Plant Craft: How to Use the Plants in Your Garden

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Plant Craft: How to Use the Plants in Your Garden

13 Creative Craft Ideas: Transform Your Garden Plants into Unique Gifts

There’s so much you can do with plants. Infuse your crafting projects with a touch of nature. Create beautiful handmade gifts that showcase both your creativity and the beauty of nature using plants from your garden. Find craft ideas that incorporate various garden plants, along with recommendations for the best plants to use. Let your imagination blossom as you consider these unique gift-giving ideas.

Consider these ideas:

Cut Flowers

The first idea is obvious: bring them in as cut flowers. Daffodils, roses, and coneflowers all make great cut flowers. But don’t overlook the tiny flowers of forget-me-nots or sweet alyssum; these too could make a bright spot, say on a bathroom counter. Vegetables have pretty flowers too; when my radishes and lettuce bolt, they give me flowers to cut and bring in. Squash flowers are just gorgeous, but if you cut very many you won’t have fruits. Look carefully at what’s in your yard. 


Dried Flowers & Potpourri

Not all flower arrangements use fresh flowers, longer lasting arrangements use dried flowers. You can dry yours. Plants can be dried by hanging, with slowly circulating air, by being allowed to dry out standing in water, in the oven, or with sand, borax, or a silica gel. There are lots of how-to videos online. Once dried, make handsome flower arrangements, or wreaths. And don’t overlook the fascinating seed pods naturally produced in your garden, such as the old heads of echinacea and graceful ornamental grasses, or artfully twisted twigs and small branches from your trees and shrubs.

Dried flowers and leaves also lend themselves to potpourri, colorful dried herbal mixtures that add floral scents to a room. Rose petals, bee balm leaves, scented geranium leaves, lavender, lemon balm, rosemary, and thyme are common garden plants frequently used for potpourri scents. For color, potpourris often use bachelor buttons (blue), calendulas and marigolds (yellow), and roses (reds), but tulips, chamomile, nasturtiums, statice, yarrow and pansies are also good. Additives like orris root (ground iris root), available from craft stores, herb stores and online, extend the life of the potpourri mix. Check out recipes online.


Pressed Flower Art 

Preserve the fleeting beauty of your garden flowers by creating stunning pressed flower artwork. Select flowers with flat petals, such as pansies, daisies, or marigolds, and carefully press them between the pages of a heavy book. Once dry, arrange the pressed flowers on cardstock or canvas, and frame the artwork for a delightful botanical masterpiece.


Scents for the Bath

Another place to use the scents from your yard is in the bath. Scatter rosebuds or pine needles, fresh or dried, into your bathwater. If you don’t like the mess, put them loosely in a mesh bag. Other plants to try are mint, monarda, agastache, sage, lavender, chamomile, and lemon balm. (Don’t use anything to which you are allergic!).


Herb-Infused and Dried Flower Candles 

Transform ordinary candles into aromatic delights by adding dried herbs from your garden. Start by harvesting herbs like lavender, rosemary, or chamomile, then dry them thoroughly. Once dried, simply place the herbs inside a glass jar, pour melted soy or beeswax over them, and insert a candlewick. The result is a fragrant, visually appealing candle that brings the scents of your garden indoors.


Herb or Succulent Wreaths 

Craft a charming wreath using fresh or dried herbs, or opt for the trendy succulents. For herb wreaths, harvest aromatic herbs like thyme, sage, or oregano, and tie them together in small bundles. Attach the herb bundles to a wreath frame using floral wire or twine. Alternatively, create a succulent wreath by attaching cuttings of colorful succulents to a moss-filled wreath form. These living wreaths add a touch of greenery to any space and make for delightful gifts.


Garnishes, Greens, and Little Fruits

Some common flowers are edible (if they have not been sprayed with herbicides or fungicides). Rose, apple and lilac flowers, violets and pansies, marigolds, and calendulas, are all edible and make great garnishes. Add them to a salad or the top of the cake. (Omit the green and brown parts which don’t taste as good.) 

Leaves of borage and nasturtiums are tasty. Borage tastes almost as good as it smells. Nasturtiums are a grand kind of spicy. Find an “edible plant” or foraging reference before nibbling widely from your yard; lots of our plants survive in gardens because toxins in their leaves repel caterpillars, rabbits, and deer. 

