How to forage for flowers in Baton Rouge

Meredith Cooper is the kind of person you instantly want to be friends with after meeting. Just like the floral bouquets she makes, she’s colorful and refreshing.

Cooper’s house is in the equally colorful Poet’s Corner neighborhood near the Perkins Road overpass, and finding plants here is easy. Fences are covered in vining plants, and flower beds are overflowing.

It’s partly why the florist sometimes forages for flower arrangements—and what inspired her to start her foraging class series on Instagram.

It’s a hot July afternoon when I meet up with Cooper to try my hand at foraging.  To start our journey, all we need is a pair of gardening clippers. We make our way in a large circle, from Cooper’s house on Ovid Street to Pliny Street, Pericles Street and back.

As we walk, Cooper tells me that she first got into making floral arrangements while growing up. Her mother had a garden, and some of her earliest memories are making small arrangements of her mother’s flowers and wrapping the stems in tin foil.

Cooper ended up going to nursing school, but later realized that she could still fulfill her dreams of being a florist while also working as a nurse.

Our first stop this afternoon is a boat covered in what seemed like weeds. But when I look closer, I see small red flowers. Cooper explains it’s small red morning glory, and it adds a great detail to bouquets. We clip off about three pieces, a foot long each, and keep walking.

Cooper tells me she got into arrangement-making when she started making bouquets for friends’ weddings, and her passion grew from there. She then started foraging when she realized the amount of plants and weeds growing in her neighborhood that could add interesting texture and dimension to her arrangements.

Our next stop is an open grass lot next to a parking lot off Perkins Road. We clip foxtails, which are tall and have a sort of bottle-brush tip, and then head down the next street where there are overgrown elderberries waiting for us on top of a neighbor’s fence. The berries are purple and veiny-looking, and are great to add some depth to our arrangement.

We move on to a neighbor’s yard that is covered in floral growth. The neighbor previously told Cooper she could clip some of her zinnias, and we pick the bright-colored orange and pink flowers to be the main focal point of color in our arrangement.

Finally, Cooper shows me one of her favorite weeds: Japanese climbing fern. Mostly found on top and inside of bushes, it is bright green and full, with spraying leaves that remind me of Christmas decor.

We head back to her house, where she clips the flowers and gives me tips on how to get the most out of foraging. Together, we make a very impressive arrangement using our materials, along with some extra florals she had lying around.

Learning how to forage taught me more than how to make a bouquet with plants found nearby. I noticed more simple beauty and details, and gained more admiration for the local fauna—even if it does grow in a ditch. Find Cooper’s foraging series on her Instagram page, @forage_br.

This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.