When fall blows in, most of us close up the house and shut nature out. But some South Sounders welcome it inside, blurring the line between indoor and outdoor worlds.
Two local business owners, though they’ve never met, both believe staying in touch with the outdoors nurtures a sense of wellness.
Liz Mohrbacher, owner of Tacoma’s Home Inspirations Staging and Design, distinguishes her style with a love of the natural world, and Cynthia Salazar of Capitol Florist in Olympia says, “It’s important to bring natural elements inside during the autumn and winter months, because so much of our time is spent indoors or in cars.”
Mohrbacher gathers branches, leaves, herbs and seed pods, to combine in creative ways. She even uses stones. “When I’m doing container gardening and I want that Zen feeling,” she says, “I layer different sized rocks against the outside of the pot, starting with the larger ones next to it and extending outward, extending the presence of the pot, making it fit in with the surrounding area. I want it to feel composed but natural at the same time.”
She makes wreaths from materials people don’t expect, such as golden hops. “I can take those, along with a few evergreen boughs, and attach them to a wire frame. You can add autumn leaves, pine cones, even mini-pumpkins,” she says.
Like Mohrbacher, Salazar sees possibilities everywhere. “When flowers are hard to come by, folks can use mixed foliages to create a beautiful arrangement, and of course evergreens can be wonderfully aromatic. Gather materials during a walk through the park, after a windstorm.”
WELCOMING MOTHER NATURE
Mohrbacher begins on the front porch. “I’ve taken leafy branches and stuck them in a pot of soil,” she says. “I use pieces of bamboo garden stakes to pierce small pumpkins and gourds and stick those in too. Cabbages and kales are great. They last a long time and love the cold.”
Moving indoors, she places a plant near the entry as a transition from outside to inside. “I pair that with a painting of flowers or a landscape, to extend the theme. You can gather up autumn leaves and put a big basket of them in the entryway, for color and texture.”
Salazar draws nature into her florist shop through the old building’s front display window, where colorful pressed leaves dangle from suspended branches of curly willow. Inside, she continues the theme with birds’ nests and eggs, both of which she collects.
This year though, Salazar got carried away.
“My landlord has grapevines and offers them to me,” she says. “I was tired of making wreaths so I decided to make some huge birds’ nests. I have one on top of my cooler that’s about 4 feet across.” The “egg” within is a huge “gazing ball” meant for a garden. For daintier nests she buys fresh quail eggs at Asian markets and dries them in silica crystals, available in craft stores.
LIFELONG BONDS TO THE EARTH
“My mother was an incredible gardener who loved being out in nature,” Mohrbacher recalls. “I remember waking up and hearing her singing as she worked outside, so gardening always brings up lots of good memories for me. We are much better people when we garden. And when we bring nature inside and live with it, it takes us back outside again.”
Throughout the seasons these two celebrate nature as part of their lives. Salazar expresses how they both feel: “It’s healthy to balance our man-made environments with things that are beyond human creation.”
Tips for fall Decor
• Make the whole house smell wonderful by steeping some lavender. “Or clip rosemary branches and put them in a vase.”
• Take a photo of autumn leaves and blow it up. “Then cut it apart into several smaller photos, frame them, and arrange in a grouping. You can even photocopy actual leaves.”
• Pot up some cabbage and kale. “Bury roots and stock all the way up to the head. Keep these plants on a porch, out of rain.”
• Play around and be creative. “If most of the materials are things you can gather from outside, you can just experiment with them until you come up with the right look.”
• Explore the garden for interesting items. “I like to use the dried seed heads from my Rudbeckia, or Black-eyed Susan.”
• Dry quail eggs. Place eggs on a 1-inch deep layer of silica crystals in the bottom of an airtight container and cover with more crystals, for a few weeks. “All the moisture will dry out of them and they won’t spoil.”
• Magnolia leaves can be beautiful. “In the fall they have that tan side and look nice in wreaths.”
• Press leaves between the pages of a heavy book for a few days. “Tie on pieces of fine monofilament. Hang them in a window or from a skylight.”
• Make birds’ nests. “Get grapevines still fresh enough to be pliable. Use a basket-weaving method, starting with a cross, then weave in and out of that framework.”
• Preserve leaves with one part glycerin to two parts water. Submerge individual leaves, or arrange small leafy branches in a vase filled with the solution. Remove when beads of glycerin appear on the surface and wipe them off. Leaves stay pliable for years.
• Harvest hydrangea blooms. Simply cut and arrange in a vase, without water, to air dry for a long-lasting bouquet in dusky plum, mauve, tan, and green.
• Dry flowers in silica crystals. Follow directions on the package.