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Flower girls

A perennial search in the city

Katie Allen and Jenny Rausch pick wild flowers in Tulsa

Valerie Grant

“This is a blessing, this peach tree,” Jenny Rausch said, a pair of yellow-handled shears in hand.

On a steamy summer morning, cars roared down Peoria Avenue just south of Cherry Street and past the Prunus persica, boughs heavy with dark green foliage and knots of juicy red-orange peaches.

Katie Allen sized up the tree. She brought her own shears. “We might use a branch in an arrangement,” she said.

Rausch and Allen run the floral design firm Anthousai. Though the dead heat of July isn’t ideal for foraging, somehow they took me on a plentiful wildflower hunt.

So there we were, amid peaches in midtown; they were fuzzy and warm. They smelled like Oklahoma summer.

The young women, each dressed in casual, cotton dresses and Chaco sandals, clipped through the branches and added the heavy boughs to their straw basket. There was an easy rapport between the girls, who found each other three years ago in the Whole Foods floral department, where they both worked.

“[Working there] sparked an interest for us and opened up a whole new world, as far as making a career out of something like this,” Rausch said.

Before, Rausch worked in the service industry and attended OSU-IT for graphic design, while Allen was an ORU grad with experience in event planning and organic gardening. Rausch started Anthousai—a whimsical word for Greek flower nymphs—a year later and asked Allen to join her six months after that.

Together, they’ve honed a lush, romantic aesthetic with a focus on foraging.

Anthousai is busy through wedding season with two to three events per weekend. Some of their recent work included an
outdoor wedding on a 40-acre pecan grove.

“We did all these installations, hanging chandeliers with lights over the tables,” Allen said. “And we foraged for all of that greenery from her land.”

“We pulled the forest into her wedding,” Rausch said. “Everything flowed, nothing was out of place.”

When they’re not crafting custom floral work for brides, Rausch and Allen nourish their creative ambitions with installation pieces and displays. Last year, they did an installation at Tulsa Artery with native Oklahoma grasses.

“We went to Tallgrass Prairie and foraged next to buffalo, and found all these amazing grasses and seed pods,” Allen said.

On July 29, Anthousai will create a tropical backdrop piece for photos, as well as leis, anklets, and hairpieces for Hawaiian Dreams on the Green, a Tiki-themed event at Guthrie Green.

“People don’t really look at flowers as an art form, but it’s 100 percent a medium just like paint is,” Rausch said.

Next, we headed to a meadow near 71st Street and Riverside Drive.

“Our best work is when we find something in nature and we couldn’t have planned this at all,” Allen said, “when we’re in a pinch and we find something incredible.”

Off the river, in this little patch of goodness across from a Planet Fitness and a Burger King, the wind breezed across a field of high grasses, wildflowers, and sunflowers. The sky was crystalline blue; the clouds were scattered and high. A white propeller plane cruised across the sky like a bumblebee.

Foraging from places like a field off Riverside—where it’s unlikely anyone else will step over a patch of prickly weeds to pinch wild yellow flowers—or from a peach tree next to a salon, is a legal gray area.

“We wouldn’t tell someone to go cut from someone’s garden,” Rausch said. “We heavily rely on stuff like plants that are growing out of the sidewalk, out in a field, or a parking lot.”

The prop plane cruised across the sky again, overhead. They added sunflowers to the peaches and wildflowers already in their basket.

We walked through a path of trees and soft dirt, where they found dark green foliage perfect for an arrangement. This was not the chemical green of mass-produced, greenhouse-grown bouquets you can order online—this green was fed by the Arkansas River.

“One of the best things about foraging is that it highlights what’s already there,” Allen said.

Rausch agreed.

“What we want to achieve as artists is to make people see flowers in a way they haven’t really before.”

For more information on arrangements, weddings, and events, visit anthousaiflorals.com.

For more from Jennie, read her article on The Tulsa Zoo’s Lost Kingdom.