For the Atlanta floral designer Shean Strong, the ultimate compliment is when someone asks the question, “What is that?” and points to a certain plant or flower in his work. And quite often, the “that” is a bit of foliage or a flower or even some fruit he’s discovered growing wild somewhere far, far away from the refrigerated confines of a wholesale florist.
He links this knack for finding inspiration in all things foraged to his Southern grandparents. “They taught me to look outside my front door for beauty,” he says. “Waste not, want not is an old adage that epitomizes that mentality.”
Last week Strong put his resourcefulness to work after he stumbled on a bramble of blackberries while walking his dog by dreaming up the below composition. “Behind my studio I’m blessed with a beautiful array of overgrown wildflowers, and I recently noticed a giant blackberry bush heavy with fruit. It’s an adventure every time I’m back there.”
The deep color of the blackberries informed the other elements Strong chose. “I wanted to incorporate flowers I have in my garden that pair well with the blackberry color story: coneflower with the petals removed, smoke bush, Carolina jessamine for a bit of whimsy, some of the blackberries as my main attraction, and coral bells to complement the reddish-purple berries.” When he finished clipping and cutting and placing pieces, Strong saw the formal display fitting perfectly in the entry of a Greek Revival house or even in an austere modern environment to play up the contrast.
For a more dressed down arrangement, say, for a casual dinner party at home, “Choose a few bud vases and fill them with the same elements and stagger them down a table with tea lights,” he suggests, “and you’ll have the beginnings of a summer soiree.”