Posy practice

You may consider the assemblage of flowers and foliage won from the garden into posies an appropriate activity for a big ’airy gardener. You may not. But if it’s good enough for that Dan Pearson, it’s good enough for me.

Collecting things from my garden, and bunging them in a jar – this is my version of flower arranging, and it might not be pretty, but it’s an activity at once fascinating, inspiring, and cathartic. 

I can’t pretend that it’s a practice I’ve come up with myself. Rather, it’s something in which I’ve received encouragement from two sources – firstly, Dan Pearson, who wrote in Home Ground: Sanctuary in the City  of how he himself picked up the habit from a childhood friend. And secondly, from the ceramic artist Elisabeth Barry, several of whose beautiful porcelain creations brighten small corners of our home, including three exquisite tiny churns which make perfect posy jars.  

The rules are (as the man in Grease says), there ain’t no rules. Or to put it as Dan Pearson does, 

“The construction of the posy is not something you should think about too much, for it is more the act of pulling things together for closer observation that is the objective.”

This is liberating for those of us not particularly gifted, or well-versed, in the art of flower arranging. It’s really all in the collecting, the assembling and, finally, the observing. There’s not an awful lot of point in creating the posy if you’re not going to place it somewhere where you’ll see it several times a day, giving you the opportunity to mull over the properties of each plant, and how the combination of one works with the other, or doesn’t. Do these colours or shapes harmonise, or clash, and if the latter, is it a good, energising clash, or a nullifying cancelling out of respective charcteristics? So, either on your desk by your computer, where you can fix your eyes on it while waiting for an annoying progress bar to wander across the screen, or perhaps on the kitchen window ledge, for gazing at while doing the washing up. We each know best the places where we’re likely to slip into a daydream, and these present the perfect location for a random collection of vegetation culled from the garden. 

“The posy enables you to keep an open mind and to take another look at combining colour, form or texture without having to worry about the practicalities. [It is} also a means of throwing together combinations of plants that are separated for some reason or other in the garden but which can be brought together in the pot.”

And since there really are no rules, I don’t see why it must always be a collection of plants, although by definition, that’s what a posy is. Sometimes, one bloom is all that’s needed to encourage a floral reverie – I can’t imagine how adding anything to the contents of this bud vase would have improved the prospect. 

I described the process as cathartic at the top of this post and, for me at least, there’s a meditative simplicity in the practice of harvesting, preparing, and finally presenting each little collection, however unruly the result may appear. As a daily observance, I could see how a person might wander dangerously close to a state of mindfulness, which would be a wonderful way in which to spend your time, were it not so annoyingly fashionable at the moment (mindfulness, like beards, has been around for ever – those of us who knew about these things before they became de rigueur can’t help finding their sudden popularity a tad irksome, and are presently waiting for the wheels of fashion to revolve so we can once more savour the joys of being refreshingly off trend). 

You don’t need posh flowers or fancy containers. Just an empty jar, a pair of scissors, and a few minutes in the garden, beside a hedgerow, or winning bravely flowering weeds from the cracks and crevices of the urban landscape – once or twice a week, if you can’t manage daily. Go on. Get your posy on.

Are you an inveterate posy maker? Or is it a habit you think you might like to cultivate? Let me know what you think on this burning question, either on twitter or in the comments below. And share your posy images across social media with the hashtag #getyourposyon.

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Hello! I’m Andrew, gardener, writer, photographer, and owner of a too-loud laugh, and I’m so pleased you’ve found your way to Gardens, weeds & words. You can read a more in-depth profile of me on the About page, or by clicking this image.