Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pining for Nature: Canadian Artist Adapted for Holiday Vase

THE INSPIRATION: F.H. Varley's 1921 painting
 'Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay'
National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa.  
By Lindsey Taylor, Floral Designer
WSJ, Dec. 19, 2013

When its time for holiday decorating, I manifest a curious split personality. On the one hand, my usual restraint goes out the window and, magpie-like, I gravitate toward anything that sparkles. On the other, I feel the need to incorporate the raw and natural, which probably stems from my Canadian upbringing—all the winter days I spent slogging through deep snow and staring down harsh winds.

Reflecting on my homeland, I think of the Group of Seven painters—household names north of the border—who honored and interpreted the Canadian landscape so beautifully in the '20s and early '30s. I turned to a work by a founding member, Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969), known for his moving, often moody canvases, as inspiration for December's flower arrangement.  

To evoke the clash of the elements in F.H. Varley's 1921 painting
 'Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay' in a tamer, Noel-friendly form,
mix pine branches with white snowberry, moonlight scotch broom
and blue thistle. Astier de Villatte Vase, $306,  John Derian Company,
 212-677-3917. Photo by Stephen Johnson for The Wall Street Journal,
Styling by Lindsey Taylor.
His painting "Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay" (1921)—a lonely, wind-swept pine on rocky shores with icy water kicking up behind—seemed an ideal jumping-off point to express the glitter-free side of my holiday sensibility. I knew I wanted to create an arrangement that could tower over a New Year's brunch buffet table with the majesty of Mr. Varley's tree.
I started with a tall, handmade pedestal vessel from Astier de Villatte, whose glossy white glazes always feel so wintry, like a fresh layer of snow. Then I lined the container with plastic wrap to protect it from scratches, and fit a ball of chicken wire inside. The wire kept cuttings of gestural pine standing tall and supported the wispy, cascading plants I used to fill out the arrangement. To capture the hues of the painting's choppy waters, I chose pale moonlight scotch broom and branches of white snowberry with hits of blue thistle.

This is generally a long-lasting arrangement, but as the broom and snowberries fade, replace them or sub in other white flowers like narcissus or jasmine. Change the water weekly and the pine will stay with you for weeks. 

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