Finding Beauty in Weeds with Swallows & Damsons

by Anna Potter

The everyday is beautiful. Steam from a cup of tea, patterns of condensation on cold windows, the gems of wisdom that one of my young sons imparts or the small acts of kindness from strangers. Once you begin to, as Constance Spry put it, “Open your mind to every form of beauty,” admiration flows in unexpected places. Lately, I’ve found myself wholly distracted by roadside weeds, grasses swaying in the breeze and by the copper color of weathered bracken, trodden down by passersby yet still glowing furiously in the late afternoon sun.

The resilience and persistent strength of these unloved flowers is inspirational and the idea that scrappy, weathered, invasive or overgrown foliage, branches and blooms could be brought together out of context to create something of elegance was irresistibly wonderful.

A person can find anything if he takes the time, that is, if he can afford to look. And while he’s looking, he’s free and he finds things he never expected. – Tove Jansson

In this arrangement the soft pink walls act as an unlikely backdrop for all the rough textures and shades of brown, rust, copper and sand. Rather than equally interspersing each variety of flower or grass, I purposefully tried to group them in clumps to think more about how they might grow naturally and replicate patterns of the natural world.

As I created, I noticed that I was looking at individual stems in more depth than usual. The silver Artemisia or rusty Sorrel have a quiet beauty and are perfect for adding height or structure easily contending with the likes of a showy, expensive delphinium or foxglove.

The delicate Bunny Tail Grass that had been cast aside by its owner takes center stage on the chair and unwanted Fuchsia branches climb the walls. As the cold sun poured in through the window the shadows cast an eerie, dangerous and wildly beautiful shadow upon the wall.

The overall effect is peaceful and wild. There is a strength in the arrangement that speaks beyond obvious beauty or the skill of the arranger. After all, however seemingly unappreciated, everything can find a place somewhere no matter how out of our ordinary. —Anna Potter of Swallows and Damsons

Photography by India Hobson

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