This season, we’ve been exploring the skeletal beauty of the winter garden. But honestly, until now we never thought to apply this same principle to cut flowers. Sure, we might indulge in a wabi-sabi fallen petal or yellowed leaf or two. But fully dead? According to NY designer John Derian, the answer is, yes! Leave it to the king of patina to teach us a thing or two about the expressive beauty of the faded flowers.
Photography by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
Above: “I’ve always liked cut flowers, beginning to end,” says John. “They become sculptural and magical and frozen in time.” Here, the addition of a single ripe counterpoint, in the form of an acid-green watermelon, lends a lively dynamism to this vignette with faded sunflower.
Above: After years living in New York City, John revels in the creative opportunity that his Cape Cod garden affords. “Picking and foraging whatever I can…” John experiments with color, light, proportion, composition, and form.
Above: Dried sunflowers complement an aquatic menagerie in the bath in his Provincetown, Massachusetts house.
Above: In a whimsical composition, a scruffy tumbleweed rests in a hearth. Above sits an expressive yet simple arrangement with honeysuckle and single coneflower.
Above: More an exploration of form than color, John’s garden cuttings often favor the expressive over the pretty. To wit, this arrangement features the arching arms and sculptural seed pods of Baptisia australis, still beautiful even after its purple blooms have gone by.
Above: Dried Hosta leaves on a dresser take on a graceful papery texture. John enjoys how they become translucent with age, but “still have depth.”
Above: In addition, John cultivates the untamed in his potted plants, such as this Ikebana-esque pelargonium.
Above: John also makes unexpected choices when it comes to vases. One might think this giant carafe would overwhelm a single rose, but the exaggerated height literally and figuratively elevates the humble bloom.
Above: Mrs. Havisham chic—still wild and beautiful, but definitely fading, branches of Rosa glauca possess a Dickensian charm.
N.B. There must be something in the water, because Cape Cod gardeners do seem to have a flair for the wild and unorthodox. See for yourself: