Bouquet of the Week: Remembering The Plant Around the Corner
As part of our recurring Bouquet of the Week series, Garden Collage continues to present a weekly inspirational bouquet that incorporates intriguing new elements into the traditional practice of flower arranging. This week, Garden Collage Staff Writer (and Bay Area native) Nora Mueller styles a bouquet in remembrance of plant that grew in the front yard of a house near her childhood home in Oakland.
For the first time in a while, I’ve started to get a little homesick. Usually, I don’t miss the Bay Area (which isn’t to say I don’t miss my parents– hi Mom, when you read this) but this year, something in the weather or the current of the year has made me crave the street I grew up on and the rhythms of my childhood. It’s especially poignant in the chilly autumn sunlight, so like the many cool, school day mornings past as to be a little disconcerting. All that is missing is the fog, resting low between buildings, thick and otherworldly.
One image of my street– out of the many that drift distantly through thought– is especially vivid in my mind, fixed there by the mysterious alchemy of memory: the tangled bush of lantana (Lantana camara) that grew in the yard two doors up. Perhaps that is why it is so marked a remembrance– seeing it always signaled my imminent return home and once passed, I could see the familiar lines of our driveway leading up to our door. It grew in great heaps and had a faintly peppery smell and seemed always to be circled by cheerful bees, its clusters of red, yellow, and orange flowers like tiny bouquets.
Taking the color palette of the red, orange, and yellow lantana I grew up with as inspiration (a choice which seemed appropriate to Fall), I used bright sunset-colored dahlias, the soft pink green of tuberoses, the fuzzy saturated red of celosia, and bits of delicate milkweed (to honor the pollinators lantana seems always to attract). This bouquet has a slightly wild look, appropriate to the plant which gave it form– the lantana I remember has long overtaken its garden wall, growing from its elevated position onto the sidewalk below.
Having a bouquet isn’t the same as going home, of course– even physically going home sometimes doesn’t feel like going home, especially in a place changing as quickly and dramatically as the Bay Area. But seeing the bouquet on my table in the morning– bright and a little rowdy– did offer a comforting reminder: Home can be found and kept in small ways, even 3,000 miles away.