5 Expert Tips for Flower Foraging in the Wild to Adorn Your Table

Pick and pluck your way to lush tablescapes.





Holiday party season is in full swing, and this year you want to spruce up the humdrum table aesthetic with something a little more thought-out than that bowl of Kit Kat bars. While elaborate arrangements of pine cones, ornaments and silvery branches would be pretty merry, you also have to, ah, do everything else for the party. You’re in need of some gussying guidance.


We propose an arrangement. Go for fresh florals with a unique, local feel by harvesting the plants all around you. We picked Tamara Rigney’s brain for some tips on how to pluck up our foraging skills just in time for peak table décor time. Rigney hails from hip flower-shop-meets-boutique-meets-meeting-place Paiko, and she’s also author of ‘Ohi: How to Gather and Arrange Hawai‘i’s Flora, which came out last month and explores the wildly abundant, accessible and unique gamut of Island plantlife.


May the harvest season begin!


Available at Paiko, $22.



Get out there!

“Keep your clippers handy, look at what’s growing around you for inspiration and collect what’s readily available,” Rigney says. “Look for plants growing on roadsides, wander around your backyard for seasonal flora and don’t forget about the sidewalks themselves! One of our favorite things to use is Manila palm seed bracts, which are commonly discarded by gardeners and left on the ground. We often find laua‘e fern growing in pavement cracks. We once jogged home with a giant branch of seagrape that we spied on the beach during an evening run. If you bring home plants or flowers that need a pairing, try taking them for a walk around the neighborhood to find a friend.”


Share your community’s resources

“If you don’t have outdoor space, make friends with your neighbors who do. (We find that banana bread works especially well for bartering with neighbors for flowers or plant cuttings.) If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space, plant your own: Ginger, gardenia, banana, heliconia and monstera can be propagated very easily with a keiki or a cutting.”


Stay strong

“Flowers last longer if you harvest them in the cool morning hours when plants are most hydrated. If possible, bring a bucket of water with you for your cuttings. This is especially helpful when harvesting delicate plants like ferns and bougainvillea. Certain plants hold up better than others. Plants with thick, shiny leaves, such as monstera, and heavy, waxy flowers, such as heliconia, are signs that a plant will last. Avoid soft juvenile growth—it’s prone to wilting. When snipping, keep the size and shape of your vases or vessels in mind, and cut the plant stems longer than you think you’ll need.”


Keep critters out

“Some flowers, like ginger and heliconia, can be buggy. Remove bugs by submerging the whole flower in warm water and gently shaking. For maximum life span, re-trim the stems under water before arranging; this prevents air bubbles from disrupting the water flow up the stems. It’s better to use a bowl or cup of water to trim the stems in instead of trimming stems under a running faucet. Ginger and orchids benefit quite a bit from this extra step.”


Remember the rules

“When hiking or foraging in the wild, follow all rules and be especially aware of what you harvest. To forage on public lands, you will need to get a permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Be careful not to harvest scarce or native plants, and don’t take the youngest shoots. And whatever you harvest, don’t forget to thank the forest and ask permission to take your cuttings with you.”