Anatomy of Flora

Spring IV

Anatomy of Flora: Spring IV | CLOTH & KIND

Lady spring is soon to close her shades, and with that will bring to an end a particular, but short lived, soft clear light and warm bask. The bounty of lush flora that truly defines spring will give way to long, hot summer days and, at least in my neck of the woods, leave fauna wilting on the vine from the weight of the heat and humidity. As a gardener, the best part of spring is sharing the wealth of that lush bounty with other gardeners. The antique english roses and peonies above, snipped from the garden of friend, coupled with a trailing vine of wild honeysuckle, pretty much say everything you need to know about spring.

So, as we find ourselves on the heels of the summer solstice, let's soak up these last few days and bask in the soft clear light and warm sun of spring. Another season awaits.

 

IMAGE CREDITS | Floral arrangement & photography by Tami Ramsay of CLOTH & KIND

Spring III

Anatomy of Flora: Spring III | CLOTH & KIND

It's a rainy day in New York City and while we are so happy to be here shopping & scouting, we're dreaming of sunny days & freshly cut flowers.

It's hard to ever go wrong with nodding blooms and glossy greens gathered in a vase, but we are gobsmacked over the beautiful pairing of this antique yellow English rose snipped from a friend's garden gate paired with the delicate yet bold and deeply veined fatsia japaonica leaf. As in life, sometimes simple is the most sophisticated. This is definitely the case here where flora and fauna gather to float in a pool of water, all nestled in a footed venetian glass vase.

Anatomy of Flora: Spring III | CLOTH & KIND

So while we trudge through the rain in the Big Apple, here's to brightening your Monday morning where ever you are.

 

IMAGE CREDITS | Floral arrangement & photography by Tami Ramsay of CLOTH & KIND

Spring II

Anatomy of Flora: Spring II | Guest Edited by Tami Ramsay | CLOTH & KIND

Guest edited by Tami RamsayMy memories of the early years of my marriage to Robert are in so many ways tied to the garden we first created together. Our first home was a tiny cottage, built in the early 1930s originally as a mother-in-law suite for another home, in the historic Cobbham neighborhood in Athens, GA. The original property, a wide and deep old pecan grove tract, had been divided at some point in the past to separate the main house from the cottage, leaving the lion's share of the land to the latter. When we acquired the cottage, built from field stones collected from local terraced farm land, it was barely visible from the street, obscured from view by seventy plus years of unbridled overgrowth. It had literally become a beast of the southern wild. We cut our teeth the hard way clearing away tenacious invasives like bamboo, ligustrum, potato vine, and Chinese privet along with enough liriope to fill several dump trucks. The experience turned us into gardening snobs in the process and thus we decided we would only grow natives plants, or highly prized imports, in our new garden landscape. We were young and in love and childless and had time to be haughty, and ridiculous, about such things.

Anatomy of Flora: Spring II | Guest Edited by Tami Ramsay | CLOTH & KIND

We had many gardeners who influenced our choices but we made most of our decisions based on the native plants propagated and sold at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia spring plant sale. One of our first purchases was a Flame Azalea above, or Rhododendron calendulaceum, a deciduous native plant that can be found in abundance in the wild of the southern Appalachians. We took great pride in choosing this variety of azalea for our garden, over the more common, albeit gorgeous, other azalea varieties found in our Piedmont region. It was more about plant selection then and less about the simple beauty. What I see now, 14 years after we first planted it, is how those upright branches give way to orangey-coral clusters of vase shaped flowers and the stunning silhouette it casts against a crystal blue sky.

Anatomy of Flora: Spring II | Guest Edited by Tami Ramsay | CLOTH & KIND

One of the reasons this property so appealed to us was our discovery of a stone walled sunken flagstone patio with a tiny pond, long forgotten and abandoned, which was nestled beneath a canopy of old growth dogwoods and pecan trees. As we unearthed the patio and its perimeter beds, we discovered the peeking heads of southern shield fern fronds (Dryopteris ludoviciana), another native to the southeastern United States, buried under deep leaf mulch. We also found the non-native buttercup english ivy (Hedera helix), starting its tentacled climb up the craggy patio walls, an across the pond visitor that earned its stay by being just too freaking cute with its miniature variegated creamy yellow and chartreuse green leaves. Gathered together unselfconsciously in a vintage medicine cup above, against the stunning backdrop of Katie Ridder's Moonflower wallpaper, this floral triumvirate of flame azalea, hairy fern shoots, and ivy just takes my breath away. And I couldn't care less about the horticultural pedigree.

