Arranging a locally sourced bouquet of wildflowers. (Photo by Alex McCarthy/Juneau Empire)

Arranging a locally sourced bouquet of wildflowers. (Photo by Alex McCarthy/Juneau Empire)

Foraging a homemade bouquet

Homemade gifts hold a certain charm.

Homemade gifts hold a certain charm. For me, that appeal doubles when the gift comes from the outdoors. I’ll take jarred pickled or smoked salmon, preserved berries, devil’s club salves, a pie made with rhubarb from the garden — you really can’t go wrong with that personal touch and bit of extra effort that come with a homemade, grown or foraged memento.

But king salmon have been hard to come by across the state, and the silvers aren’t quite in yet. Besides, my skiff is broke down. I’m not much of a baker, and I don’t sew. My crafting skill set is sadly limited.

Thankfully, Alaska is full of beautiful wildflowers this time of year, and if you know where to look and how to put an arrangement together, it can be easy and rewarding (and cheap) to skip the florist entirely and put together your own bouquet with locally sourced wildflowers.

In the interest of upping my craft set, I tagged along with Juneau florist Melissa Garcia Johnson on Wednesday to learn the ins and outs of putting together something beautiful with what’s right around you. With time, care, a little practice and an eye for color and symmetry, it’s easy to add local flower-picking to your Alaska romantic skill set.

I met Garcia Johnson after work at the Frenchie’s Florals in Juneau, where she’s a manager. Our destination — a patch of roadside filled with wildflowers past a boat launch on North Douglas Highway.

We pulled over by the side of the road near a small field of fireweed and buttercup, mountains on one side, the waters of Gastineau Channel and Auke Bay on the other. Garcia Johnson waded into a boggy ditch on the uphill side of the road.

The first lesson I learn is not to take too much from one area. It ensures there’s enough to grow back next year and that others can enjoy the flowers as well as you. Cut only what you need and at the base, Garcia Johnson tells me. You can always trim a piece up later, but you can’t add more stem after shortening a flower.

There are a few main components to a good bouquet. It’s easiest to start by finding a few structural pieces — something green and big that can frame the thin-stemmed flowers. Greenery can serve as a backdrop that gives the blooms something to lean on that makes them pop. The glossy green foliage on a small, sturdy alder branch and the matte-green of a switch from a false azalea should do the trick.

Garcia Johnson brought a few “focal blooms” with her from the shop — some pink and purple peonies, primrose and pale pink roses. These will draw the eye as the center of the bouquet. Some of these aren’t native species, but everything has been grown locally except the roses. You can of course go the all-wild route, but it’s nice to add these larger blooms to draw the eye to a focal point of the bouquet, she tells me. Fireweed works great as a focal point if you want to stick to wildflowers.

Following Garcia Johnson around, it’s apparent she’s developed a keen eye for what she likes. After establishing her focal points, she seeks out some smaller, secondary flowers to fill the bouquet out and add color balance. White bog orchids add some fragrance and movement. Tiny blue, purple and white forget-me-knots almost disappear in the arrangement. She picks yellow buttercups, yarrow and round, pink clover blooms.

When she’s got a good haul going, she heads to the beach and separates everything out by species. At the shop, she likes to arrange in front of a mirror to ensure she’s seeing every side of the bouquet. But at the beach, she does it in her hand. Starting with the alder and false azalea, she tapes flowers on in layers, trying to build a canopy and a balanced arrangement of color, stopping after every few additions to tape the bouquet up in a central point right above the water line.

It’s really all about personal preference, she said, in putting together the arrangement. Instagram and YouTube videos can help for those who want some extra pointers on arrangement. The final product is strikingly beautiful. She made it look easy. I wonder how lucky I’d be?

The morning after my lesson with Garcia Johnson, the color around my neighborhood inspired me to take my own stab at creating an Alaska bouquet. Walking to my car Thursday morning, I tried to hunt down what looked like a few incidental blooms in vacant lots and between properties. But I quickly realized that responsible flower foragers have to take care in picking their spots. In an urban area, it can be hard to know what’s fair game and what’s private property. So I headed out to the beach to pick my own bouquet, opting for an all-local arrangement.

