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A sustainable autumn arrangement

‘Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower…’   Albert Camus.

Karen Ingall of Belton Blooms talks us through the making of a tall foliage inspired arrangement supported by a tangle of flexible stems – a totally compostable design.
A vibrant autumn arrangement with orange physalis, pink spindle berries and rich coloured foliages makes a stunning autumnal arrangement. Belton Blooms.

Autumnal foliage is simply stunning.

September saw the passing of the autumn equinox which means the days are now shorter than the nights. For many this can be a rather gloomy prospect, but for me it’s my favourite time of the year. Autumn walks in the countryside may be bracing or comforting, but there is always natural beauty to find and treasure. Inspired by Camus’ quotation above I set myself the task of making an autumnal arrangement with virtually no florals – a big ask for me as I still have gorgeous dahlias in bloom!  The result is a subtle arrangement which emphasises the beautiful variety of textures and gentle colour palette of this time of year.

The chosen container is a charity shop find – a ceramic urn in a soft green colour. I really like using this as it helps to raise the height of the arrangement above a table, leaving space for tableware, tea lights & other autumn delights such as conkers & mini pumpkins.

a tangle of stems in a ceramic urn supports a large scale arrangement.

Support your flowers with sustainable mechanics instead of using foam.

It’s a totally sustainable design using a simple tangle of stems for the mechanics. You may be able to reuse the stems more than once, but when they begin to degrade you can simply put the tangle on the compost heap. To make a supporting framework for the arrangement, I took a couple of stems of trailing ivy from which I stripped the leaves and then tangled them together and pushed into the container.  Once you have a few stems held in place by this tangle, they in turn will naturally support the rest of your material.

bright pink spindle berries stand out against the coppery tones of bracken in this detail from Belton Bloom's autumnal arrangement.

Spindle berries bring pops of vibrant colour.

I began with the more robust stems – in my case hawthorn & spindle tree – then gradually added the rest of the materials. As you can see my design ended up as a jumble of shapes, colours & textures with no particular focal point. I didn’t work to any plan, but simply let each stem dictate where they were happiest. For me the result sums up the abundance of the season. There are no rules – as long as the end result is something that brings you joy then that’s what matters most. And you don’t have to have an urn or fancy container to make a beautiful & sustainable autumnal arrangement – just a few foraged stems in a jam jar will give you that snapshot of autumn beauty.

Ensure all your material has any leaves removed which will sit below the water line in you container, and cut the stems with a diagonal slant.

An array of autumnal foliage and berries sits on a wooden table.

All ready for arranging.


The materials I used included:

  • Crataegus persimilis – plum leaved hawthorn
  • Eunoymous Europaeus – spindle tree
  • Hydrangea paniculata
  • Nandina domestica – heavenly bamboo
  • Physalis alkekengi  – Chinese lantern plant
  • Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’ – black ornamental plum
  • Viburnum opulus – Guelder rose
  • Also various foraged foliage, berries & grasses.

A note on foraging:  If you are foraging on owned land you legally need the landowners permission before you forage. Only ever take what you need, and what you can sustainably remove without damaging the plant. Remember to leave blooms behind for the bees to enjoy, and never take from a plant with a single bloom. If in doubt, always ask for permission.

A note on safety:  Many plants are poisonous, especially those with berries. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling and ensure arrangements are kept away from children & pets.