Roadside Flower Picking
Whether you’re snipping blossoms for your kitchen table, gathering beauties to surprise your love, or you have dinner guests arriving in five minutes and (as usual) you forgot the flowers, we've got a plan for you. The flower and vine selection on the side of the road is vast and shopping Mother Nature is easy. Her flowers go for the low low price of zero dollars! Just know, that there's an art to finding the good stuff and getting it home.
Before you hop out of the car and start harvesting, read this:
Bonnie Garrison and Chris Condon are foraging experts.
During any month of the year, these two know what's blooming and where it's growing. Order from their Atlanta flower shop, Pollen, and your arrangement might (will probably) include wild green strawberries, leafy stems or blossoms they've foraged from the side of the road. Bonnie is so knowledgeable about the South's flora that I’ve asked her to do a month-by-month guide to "Roadside Flower Foraging in The South," just for me.
For now, for the rest of us, here are roadside flowers to look for when you’re out and about in the South in July and August:
- Queens Anne's lace (Daucus carota)
- Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
- Cosmos (C. bipinnatus)
- Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)
- Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- Mullein, or velvet plant (Verbascum)
And here’s a handy dandy Foraging Kit to keep in your car:
- Snips or scissors
- Rubber bands and jute (for holding loosey goosey things together)
- Water bottle or small bucket (cut the top off the water bottle so more flowers fit)
- Strap (for the big stuff)
- Band-Aids (this foraging thing is not for sissies!)
- Bug spray (good stuff always surrounded by mosquitoes and chiggers)
- Baby wipes (for wiping away gooey plant juice & poison ivy oils)
Bonnie says, “Ticks are usually pretty abundant on the Queen Anne’s lace, which is really gross. Anything that grows in thick wet areas, like pokeweed, can be a serious mosquito situation. Use extra spray for sure! The side of the highway has its own obvious risks but can be worth it for trumpet vine and virginia creeper. Culverts and ditches have good stuff, usually but bugs, snakes and critters like it there too.”
So that’s that. You’ve got a list of what to look for, what you need, and what to avoid. Get out there and go for it, y’all. Use what’s growing near you to create flower arrangements that make you happy. Just remember the bug spray, avoid foraging in your neighbor’s gardens, watch out for chiggers and snakes and please drive safely. We want you to have pretty flowers, but we also want you to live to enjoy them.
Forage on, Bitter Southerners.
— Kyle Tibbs Jones