Bartlett on Gardening: Calling All Crafters

​During these short, cold winter days, you may be wishing that you could while away the hours creating botanical wreaths, making pictures from pressed flowers or creating dried arrangements. But it takes quite a bit of plant material to craft with flowers and greenery. If you don’t have it, this is the perfect time to ensure materials for next winter by planning your crafter’s garden.

Many flowers can be successfully dried. Wreaths and arrangements are more interesting if the maker has a theme in mind. One might use a variety of herbs and accent the shades of green with a few flowers, or go for an earthy look with cattails and dried grasses. (The cattails need to be coated to prevent them from shooting seeds all over the room!) Fragrant foliage and flowers add another dimension.

Statice, gomphrena, strawflowers and paper daisies are easily grown from seed. One can find packets of mixed colors. A “formula” mix ensures a balance among the colors so that one does not end up with an abundance of one or two colors and very little of the others. Seedpods of the money plant are staples of dried arrangements. Be aware that this is a biennial, meaning it will not flower until the second season. This year, I have even seen seed for eucalyptus. I really have no idea how well that would do here.

For potpourri, fragrance is the key. It is important to have a pleasing mix of elements. Certainly herbs fit the bill here. Lavender foliage and flowers as well as rosemary, tansy and thyme retain their fragrance when dried. I like the foliage of scented geraniums as well. These are becoming more common in our garden centers. Because they are “tender” perennials, consider growing them in containers that can overwinter indoors.

(Image: Strawberry fields is a cultivar of gomphrena, AKA globe amaranth. This and the other two flower drawings shown here are by Ann Bartlett's artist daughter, Roxanne.)

Rose petals are a classic ingredient. The damask roses grown for use in the perfume industry only bloom once in spring, and using these would require a few years for the shrub to mature. There are many very fragrant roses available. The American Rose Society has compiled a list of the most fragrant ones.

Thinking of fragrance, nosegays were very popular in medieval cities. Folks held small bouquets of scented herbs and flowers to their noses as they walked around in order to mask the foul odors of cramped living conditions. In Victorian times, these became a popular fashion accessory called tussie mussies. Another Victorian custom was for gift givers to use “the language of the flowers” to impart special messages in the little bouquets.

One year my herb group decided to make a tussie mussie tree for the holidays. Many of us stayed busy growing and drying flowers all summer. When we gathered to make the posies, it was wonderful to see what 12 different people can do with one table of material. The resulting variety of little bouquets made for a much more charmingly decorated tree than what any one or two could have created.

Botanical crafts are never out of favor. Think about one that you might enjoy and plan to plant enough flowers and foliage to pursue this creative outlet. I assure you that the growing season will be beautiful as well as bountiful.

Master gardener Ann Bartlett never lets lack of familiarity with a plant stop her from trying it in the ornamental beds surrounding her home.

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