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Originally published January 28, 2012 at 7:03 PM | Page modified January 30, 2012 at 4:43 PM

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Valerie Easton's 'petal & twig' brings garden beauty inside

All you need do is go outdoors with an open mind, a pair of sharp clippers and the willingness to look closely.

Help launch 'petal & twig'

You're invited to the the Northwest Horticultural Society's Feb. 1 launch party for Valerie Easton's new book. It'll be the first chance to pick up a copy. The party starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 N.E. 41st St., Seattle. Cost, $18; includes a talk and book signing by Easton, a dessert buffet and drawings for fabulous plant collections. Proceeds benefit the Elisabeth C. Miller Library.

For more information: www.northwesthort.org.

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Today's feature is excerpted from the Introduction of Valerie Easton's new book, "petal & twig: Seasonal Bouquets with Blossoms, Branches and Grasses from Your Garden" (Sasquatch Books, $16.95).

If we could see the miracle of a single flower, our whole life would change.

— The Buddha

Simple bouquets are all about the joy of cutting flowers and foliage from our gardens and bringing them inside, not about decorating or accessorizing the house.

This book is all about how easy, fun and creatively satisfying flower arranging can be. I'd even suggest that the simpler and more spontaneous you keep the process of cutting and arranging, the more happiness you'll find in it. All you need do is go outdoors with an open mind, a pair of sharp clippers and the willingness to look closely.

Organic gardeners have peace of mind setting a bouquet of sweet peas freshly cut from the backyard on the counter where their children eat breakfast. Nothing is more local and seasonal than flowers and foliage grown right outside your own back door.

Consider this crazy number: 80 percent of the cut flowers sold in the United States are imported. It's time we extend our thinking about safety, organic practices and localism to the flowers we bring into our homes, put on our tables and set by our bedsides.

Although hothouse flowers can certainly be showier, there's great gratification in growing each bloom yourself. You live the history of bouquets from your own garden, which makes arranging them a focused act of intimacy.

The silkiness of their petals, the exuberance of leaves and stamen, all tell the story of tending the soil, of what the weather has been like over the past weeks, of dewy mornings, chilly evenings, warm afternoons.

If flowers are distilled emotion, then gathering and combining them into a single arrangement is surely the most expressive of arts. Choosing which ones to bring indoors and cutting and combining them in various patterns and colors is one more expression of our love for our gardens. Cut early in the morning and arranged gently, flowers will usually last a week in the house.

Then there's the Zen of flower arranging, which can be a sweet little oasis of beauty and calm in the midst of a hectic day. A little music and a cup of tea help slow you down to closely consider the possibilities. Whether you're gathering a simple nosegay of pansies and plunking it into a tin or working with a larger mixed bunch, take your time. After all, you're crafting performance art that changes hour by hour, day by day, as buds open, petals drop and flowers droop. Imperfection engages us in the creative process. The ephemeral nature of bouquets makes them even more precious. Soon enough, they'll be wilted flowers in stinky water, ready to be tossed into the compost.

Which brings us back to the garden, where it all starts. A big part of a garden's enduring fascination is how it expresses the seasons. I look forward all year to certain plants leafing out and others blooming. A white jug filled with deep-purple lilacs, forsythia forced into bright flower in darkest winter, or a basket overflowing with moss and French pink pussy willows are events that mark the seasons in a more heartfelt, sensory way than the calendar can.

Arranging flowers through the seasons offers concentrated lessons in design that can shape you into becoming a more thoughtful and acute gardener. I can't tell you how many times I've moved plants around in the garden based on some pleasing combination I've discovered in the vase but never noticed out there in the dirt. Soon enough, you'll be happily picturing possible bouquets when you plant seeds, bulbs, starts and plants.

Cutting and bringing the garden indoors in all seasons distills its essence so we can better appreciate and play around with all the possibilities, indoors and out.

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