I kept it simple. Fireweed would be my focal point, and an alder branch and a few ferns worked as structure. Purple foxglove, some white and purple sweet racket were in bloom next to the road, so I added those in.

I’m happy with my work, but it’s a little shaggy and less full than my teacher’s. Like all things truly Alaskan, this romantic gesture takes perseverance. I guess that adds to the charm.


Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at kgullufsen@juneauempire.com or 523-2228. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.


Arranging a locally foraged bouquet of wildflowers. (Photo by Alex McCarthy/Juneau Empire)

Arranging a locally foraged bouquet of wildflowers. (Photo by Alex McCarthy/Juneau Empire)

Melissa Garcia Johnson finds a pink clover flower while foraging at the beach near North Douglas Highway. (Photo by Kevin Gullufsen/Juneau Empire)

Melissa Garcia Johnson finds a pink clover flower while foraging at the beach near North Douglas Highway. (Photo by Kevin Gullufsen/Juneau Empire)

Florist Melissa Garcia Johnson arranges wildflowers at a beach near North Douglas Highway on Wednesday. (Photo by Kevin Gullufsen/Juneau Empire)

Florist Melissa Garcia Johnson arranges wildflowers at a beach near North Douglas Highway on Wednesday. (Photo by Kevin Gullufsen/Juneau Empire)

Juneau Empire reporter Kevin Gullufsen. (Photo by Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)

Juneau Empire reporter Kevin Gullufsen. (Photo by Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)

More in Home

Thunder Mountain High School senior Kasen Ludeman delivers against a Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé batter during the Falcons 4-0 win over the Crimson Bears on Friday at Adair-Kennedy Field. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)
Falcons’ Ludeman shuts out Crimson Bears

TMHS senior honors classmates in school’s baseball home finale by 3-hitting JDHS.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé junior Kai Ciambor puts a shot past Ketchikan’s Kingston Dell (11), Alex Gilley (1) and Eunchong Lee during the Crimson Bears 4-2 win over the Kings at Adair-Kennedy Field on Friday. (Klas Stolpe / For the Juneau Empire)
Crimson Bears eat Kings for pre-senior night pitch feast

JDHS boys soccer team one step closer to taking region title from Ketchikan.

Members of the Thunder Mountain High School culinary arts team prepare their three-course meal during the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore on April 26-28. (Photo by Rebecca Giedosh-Ruge)
TMHS culinary arts team serves a meal of kings at national competition

Five students who won state competition bring Alaskan crab and salmon to “Top Chef”-style event.

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, listens to discussion on the Senate floor on Wednesday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
A look at some of the bills that failed to pass the Alaska Legislature this year

Parts of a long-term plan to bring state revenue and expenses into line again failed to advance.

Rep. Genevieve Mina, D-Anchorage, stares at a pile stack of budget amendments on Tuesday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska lawmakers expand food stamp program with goal of preventing hunger, application backlogs

More Alaskans will be able to access food stamps following lawmakers’ vote… Continue reading

Nathan Jackson (left) and John Hagen accept awards at the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President’s Awards banquet. (Courtesy photo)
Haines artists get belated recognition for iconic Tlingit and Haida logo

Nathan Jackson and John Hagen created the design that has been on tribal materials since the ‘70s.

House Minority Leader Calvin Schrage (center), an Anchorage independent, talks with Reps. CJ McCormick, a Bethel Democrat, Neal Foster, a Nome Democrat, and Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham independent, as a clock shows the midnight Thursday deadline for the 33rd Alaska Legislature to adjourn passed more than an hour earlier. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
33rd Alaska Legislature adjourns well past deadline, due to last-minute rush and disputes by House

Bills on correspondence schools, energy, crime pass on final day; election, other bills cause holdup

Dori Thompson pours hooligan into a heating tank on May 2. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)
Hooligan oil cooked at culture camp ‘it’s pure magic’

Two-day process of extracting oil from fish remains the same as thousands of years ago.

Most Read