Our hedges, verges and abandoned corners may look bland and green at first sight but look closer and they are filled with treasure. I'm lucky enough to have friends with fields who don't cut their hedges, but if you don't (and you're not using your materials for profit - see note at the end of this post) then head out for a wander along a verge and see what beautiful things you can find. These are my favourite wild things to hunt for when I'm foraging.
There are two types found commonly in our hedgerows – bracken, which wilts easily and broad buckler ferns which hold up really well in arrangements. They're not difficult to tell apart, broad buckler has one leaf coming up from the center of the plant whereas bracken grows in pairs off a main stem. Fern is a lovely material to use around the edges of bouquets as a 'collar' and to give a natural touch to mantlepiece designs. Bracken comes into its own in winter when it dries into gorgeous, twirled bronze shapes. Use it in wreaths or hang from the ceiling in a bold installation.
Bushy ivy is an absolute essential for Christmas designs - it lasts brilliantly without a water source and it's abundant and a bit of a pest so no worries with cutting it. Its bushiness means it fills gaps in designs easily and the clusters of black berries in winter give a lovely textural contrast.
Trailing ivy is also great for all sorts of things from wreaths to bouquets to foliage runners. I like to take a large handfuls and wind it round itself to make mini wreaths or to add drape to centrepieces.
Beech is a fantastic backbone for large designs - it holds up great in the vase and gives great structure. Small bushier branches can also be added to bouquets. It comes in green - fresh lime in spring, maturing to deep green in summer and sunset colours over autumn, and copper - a deep purpley red. The dried leaves are great for autumnal designs and installations too.
Berries and nuts
Every late summer the hedgerows become filled with branches laden with fruit – blackberries, sloes, hazelnuts, rosehips. They give a beautiful texture, an unexpected flash of colour and shape. You won't find them in a supermarket bouquet - they're tricky (thorns - so many thorns!) but go prepared with gloves and snips and the rewards outweigh the fear!
Just because branches are bare doesn't mean that they aren't useful for floristry. The verges are filled with branches and twigs in a myriad of different sizes, shapes, textures and colours; from straight, brightly coloured cornus to knarled and twisted wild apple, catkin-laded hazels and lichened oak, wispy weeping birch to blossom just bursting out of buds at the start of spring. Use them in everything - small arrangements, bouquets, huge installations.
Honourable mention for cow parsely – this gorgeous yet fleeting flower is an important part of spring arrangements before the more cultivated ammi majus is ready. Holds us surprisingly well in water (sear the ends for extra vase life) Do not mistake for giant hogweed later in the season which can cause incredibly painful burns.
I hope this encourages you to think outside the box a little when it comes to finding materials to decorate your home with. I'd love to hear what your favourite things to forage are or see what you've made! Leave me a comment below or tag me on instagram (@sarahhillflowers)
Disclaimer: I am a professional florist and experienced forager. I always obey the law of the land with regards to foraging and wear appropriate PPE. Never pick anything you can’t identify and never assume something is safe. I do not accept any responsibility for accident or injury as a result of your foraging actions! A great article about foraging legalities can be found here.