spaces entertain into the woods
Image: Kurt Hettle

Imagine a crisp winter day spent preparing for a holiday party, locavore-style: fetching warm baguettes from an artisan bakery; selecting the perfect Oregon-made, ash-covered chèvre from the cheesemonger; and gathering woodsy materials from the neighborhood for an all-natural centerpiece. Sound idyllic?

While the movement is still a burgeoning trend stateside, buying local goods never went out of vogue in other parts of the world. Belgian-born floral designer Françoise Weeks recalls her mother’s thrice-weekly outings to the farmers market in Antwerp, where she procured the family’s food—and flowers—from regional farmers. Now living in Portland, a city that proudly wears its buy-local and DIY values on its sleeve, Weeks creates distinctive centerpieces using the region’s native bounty, letting the materials she finds set the tone.

Ninety percent of the roses sold in the United States are imported, and each round-trip flight from Quito, Ecuador, to Portland (Ecuador is a common source of flowers shipped to the States) pollutes the atmosphere with nearly five metric tons of carbon dioxide. Adding to the floral industry’s environmental impact are the constant refrigeration flowers require from the moment they’re cut on a South American farm to the day they’re sold here, and the massive amounts of pesticides used when growing the flowers, which harm farm laborers and pollute the water supply. These complicated issues make going DIY even more appealing.

To create your own inspired arrangement when the flowers aren’t blooming in Portland, Weeks recommends using natural elements culled from your surroundings. Take advantage of the Northwest’s bounty by focusing on a woodland theme when sourcing your materials. Once you have a good variety of moss, twigs, and berries in hand, you’ll be ready to build a scene-stealing centerpiece that more closely resembles sculpture.