Rose hips and crabapples, haws from your hawthorn, and the blue fruits of Oregon grape are overlooked fruits. They aren’t especially sweet, so you’ll probably want to add sugar if you make a jam or chutney. They are also small with not much fruit around the seeds--we’ve bred common fruits to be bigger--but you might find that you really like one of them. Again, be cautious and read about a new fruit before trying it.

Never eat flowers from florists; the preservatives they commonly use are not safe to consume.


Dye Plants

Many plants contain natural dyes. 

The husk on walnuts has a strong brown dye, which you will remember if you have ever gathered walnuts. Turn that into a dye that will color cloth, leather, and wood, by heating the husks in water. Walnuts are full of tannin and do not need a mordant.

To dye with flowers and leaves from your yard, you will need to add a mordant. Mordants are metal ions that bind the color to the fiber so it doesn’t rinse out. Alum, any aluminum salt, is an excellent non-toxic mordant. You can get it from pharmacies or where canning goods are sold. Iron, like the rust off old nails, works, but darkens (the technical term is saddens) the dye; alum-mordanted colors are brighter. Add a small amount of alum to water with leaves or flowers in it and heat. Strain the plant parts out and use the liquid as a dye bath. Apple and spinach leaves give nice yellows with alum and olive greens with iron; red hibiscus flowers make a reddish brown, and you can get coral and orange from coreopsis. Other plants to try include marigolds and calendulas, yarrow, and black hollyhocks. 

There is lots of both science and art to natural dyeing: this is barely an introduction. But oh! Watching color change on the cloth is marvelous!

One final thing: the fiber you are dyeing makes a huge difference. Wool and silk dye easily (if the fibers are untreated), cotton and linen are more difficult, and synthetics take up very little color. 

You can also dye Easter eggs with common plants. Dyes for eggs should be food safe but they don’t need to resist washing out. Common suggestions are found in the kitchen, for example turmeric and tea, but also red and yellow onion skins, red beets and spinach leaves. Just chop, heat in water and carefully dip hard-boiled eggs into the colored water. You might try rose petals, hibiscus and marigold flowers as well. 

 


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Make Basketry

We grow a number of plants that are traditional basket material, in particular willow and red twig dogwood. But all sorts of vines can be used for weaving, from honeysuckle and wild grape to Virginia creeper and passion vine. We mainly see tough basketry for sale, but you can make more fragile pieces as decorations. For example, you can weave iris leaves or whole plants of herbs like mint and sage. Work with fresh, pliable material and press close together to reduce gaps when it dries. Working around a frame will make the process much easier. Weaving is a skill, start small, use supporting frames while you are learning, but don’t underestimate your yard as a source of interesting weaving materials.


Carve the Wood You Grow

Many yard trees have desirable wood. Don’t throw away that apple or cherry branch, carve it into a spoon or a garden gnome. Lilac stems are hollow, they are easily worked into simple flutes. Use shapely branches inside for decoration, look, for example, at redbud branches and twisty grapevines. 


Make Ink

Oak galls concentrate tannins and were the starting material for ink until quite recently. However, having worked with a dip pen, I would leave the oak galls be, not because of the ink but because the pen is so finicky. But if you are interested, you combine crushed oak galls, water, ferrous sulphate and gum Arabic. There are many recipes online.


Terrariums

Build a miniature garden inside a glass container to create whimsical terrariums. Select small plants like mosses, ferns, or air plants (Tillandsia), and arrange them within a clear glass vessel along with decorative elements like small pebbles, driftwood, or mini figurines. Terrariums are low-maintenance gifts that bring a touch of nature indoors.


Have Fun

The above gives you a glimpse of the resources you have in your yard. I admit that over a period of years I tried making a dye out of pretty much every plant in my yard. Writing this has inspired me to get back to experimenting with potpourri. Your yard holds many useful things: enjoy your possibilities!

Share the joy of handmade crafts by giving gifts that celebrate the wonders of nature. Visit our store to find an extensive selection of garden seeds and plants to kick-start your crafting. 

 

By Kathy Keeler, A Wandering Botanist

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