In the most personal of her several books, Val Easton leads us gently through the seasons as she demonstrates the ease with which she brings her garden indoors to decorate her home. Written at the urging of friends who admired the simple bouquets and arrangements with which Val accents table, buffet, wall niche, or bedside, Petal & Twig is a book for anyone who wishes to bring cut material indoorsâ€”from even the smallest of gardens.
There is no paucity of books on the varied approaches to flower arranging; some, such as Linda Beutler’s From Garden to Vase, go beyond the aesthetics of putting flowers, foliage, and stems together to provide all the information we need to make them last as long as possible in an arrangement. Val worries less about the longevity of cut flowers; by their nature, she argues, cut flowers are short-lived. The goal is to use them effectively and effortlessly.
And this she does throughout the year. Val organizes Petal & Twig like a diary, beginning in spring with modest arrangements of narcissus, hellebores, and bleeding heart. Continuing through the year, she emphasizes the importance of observation: learning how plants grow and using the cut material in ways that honor those patterns. Summertime brings a wealth of flowering material, resulting in arrangements of a grander scale and bolder colors. Autumn demands more foliage in the compositions, and winter leans heavily on twigs and fruit, along with the occasional witch hazel in bloom.
Val discusses the collection of vessels that hold her bouquets. Some are family heirlooms, others treasures gathered from the local swap meet. A variety of sizes, shapes, and colors is important; matching the right vessel to the material to be arranged adds to the pleasure of bringing flowers indoors.
For each month, Val provides a short list of plants that are likely to be available, at least in her region, for indoor arrangements. The final chapter is a core list of those flowers, stems, foliage, and fruits that are worth growing for this purpose, no matter what size your garden is.
While the palette in Val’s arrangements is decidedly Pacific Northwest (after all, she splits her time between Whidbey Island and Seattle), the message of Petal & Twig is definitely non-regional: grow your own, cut your own, observe what you have, and learn to play with it. Let your bouquets exemplify nature’s artistry brought indoors.
Richard G Turner Jr, editor