“Flower Foraging” in Maine with Snug Harbor Nursery
Snug Harbor garden boutique in Kennebunk, Maine is a beautiful design workshop and garden hub that has been a GC favorite for years. While the nursery is known far and wide as a “connoisseur” plant shop specializing in gorgeous annuals and perennials, shrubbery, topiary, pottery, and more, this past July the nursery gave locals and distant fans like us another reason to smile: the shop hosted their first ever “Field-to-Table” Floral Design Workshop that focused on teaching customers how to work with flowers harvested from their very own flower field– a process that involved giving guests free reign to pick whatever they wanted directly from Snug Harbor’s carefully-cultivated garden.
The workshop was co-led by the very talented Stephanie Pilk and Snug Harbor owner Tony Elliott, who wasted no time in bringing us out to the garden armed with nothing but clippers and our own imagination.
“Take whatever you want from whatever bed you want,” Elliott insisted as our group of aspiring florists gaped at him in disbelieve. “Even the roses?” quipped one participant. “Yes—whatever you want!” he responded, showing us how to identify wild Witch Hazel and Russian Olive from the woods that abutted his shrubbery section.
Elliott walked us around his nursery through a field of beds littered with chickens, ducks, dogs, and a massive peacock. He introduced us to some lesser-known species of woody plants, which we were encouraged to include as the “base” of our bouquet. “You want the more robust, woody plants to sculpt out the shape of the arrangement,” Pilk had instructed us ahead of time. “So we’ll start with foraging for the greens and then move on to whatever flowers and fruit you like”.
The variety at the nursery was incredible—black-eyed susans, delphiniums, digitalis, sunflowers, lilies, poppy pods, blueberry and blackberry branches (which Stephanie advised us to incorporate to give the bouquet a wild, foraged vibe). Incorporating fruit such as blackberry brambles or current fronds is often the last step in arranging a bouquet, after you’ve crafted your shape and color palette.
I also learned that it’s advisable to split the ends of woody-stemmed plants (like the wild witch hazel I foraged to give my bouquet texture) so that they make a fork like a snake’s tongue. This maximizes the water-absorbing surface of the stem, so it will last longer in a vase. When the flowers die, you can then remove and replace them into the same “base” of green plants.
We were able to select our vases and vassals from Snug Harbor’s own brilliant collection (those who were so inclined could also bring their own vases—and they could also bring as many containers as they wished). I went with a birch bucket to underscore the wild and foraged vibe I was going for, since I was set on incorporating poppy pods, blueberry branches, wild witch hazel, Russian olive, and other “foraged”-looking plants for my bouquet.
Walking into the barn after romping through the nursery with a team of flower experts was a sublime experience. Elliott’s poodles ran around on the rustic wood floor at our feet as we grabbed and snatched at buckets of beautiful flowers in every shape, size, and texture—all of them fresh from the field, having been picked less than 10 minutes before.
After about an hour of arranging, re-arranging, and testing out different shapes based on Stephanie’s recommendations, it was time to shop—I bowled through the store like a kid in a candy shop, enthralled with everything from the lilliputian lavender sachets to the gorgeous pottery, wooden garden tools, and one rustic copper sink that I would’ve taken home with me had it not been attached to the wall.
The best part of the experience was going back into the barn to collect my bouquet and seeing gorgeous petals all over the floor, the remnants of a beautiful afternoon scattered winsomely across the barn.