Peter Cole and Leslie Jonath see the art in every blossom, stick, and stone. In their book, Foraged Art, they encourage the reader also to look closely at the environment, find elements that delight, and create something beautiful, however ephemeral it may be. They show how to deconstruct flowers, create leaf and floral mandalas, pebble mosaics, and much more. We fell for their “Petal Puddles” and think they would make a splash on a tabletop as well as in the garden.
These circular splashes of color are made by layering naturally flat petals and leaves inside open frames. Deadheaded flowers, dropped petals, and garden blooms all make perfect ingredients for these whimsical polka-dot patches.
This is a wonderful project to do on a garden path or patio, where the surface is relatively smooth and consistent. But you can build Petal Puddles on any flat area, including on sand and wood.
As you work, focus on the process of layering the materials to make the best use of color and form. Contrast a dark petal color against a light background, or vice versa. Make vibrant Petal Puddles from bright flowers on a natural surface—or, for a more elegant look, try a monochromatic color scheme. The more densely you fill your circle, the better defined your puddle will be, and the greater its visual impact.
Be sure to turn over your flower petals and note the difference in shading and texture between the top and bottom surfaces. In the red Petal Puddle here, we laid rose petals facing upward, creating a velvety sheen across their surface. Nasturtium leaves provided contrast, both in their color and in their flat, dull texture.
How to Make Petal Puddles
Once you’ve finished the layering, remove the hoops.
Use leaves that lay flat, such as nasturtium, maple, gingko, birch, eucalyptus, and jade.
Tools and Techniques
- You’ll need an open, circular object, such as an embroidery hoop or a hula hoop. You’ll also need a container of water to keep flowers and leaves alive while you gather the materials you need.
- Have scissors available to trim stems.
- Flowers with paper-thin petals won’t last long, so choose flowers with big, flat, sturdy petals if you want your puddle to stick around.
- Create Petal Puddles on smooth, rock-free, shady surfaces that are out of the wind.
- You can make Petal Puddles in any season, and in any environment. In winter, make them from pine needles filled with grasses and pine cone scales; in spring, use buds and bright leaves; in the fall, try puddles of colorful berries and leaves.
- Gather: Assemble an assortment of flowers and leaves in contrasting colors. Find flowers with broad, flat petals, such as roses, pansies, dandelions, hydrangeas, sunflowers, and zinnias. Use leaves that lay flat, such as nasturtium, maple, ginkgo, birch, eucalyptus, and jade. When you gather your leaves and flowers, be sure to leave a long stem that can be placed in water; it may take a while for you to gather all your materials. For a small 8-inch circle, we used about three roses and 15 nasturtium leaves, but your numbers may vary.
- Compose: Contrasting colors can make Petal Puddles dynamic, but using the varied hues of a single color—different yellows, for instance, or all reds and pinks—can make a more elegant statement.
- Create: Lay your hoop or hoops down in a pattern on your surface. Begin by placing the petals against the inside edge of the rings until you have the basic outline. Fill in with more petals until you have a full circle in each, layering the petals until the surface is covered. If you’re using any whole flowers, like dandelions, snip off the back of the stem to help them lie flat. Once you’ve finished the layering, remove the hoops.
- Leave No Trace: The petals will naturally blow away in the wind.
“Flowers are nature’s paintbrushes, glitter, and fireworks. They make brilliant, colorful displays that pop and scatter with the seasons. Their hues are as vibrant and varied as a painter’s palette.”—Peter Cole and Leslie Jonath, from Foraged Art
Text and photos reprinted from Foraged Art: Creative Projects Using Blooms, Branches, Leaves, Stones, and Other Elements Discovered in Nature by Peter Cole and Leslie Jonath with permission by Bluestreak Books, 2018. Photography by Rory Earnshaw