Bring nature to the table this Thanksgiving by creating decorations from collected natural materials. Fall is a great time to explore outdoors and use what you find almost directly in arrangements after gathering.
Dry not Damp
Make sure to collect when material is dry. Damp material breaks down more quickly. Collect more than needed because dried material is fragile. Choose only material that is free of insect and disease damage.
What to Use
There are many seedpods, cones, grain, grasses, and berries found in the garden, as well as in fields and along roadsides. Here are some specific examples.
Berries add great color and texture to an arrangement. Rosehips are a great example. This somewhat spherical fruit of the rose, usually red in color, is seldom allowed to develop on our modern roses. However, the old-fashioned shrub types, such as the rugosas, bear them abundantly. The rugosa rosehips are large (1/4 inch) and bright red.
Other berries to try include cotoneaster, crabapple, bittersweet, hawthorn, euonymus, firethorn, viburnums, red twig dogwood, and more. Other fall fruits such as small gourds, pumpkins and apples can add color and interest to your arrangement.
Stems and Twigs
Interesting stems and twigs add texture and height to an arrangement. Curly stemmed plants work well for this. Examples include contorted hazelnut and corkscrew willow. Uniquely shaped stems of any kind will work. You can create interesting curves and lines in twigs and branches by shaping them as they dry.
Grass flower heads add softness. If you have ornamental grasses, these work great. You can also use the "weedy" grass flower heads that is abundant in our landscape.
Examples you might look for include Bristly foxtail, Fountain grass, Northern sea oats, Pampas grass, Plume grass, Quaking grass, Spike grass, and Squirrel-tail grass.
Grains such as wheat, oats, rye, colorful decorative corn, or even sorghum work well too. Other seedpods to try include poppy, lotus, cattail, dock, honesty (money plant), iris, lily, milkweed, mullein, and Queen Anne's lace.
You might still find some old flower heads in some gardens that are useable. These might include Baby's breath, Bachelor's button, Bells of Ireland, Cockscomb, Globe amaranth, Hydrangea, Joe-Pye weed, Larkspur, Scarlet sage and blue sage, Sea lavender, Statice, Strawflower, and Yarrow (yellow varieties best).
Gather natural items such as interesting rocks, acorns, other nuts, pine cones, colorful leaves, and other natural elements. Then make a dried arrangement or purchase some fresh flowers to go with it.
For a more traditional look, put the plant materials in a cornucopia or flat basket.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle is a Agriculture and Natural Resources (Horticulture) Educator for Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell counties. She completed a bachelors of science degree in crop science at the University of Illinois, and a master’s of science degree in agronomy with an emphasis in weed science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has also worked at Montana State University as a research associate where she worked on weed control in sugar beets and barley. She taught high school chemistry and other science classes where she was able to teach students in both the school garden and greenhouse. She works with both the Extension Master Gardeners and Extension Master Naturalists.
ABOUT THE BLOG
ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.