Gathering and Preserving Dried Plants for Flower Arangements

An year round activity is the gathering of dried plants and seeds for indoor decorations and flower arrangements. This is an interesting, inexpensive decorating technique that blends well with all decors, but is particularly well suited to country, primitive and traditional home décor.

Types of plants and flowers to gather

At the end of their growing season many wild and garden plants can be gathered and used in dried arrangements, wreaths and displays. The type of plants and flowers normally gathered have pithy stems, flowers that dry with attractive stable pedals, grasses, seed pods and pine cones. Don't forget seasonal leaves of oaks, maple trees and sweet gums as well as other colorful foliage.

Some examples (not exhausted list by any means) include: cone flowers (Echinacea), willow branches, cat tails (before they bloom), thistles, daisies, black eyed Susan's, baby's breath, Chinese lanterns and milk weed. Native and domestic grasses like buffalo grass, wheat, barley, oats and other grains. Seed pods from okra, maple and mimosa trees, acorns from oaks, dried crab apples, pine cones, etc.

Gathering your Plants

This can be a great family and friends tradition. Gathering dried plants in the garden, fields and woods can be a lot of fun.

Gather like items in separate bags or boxes. This helps in saving your having to separate them after gathering. Bundle sticks, like pussy willows, with twine.

Look for plants and flowers that are naturally dry and have good color, and are in good condition. Cut instead of break off stems to prevent damaging your plants. Pick a cool dry day for gathering.

Also collect empty birds' nests and wasp nests for decorations (make sure wasp nests are empty!) Place in a large plastic coffee can with some mothe balls or cotton balls soaked in nail polish remover to kill insects and leave sealed overnight.

Care of your dry plants

For plants that are gathered dry, inspect them for insects. These can be used almost immediately. Store in paper bags, cardboard boxes or in open baskets.

If not sure or if the plants are not fully dry, bundle them with twine or string and hang them by their stems upsides down, in a dark dry place. Garages and storage buildings work great. Do not bundle too tightly you want air circulation to prevent molding.

Pine cones, seeds and pods can be dried spread out on an old window screen, mesh bag or in an open woven basket. Check for mold and mix occasionally until dried. (note: pine cones will open and drop their seeds while drying).

Tree leaves should be placed between two pieces of plywood and weighed down to flatten your leaves. Let sit overnight.

Bird and insect nests, as well as any tree branches, should be fumigated. Do this by placing moth balls, or cotton balls soaked in nail polish in a sealed plastic bag or coffee can. Let them set for at least a week.

Once Prepared

Once dried, your plants and flowers will last for a long time, many years in fact. Store them in paper sacks and cardboard boxes.

Dried native plants and garden plants and flowers can make great flower arrangements, mantle pieces and seasonal wreaths. Trim lover leaves off of stems for vase displays. Use hot glue, florist wire and florist blocks (clay or foam).

Some Tips

  • Store plants in paper bags or cardboard boxes.

  • Save unused dried plants for future use, can last for years and years

  • Gather and create with friends and family for fun and bonding, make it an annual tradition

  • Consider making seasonal wreathes, mantle displays and center pieces

  • Dried pine cones make great fire starters

  • Get permission to gather plants on private property, parks and preserves.

  • Supervise children around cutting tools

Tools and Materials

· cardboard boxes for plant samples

· string for tying like type plants together.

· sharp plant knife

· garden shears

· small wood saw

· collection bags

· plastic coffee "can" with lid

· cotton balls

· nail polish remover