- Find a base. This base item, organic or inorganic, is what you will tie, wire, or otherwise attach your plant matter to. These bases fall into two general categories:Fill Up/Vase-like OR Tie On/Wreath-like
Fill up containers are buckets, pails, boxes, wash basins, pitchers, cans, etc that may or may not be water-tight (I prefer mine not to be) and are suitable for living outside. A rummage through a barn, shed, lean-to, or attic may yield fantastic and free containers. One of my favorites was found on our property after we moved here. The old yellow Pennzoil can had been shot (for target practice, surely) dozens of times. The surface is like a giant cheese grater but is so bright, beat up, and fun, it is a perfect receptacle. Be creative and feel free to think outside my suggested list.
Tie on bases are a sturdy item onto which you can attach plants and then can attach to a fence or gate. Think of a wire wreath base and then go from there to the junkyard or the great outdoors. A manzanita branch (or any interesting limb for that matter), a round of old barbed wire, or a weathered piece of lightweight lumber are at the top of my list for tie on bases. Just bear in mind these items have to be propped up or connected someway to your display site so they can’t be too heavy.
2. Select your plants based on these 3 categories
What you find in your backyard or roadside may vary greatly from what I can find in Northern California but I seek out evergreen limbs in various lengths, deciduous limbs growing moss, bushes with interesting leaves, and finally shorter, greener plants that may or may not dry outdoors well.
My go-to plant list includes:
Pine limbs and cones
Branches from various fruit trees like pear and apple
Oregon grape (which looks nothing like a grape vine and more like holly than anything)
Sweet pea vine
Wild rose (which has wicked thorns)
any green weed that looks like it might hold up well in a dried and wind-blown arrangement.
I choose those plants because grow near me for free, can be cut to different heights/lengths, and grow in a variety of colors and textures.
Use those guidelines when foraging. I have made really pretty arrangements with just juniper and oregon grape because they dry well and they have different textures. Because this is going to be sitting outside in the elements, keep it simple.
3. Arrange. Generally, I go for a walk with my gloves, pruning shears, dog, and one or two children. I clip whatever strikes my fancy, trying to collect an armful of plants and then walk to the hanging site. So, if I am wiring weeds to a barbed wire wreath, I assemble the wreath at the gate where it will hang.
I have used a variety of materials to secure plants to wreaths in into buckets and I like wire. Because of my husband’s job, I happen to have a lot of wire scrap around, in handy lengths of about 3 feet. You do not need wire but it is pretty tough to beat for securing weightier branches. I have used baling twine, acrylic scrap yarn, fishing line, and leftover twine from packages all successfully. Be resourceful and you will be even more pleased with the frugality and beauty of your arrangement.
I like to start with the longest or tallest branches first and then arrange shorter in front or on top. I set a branch or two, and connect it to the bucket or wreath (or broomstick or weathered old two-by-four or whatever) with the wire or twine, and repeat. Filling a receptacle can be faster and easier than creating a wreath, but if you have adequate greenery, wreath making can be plenty quick. Most of my projects can be measured in the number of nap times they take for completion and this is a half a nap project.
One method to the madness is to alternate between plants. So for example, I might choose a tall oregon grape, then a tallish juniper branch, then a medium oregon grape, then a medium juniper and then finish with a short sprig of whatever green plant I liked, or just a short branch of oregon grape. It really can be that simple. I like to wire in a fall horn (a deer antler that is shed yearly) or a weird old piece of metal junk. My husband builds power lines, so I have all manner of metal numbers and shapes (like stars!) salvaged from old poles at my disposal. Be creative!
The last step is to hang or place your arrangement. This is actually pretty important because inevitably the wind will blow it about and you want this to last. In my case, I want it to last a month or more. Surely you didn’t think I rearrange weekly, did you Wildflowers? Simulate some wind or jostling and secure your arrangement.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
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