Heather is more likely to be in the moment as she hunts for treasures and is thus more likely to cherish her finds as something nature intended just for her, just then.


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