Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reaping a Decorative Harvest

As we head further into fall, it's becoming time to gather a different kind of harvest.  I collect a number of different plants for dried arrangements, but I like to see how Mother Nature dries and preserves them.  I don't really have enough room in the basement to hang and dry everything, and sometimes weathering produces much more intriguing results.

If you are planning on collecting plants that are not on your own property, MAKE SURE TO GET PERMISSION.  Oftentimes forest preserves, gardens, and arboreta have strict rules about what you may and may not collect.  If a researcher has a project using seed pods, seeds, or other fruit materials, you might be taking their precious thesis material.  Sometimes ambitious collecting severly disrupts the plant community and ecosystem. Any institution or gardener appreciates being asked and may make special accommodations for your project.

I haven't found a good solution to what to do with thousands of honeylocust pods (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis) besides to photograph the interesting ones.  I'm thinking once they are truly dry, they would be an interesting garland.

One of my favorite unusual seed pods is magnolia, specifically umbrella magnolia (Magnolia tripetala).  They are huge and get richer in texture in color the longer they are left in the open.

Something you might run across if you live in an older community, especially if it's former farmland is Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) fruit.  These are softball sized and have a pleasant citrusy scent.  They make wonderful arrangements, but keep in mind that they are not dried material and will break down over time.  I've seen them spiked with cloves much like a regular orange. Some folks swear that kept in the basement, they keep away spiders.  I haven't tried it yet.


  1. I always wondered about the Osage Orange....I have indeed only seen them on former farmlands. I assume the farmers planted them? For what reason?

  2. Osage orange has thorns was used as a cattle fence, hedge, or windbreak. It's very dense and twiggy with heavy ridged bark. It's wood has been used for dye and is prized for hand tools, fence posts, and more as it is close grained and rot resistant. I just think they're cool.