I spent most of my childhood outside exploring the woods, pastures and rivers near my house. In fall, it was a natural routine to collect dried grasses, seedpods, leaves, acorns, pinecones, berries and branches. It was sort of like grasping at the end of the growing season and bringing a bit of it home for winter.
I still hang on to summer this way. I just made a huge arrangement of yucca seedpods, milkweed seedpods, and a few tall stems of wild asparagus. They are tucked into a large vase that sits on a living room table against a big expanse of turquoise wall. Every day I marvel at the variety of nature in one simple grouping!
Grow Your Own
You don’t have to go out into the wild to collect dried plant material. You can grow plenty of it in your garden. Many annuals and perennials make beautiful dried flowers and seedpods that offer up visual interest with texture, shape and color. You can preserve any flower, but some just dry beautifully in the garden once fall arrives. Those are the ones I like.
Some easy annuals are statice, strawflowers, celosia, globe amaranth, money plant, nigella, salvia and bachelor buttons. Consider dried corn and gourds, too. Annuals grow for one year then die off with frost. They need to be replanted each spring. You can plan your garden around them and change it up each year!
Good perennials are yarrow, roses, hydrangea, lavender, sage, bells of Ireland, baby’s breath, sea holly, globe thistle, hollyhock, poppies, columbine and German statice.
In the wild, you can collect willow, bittersweet, grapevines, goldenrod, dock, cattails, thistle, sunflowers, Queen Anne’s lace, black eyed Susan, milkweed and pinecones. You’ll also find an unlimited variety of grasses, weeds and leaves. Nothing is off limits! Whatever catches your eye is great plant material. I can’t go for a walk or a hike without bringing something home! It’s a pleasant outing for a fall weekend.
Couple what you can grow at home or collect in the wild with the offerings of a craft store or florist. You will have one-of-a-kind centerpieces, wreaths, wall decorations and gifts to give! Buy eucalyptus, lotus pods, vines, berries, grasses, feathers, and natural and artificially dyed materials to complement what grows locally.
Dried plant material can last for years, so you can arrange and rearrange and arrange again with it. My mother had a few boxes of it in the attic, and we’d bring it down in September to decorate for the fall season up to Christmas.
You can leave a dried wreath on the door for months, then use that same material in a centerpiece or floral arrangement. Fill your outdoor containers with large branches and flowers, such as hydrangeas. What an impact! Make a low centerpiece with pinecones, short dried grasses and small flower heads or seedpods.
My mother had a large metal trough-like container near our fireplace. It was filled with 12” long pinecones she’d collected on trips to North Carolina. At Christmas time, she’d add a large red bow to it. Some years, she’d have pine boughs sprouting out of them. In the spring, the container got fresh greenery. Dried material is durable and versatile!
Dried arrangements can go in any room – bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, hallway, dining room – as wreaths, centerpieces, in vases and as focal points. They can add drama with size, scale and texture. Look around you, and see what you can bring in to tie the indoors to the outdoors. It’s only your imagination that stops you!