Ornamental dried grasses and flower arrangements can add a natural touch to your home décor, and they are inexpensive to make, low maintenance and long lasting. Many wild grass and flower species are beautiful and simple to harvest, but make sure the foliage and flowers you’re harvesting aren’t poisonous or on the endangered species list. Consult a field guide to help you identify plants and ask for permission to clip grasses or flowers on private property.
Many interesting and unusual grasses and “everlasting” flowers can be grown from seed, although some grass species will need to be started indoors and transplanted as seedlings in the garden. I’ve started bunny tails, ornamental blue oat grass, ornamental millet, and fountain grass indoors and harvested the stems and flower heads in late summer and fall. Flowers grown from seed include globe amaranth, strawflower, baby’s breath, xeranthemum, sea holly, celosia, nigella and statice. Make sure to cut the flowers before they are fully open.
Plan to go on a wild grass-harvesting expedition early in the summer before many of the grasses are in their full blooming stages. This will ensure the grasses are in their prime and also won’t be shedding flowers or seeds. (Hairspray could be used to prevent shedding.) Take a pair of scissors, pruning shears and a bucket, and choose flowers and foliage that are without holes and blemishes. Make sure to cut the stems long enough to be suitable for tall vases. Fall is a good time to find interesting material such as pods, rushes, berries and branches that will add sculptural accents to your arrangements.
Bring your harvest into a well-ventilated drying location that will be dark and dust free. Hang your bunches of flowers and grasses, tied in small bundles, upside down from hooks or hangers, and more delicate grasses can be dried horizontally in boxes. Grasses with thicker stalks such as ornamental millet will dry better standing up because the leaves will retain the graceful arching. Label all your bundles. It will take from three to five weeks for the grasses to be thoroughly dry.
Once your grasses and flowers are completely dry, you can begin to make your arrangements. Inexpensive vases or baskets can be purchased at second-hand stores, but make sure there are no chips or flaws in them. If you use a container with a small neck, carefully insert the dried grasses and/or flowers directly into it. Vases with a larger neck will require floral foam held in place by two strips of floral tape crisscrossed over the foam. Hide the foam by gluing moss over it.
The basics of a good arrangement include the correct integration of form, space, line, colour and texture. Other important elements are balance, proportion and scale, and the height of the flowers/grasses should be approximately 1-1/2 times the height of the vase. Insert five to seven taller flower or grass stems into the vase first, spacing them evenly, follow with an odd number of medium-size stems, and lastly, add sufficient filler to create a full arrangement. Experiment and have fun with your grasses and flowers. With practice you’ll be able to create an arrangement pleasing to the eye.