October is a great month for collecting the last of the season’s bounty. Pinecones, acorns, seed pods and rose hips seem to be everywhere you look. The ornamental grasses are flowering and the last of the season’s flowers are blooming. There are delightfully fragrant herbs to gather and overgrown vines such as grape or hops to cut back. All of this natural material is there just waiting for you to gather it to use in a slew of easy nature crafts throughout the winter months.
Pinecones, seed pods and rose hips are ideal additives to natural potpourri, as are dried flower heads and herbs. Grasses are good for using in dried floral arrangements or for making wreaths or baskets. Use vines to make wreaths or baskets. If you are making wreaths, you can shape the wreath before the plant material dries. Then simply hang the wreath form up where air can easily circulate around it and allow it to dry before decorating it.
Throughly dry any natural plant material you gather in a dehydrator or by lay the plant material in a single layer on a drying screen so it does mold. Once they are dry, freeze these items overnight. Place them inside a plastic bag or other freezer container before putting them in the freezer so they do not draw moisture. This should kill off any insects or insect eggs that might be hiding on the plant material.
A very easy nature craft to make with herbs is potpourri. Collect the herbs early in the morning right after the dew dries. This is when the plants are most fragrant because the heat of the day has not evaporated any of the essential oils the plant leaves produce. There are both moist and dry potpourris that you can make. I think making the dried potpourri is easier – and a lot prettier. Moist potpourri has a tendency to mold and is best kept in a sealed jar because it does not look pretty – although the fragrance is a lot more intense than dried potpourri.
Once your potpourri are dry, select the ones you are going to use and combine them in a large glass container with a lid. Once all of the ingredients are added, mix them up taking care not to break the plant material. Set the container in a cool, dark place and allow the potpourri scents to mix. Shake the container from time to time. When you are happy with the smell of the contents, go ahead and put some out in pretty jars.
Here are a few recipes to get you started from my book 101 Secret Gardening Tips. Feel free to add or subtract botanical materials until you have a potpourri you are happy with.
Victorian Lavender Potpourri
1 ounce orris root
1 ounce lavender
1 drop vanilla essential oil
1 drop bergamont essential oil
¼ cup camellia blossoms
1/8 cup rose petals
1 vanilla bean, cut up
1 tablespoon pine needles
If the idea of making wreaths from material grown in your own garden sounds like a lot of fun, here is how you do it:
Make a wreath base out of plant material such as grape vines or Artemisia by wrapping the plant material around itself in a circular shape. Take care not to wrap it too tightly. There should be space left between the plant material so air can circulate, otherwise the material could mold instead of dry.
Once you have your wreath base you will need to find materials to embellish your wreath. Flowers, herbs, twigs, leaves, acorns, rose hips and a slew of other natural materials can be used.
Here is an example of how to make an herb wreath. Remember this is only an example. You are limited only by your imagination!
Choose a wreath base. Select the plant material you wish to use and lay it out. As you gain experience making wreathes, you may find working with fresh plant material is easier, but beware of mold!
The first plant material to add to the wreath is the greenery or background material. This material is usually herbs, grasses, leaves or other types of filler material. Use florist pins or a hot glue gun to secure the plant material to the wreath base. Do not worry about covering the back of the base since it will face the wall when you are done, but do cover the front and sides of the wreath base.
When are satisfied with the amount of greenery or background material on the wreath, begin to attach flowers such as statice, strawflower or lavender wands. Rose hips, dried peppers, garlic swags or other natural material are also ideal additives. What you choose depends on the intended use of the wreath and your personal preferences. Play around and have fun.
Once you know what you are putting on the wreath and where it will go, attach the plant material. Don’t forget non-plant material such as bows or other decorations. These should be added last.
There are sprays you can buy to help preserve your wreath if you wish. If you do not preserve it, the wreath will still last quite a while. When it begins to look dusty, simply remove the bows and decorations, then toss it in the compost pile, if you have not added any preservatives to it.
Making easy nature crafts from your garden is possible with a bit of imagination. Easy nature crafts are a great way to get kids involved in learning about nature and crafting. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and collect some cool natural materials and start making your own awesome nature crafts today!