Autumn Flowers by Swallows & Damsons

by Grace Bonney


For the past 12 years, I’ve started today by sitting down at my desk to write a Thanksgiving note. Like every year, I am so very thankful to have this place to express my gratitude and thanks for this community and the people here at DS that make this place possible. We are all so lucky to get to work with and talk to amazingly talented, kind and special people like all of you every day.


But unlike previous years, this year I am genuinely struggling to find feelings of hope and promise while so many others are struggling to find safe spaces to live, enough food to eat and to provide basic care for their families. So today I wanted to take a moment and share a few links for anyone who would like to take this time to give back, in any way, to those in need. Whether you open your home and table to someone in need, volunteer at your local food bank, donate to a cause (like the ACLU or supporting American Indians in the Dakota Pipeline protests) or group of people in need or take a moment to make and share appreciation for those in your community who need your support, I hope you’ll join us in making sure this holiday and the idea of giving thanks are the focus.

If you’d like to make something to bring to people in your area who could use your support, love and help, here are some things you can make and bring. Below is an idea for a floral arrangement you can make using autumn clippings that would be great to deliver to a local shelter or center that is caring for others this holiday. Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday to everyone. Love, grace

Photos by India Hobson, text and flowers below by Swallows & Damsons

“Can we speak in flowers. It will be easier for me to understand”

-Nayyirah Waheed

An Autumnal arrangement describes perfectly how I feel at this point in the year. My eyes are alert and open to the mass of transition taking place around me. There are days when my senses feel so heightened that I feel aware of every leaf falling to the ground one by one. It is the season of imperfections. Choice flowers and branches are those that have gone to seed, leaves that are weathered and gloriously proud branches that have withstood a year with all its elements. My pockets are heavy with nature’s treasure, acorns, conkers, pine cones. Constantly impressing my 6-year-old self with extensive collections, using all that the land produces and storing them up like I’m about to start hibernation.

It is when one realizes that all this bounty, in all its scrappy glory, is a perfect ingredient for a seasonal flower arrangement that our horizons are broadened. Why not use a branch of crab apple half devoured with caterpillar included? When admiring a Dutch Master painting I am always most enamored by the creepy crawlies, the dirt, the torn leaves, the everyday things in life we can relate to but so often spend time and energy trying to cover up.


 I chose an old terra cotta pot as my container. The weathered surface and the natural material really felt appropriate for this piece. I used a simple glass vase that fit inside and slightly scrunched chicken wire inside. I then secured this with florist’s strong, waterproof tape.

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 The first step of arranging is to create the overall shape with foliage. I used tall autumnal branches of Beech and Oak for height and some eucalyptus popolus to fill out the lower center. Any shorter branches with a natural curve I used towards the bottom, drooping downwards over the side, along with the Old Man’s beard vine, which spilled out and draped itself along the table.

Next I placed the larger blooms, following the lines of the foliage I had already created. The chrysanthemums, dahlias and roses, some slightly set back and others jutting out further, allowing for a layered look with lots of depth.

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Finally, the smaller flowers and seed heads can be used to fill in gaps and to break up any harsh lines or shapes that may have been constructed. If a very perfect asymmetric shape has been formed I will usually break the line with a dainty flower or wispy stem of foliage in order to keep the wild and unstructured look. I used brown lisianthus, scabiosa seed heads, crososmia seed heads, zinnias and dille to complete the arrangement.

The hibernation-ready stock I collected then really came into use with gourds and physallis scattered around the base. With each second, leaves were falling from the branches I had used, effortlessly finishing the overall scene for me. An abundant display celebrating a year of growth with all its mess, imperfections and dirt. Just making it all the more beautiful.

Photos by India Hobson

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  • You perfectly captured our feelings at this gut-churning interlude. And the flowers feed our need for natural beauty. Thank you.

  • Thank you for this beautiful post, the links and what a spectacular floral arrangement – reminiscent of Jacob Vosmaer still life paintings – stunning colours! Happy Thanksgiving :)

  • Before you direct people to support the protesters in the DAPL protest, do your research on the amount of damage they are inflicting on the state of ND. Desecrating the land by starting vehicles on fire, dumping oil onto the land, assaulting law enforcement and civilians, slaughtering animals, and the list goes on. I have subscribed to this for more than 7 yrs. I will no longer.

    • Jennifer

      I’m afraid I disagree. American Indian protestors are not slaughtering or assaulting anyone. Spreading false information like that is dangerous and disheartening. Where did you even read/find that information? I googled to try to find the news source and could find no mention of any claims like that.


  • Thank you for this helpful post, Grace. I have been rallying my friends to action and I appreciate your suggestions.