Anatomy of Flora: Spring II | Guest Edited by Tami Ramsay | CLOTH & KIND

My current garden now includes only plants that make me happy. I certainly have lots of natives but plenty of the plants in my garden are simply visitors to the area that tolerate the climate well. I avoid invasives like the plague, but will invite just about any other plant to my garden so long as a brush past it makes me stop and smile. And, of course, if it looks good in a vase.

 

IMAGES | Floral styling, arrangements and photography by Tami Ramsay

Spring I

Anatomy of Flora: Spring I  by Guest Editor Tami Ramsay | CLOTH & KIND

Guest edited by Tami Ramsay.

It’s Spring, well, technically. Marked by the Vernal Equinox on 20 March 2013, relative equal days and nights are upon those of us in the Northern hemisphere, whether your sidewalks are still covered in snow or your native azaleas are in full bloom. Invariably though, I liken Spring to a slow boil, the kind that takes forever when you are pot watching, and only bubbles when you finally walk away to visit the loo. Spring is a bit of a flirt too, teasing you with enough warm and sunny days to ensnare your loyalty, but then like a classic photo bomb, ruins a good thing of tank tops and flip flops with a cold snap that makes you regret that recent seasonal overhaul of your closet.

Alas, though, I am a willing mistress to Spring and hang on to all that it promises, even when I come up jilted and cold. Some of the first early Spring bloomers in my region, known as Zone VIII, are the tulip magnolia, the loropetalum chinense, and the common flowering dogwood. Each of these beauties appeals to me for different reasons but when combined and artfully arranged together, I am overwhelmed by their modern and graphic effect. Pair that with sun streaming through the window, casting its golden glow on buds in bloom, and it’s got to be Spring o’clock somewhere.

Anatomy of Flora: Spring I by Guest Editor Tami Ramsay | CLOTH & KIND

The tulip magnolia, also known as the Japanese magnolia, is actually a deciduous shrub, but presents rather as a small to mid-sized tree, that kicks off early Spring with a profusion of large pink to purple provocative flowers, all before shedding them and assuming its role as a common, less than showy and leafy specimen. But when that bloom erupts on that woody stem, its like Heaven and Hades meet, with a splash of love and heat.

Although the white variety of loropetalum has its place in the garden, the pink flowering variety featured above, often referred to as a Chinese fringe flower, is my favorite. When this deciduous shrub is left unattended, sans pruning to a tight hedge, a subsequent leggy-ness prevails which leaves the branches swaying at the mercy of the wind’s movement, and encourages the long eyelash-like petals to flit and float this way and that. The combination of those hot pink strappy petals, along with their lilt and lightness, totally slays me, every time.

Dogwood | Anatomy of Flora: Spring I by Guest Editor Tami Ramsay | CLOTH & KIND

Relatively synonymous with Spring and the Southern landscape is any variety of Cornus florida, or the flowering dogwood, and its characteristic petal bearing flowers--a total showstopper in all its glory. Nothing screams new beginnings and beckons warm days more than the budding of millions of tight little fists of dogwood flowers, just trembling with anticipation of busting out of their nubby incubators; but, it is folly to be fooled completely by these blooms. Commonly referred to in the Farmer's Almanac as a Dogwood Winter, a colloquial term used in the American Southeast, farmers knew it wasn’t safe to plant their crops without fear of frost until after these blooms had come and gone. Even still, those tightly packed pink and green tinged flowers make for a very textural and graphic accompaniment to the tulip magnolia and loropetalum below, nestled in a silver compote and finished with black shredded pine mulch.

Anatomy of Flora: Spring I by Guest Editor Tami Ramsay | CLOTH & KIND

Whether you are sipping hot cocoa by the fire or drinking ice cold sweet tea in the garden, Spring has sprung. Let the show begin!

 

IMAGES | Floral styling, arrangements and photography by Tami Ramsay

Winter III

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Guest edited by Tami Ramsay

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.

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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.

