When I was in college, I loved to run along the side streets off Milledge Avenue in Athens, Georgia to take in the curb appeal of the all the little bungalows that dotted the way. I had no idea then that one of my favorite houses, a 1920s Tudor style stucco, would one day become a home for my family some 20 years later. One of my favorite visual vignettes about that particular house was its side porch which was beautifully flanked by a profusion of old fashioned pearl bush. It was a showstopper. By the time we bought the home, the owner, who I later learned had danced many a jig on that side porch, had suffered a long illness and ultimately died, and in the midst of that the home had fallen into a state of disrepair. The interior plaster walls and ceilings were badly cracked and crumbling, the exterior a long forgotten landscape having been overtaken by underbrush and bamboo, but the pearl bush remained a steadfast and bountiful bastion. That bush, along with the two mid-century brass and lucite light fixtures hanging from the barrel vaulted ceiling in the living room, had me at one foot in the front door. I bought the house on the spot.
Over the past few years, my design aesthetic with floral arrangements has gone the way of less is more with a keen appreciation for negative space. I find myself drawn to leggy stems, especially ones that lilt this way and that, and branches that that are gnarled and knotty, smacking of arthritic metatarsals. I am completely fascinated with the sense of movement created by those shapes and lines and the resultant dissecting and highlighting of the surrounding space. I recently discovered the beauty of charcoal and vermiculite, additives commonly used in terrariums as a soilless medium, but have been using them instead as elements in design. The charcoal, with its matte black and chipped face, is the perfect substrate and creates a fine gravel base from which these leggy stems emerge. A light sprinkling of coarse vermiculite, diamonds in the rough of the dark charcoal, add a nice touch of twinkle.
I especially love using vessels with a footed base to add height to an arrangement, and in this case, a milk glass chalice, to compliment the milky white pearl bush. Nestled in the corner of my mudroom, on the ledge of the original metal casement window, the pearl bush blooms march out along its branches, but unlike most plants, does so on old growth covered in dried pods from seasons past. For me, therein lies the beauty and wonder of the pearl bush. It reminds me that I need my past experiences, even the really hard ones, to inform the beauty of my new growth.
IMAGES | Floral styling, arrangements and photography by Tami Ramsay of CLOTH & KIND.