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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

Winter II

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Guest edited by Tami Ramsay

During the first few months that my husband Robert and I were dating, we courted, wrote love letters and pined for each other at a distance while he worked in Argentina as a professional fly fishing guide. Upon his return home, when I picked him up at the airport in his bombachas de campo (culotte-like pants he should have left in South America), one of the first things he pulled out of his bag for me was a heart shaped rock and a rock ring. He had found them amongst thousands of other rocks in the bed of the Collon Cura, a river that snakes through one of the estancias nestled within the Patagonia region. Young and passionately in love, it thrilled me that he had brought me momentos from his travels but I was more taken by the coincidence of the shapes rather than their inherent symbolism. You see, he was then and remains now a hopeless romantic and I have been reluctantly shuffling behind ever since.

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The truth is, love is difficult for me, for reasons both legitimate and pathologic but best left for the couch. It requires a willing submission to vulnerability that often eludes me. As life would have it, my marriage and children have taught me a thing or two about myself. Although some might still describe me as a recalcitrant romantic, I have been fundamentally changed and undressed by love and am most definitely a softer soul as a result.

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In preparing for this post, and sticking to the spirit of the column, I went out to gather what was blooming that could read Valentine’s Day without screaming “Be Mine.” Fortuitously, and almost on cue, I found an abundance of winter blooms that symbolize my juxtaposed experience of love: beautiful but imperfect, strong but soft, enduring but ephemeral.

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I love the showy blooms of camellias but they are short lived off the vine and bruise easily. Much like the experience of falling in love. The stiff nature of the Japanese flowering quince can seem inhospitable but then, in a moment of vulnerability, bears the most tender and lovely petals. I can relate. Historically, the Sakura, or the Japanese cherry tree, is a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life, of the transience and impermanence of things. Alas, love is wispy, always growing and ever changing. The lunaria annua, or money plant, with its heart shaped leaf, is commonly called honesty, and as you know, there is no love without that. And lastly, the red bud quietly abides most of the time and then, just when you don’t expect it, has a singular moment of passion. You can read into that what you will.

Not just on this day, but often, I remind myself that it is the journey of love--after cresting its peaks and wading through its deep and wide valley - that is the real teacher. Fortunately, I am a work in progress because the lessons of love are never ending.

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IMAGES | Floral styling, arrangements and photography by Tami Ramsay

Winter I

So remember when I said that after my experience at Alt Summit you were going to start noticing some changes around here? I wasn't kidding! Today, I'm thrilled to announce that one of my dearest design + blogger friends, Tami Ramsay of Tami Ramsay Design, will be guest editing a few new columns here at CLOTH & KIND. The first of which is called Anatomy of Flora.

You may already know Tami for her completely unique design aesthetic (and by the way, I truly think she is one of the greatest and most original interior design talents out there) but did you also know that she has major floral skills as well? Check this out! Just like her interiors, Tami's floral creations defy the norm, are original, raw, simple and, well, just plain pretty as all get out.

In Anatomy of Flora, Tami will share her approach to developing gorgeous floral creations first by breaking them down piece by piece for us, then by showing us the finished arrangement... or in the case of today's post, two beautiful options. Please join me in welcoming Tami! We both hope you enjoy this new series as much as we already do. KRISTA

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As much as I embrace Spring and the floral bounty that awakens after a long season’s nap, I cannot get enough of Winter’s bone. Finding blooms that insist on rising in spite of the cold hard ground and frigid air is a thrill I anxiously await. I have never met a berry that did not turn my head, and give me a nodding bloom in February and I am totally hooked.

The flowers and berries featured in today’s post are common in my garden here in Athens, GA and thrive in such conditions. In the first arrangement, a simple gathering of hellebores and narcissus huddle in a mercury glass vase and nestle perfectly on a table sprinkled with coarse confetti.

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In the second arrangement, a single white hellebore mingles with a cluster of nubby spined spirea, dotted with tiny white blooms, finished with a spire of mahonia berries.

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For me, the beauty lies in a gathered approach to arranging flowers; no real plan, just an inspired handful after a wander through the yard or the woods. The vase is usually what I have on hand, but what is on hand is usually a special little something picked up in my travels. I am especially fond of this old Ammonium Hydroxide glass bottle, one of six picked up at a local estate sale. Once used to contain the NH4 + OH solution in a University of Georgia chemistry lab in days long gone, it now serves as a vessel for flowers and always piques the interest of the passerby.

So, what’s blooming in your garden or along the path you commonly walk? Open your eyes, Winter beauty abounds. TAMI

 

PHOTO + PROP CREDITS | All floral arrangements, styling and photographic images courtesy of Tami Ramsay | Indigo dipped hand towel via Rinne Allen & Lucy Allen Gillis' Our Field Trip