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Flowers gathered ready for pressing and dryingPastiche Family Portal HomeGathering Natural Materials for Green Crafts

I love to display natural materials in my home, on my porch and in the garden. I gather material from nature everywhere I go. Many times my nature finds are souvenirs such as driftwood or stones, gathered from a vacation trip. I bring them home to add to my nature craft supplies stash.

Other times I happen upon an interesting piece of bark, flowers or leaves for pressing/drying right in my own neighborhood or garden. I grow many decorative plants and ornamental squashes, too, to use as materials for my home grown and thrifty nature crafts.

Here are my favorite ways to find and gather nature crafts supplies.

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Stones and Rocks

I collect stones from all types of places I visit, but my favorites are the stones I've gathered along the Atlantic seashore from Maine to Florida.

I have several rock collections with special themes that I display in grouped arrangements:

  • round, white egg shaped stones arranged in a flat wooden bowl;
  • grey, white and brown larger stones - again, egg-shaped - displayed in stacked piles from large to small;
  • heart shaped rocks - these get displayed along a shelf, or if very large they have a special spot in the garden;
  • stones shaped like my two favorite states, New Hampshire and Vermont.

I display my special New Hampshire and Vermont stones together in pairs, sometimes as paper weights or just leaning against a shelf. The larger stones have special spots in my garden.

The white egg shaped stones often appear in a shallow glass or wooden bowl. Sometimes I display the smaller speckled egg shaped stones in a preserved bird nets.

boot planters on upcycled ladder

Driftwood, Dried Twigs, Gnarled Branches and Seashells

Unusually shaped branches and pieces of oddly shaped natural wood are freaks of nature that I find artistically appealing.

I display my weird wood nature collectibles on their own; they deserve a special display place in a shadow box or hanging on a wall.

A few pieces of driftwood sometimes get added to my seashell collections in bowls or large glass jars.

Dried Gourds and Harvest Corn Cobs with Husks

In my garden ever summer I grow gourds of all sizes. I display the small multi-colored gourds of various shapes in a large fruit bowl during harvest season along with colorful leaves and wheat.

I also grow bottle gourds with those long necks that develop interesting curves; after drying bottle gourds for several months I clean them thoroughly, sand lightly and then spray with a coat of clear acrylic. They're natural scupltures and no two are ever the same. I've made birdhouses from a few of the larger bottle gourds.

Indian corn is a classic fall decoration; I grow two miniature versions - multicolored long cob and a reddish round cherry shape - to dry and use for crafts and food. They're both actually popcorn varieties and after drying can be popped on the cob in a paper bag in the microwave! To prepare fresh minitature ears of corn for decorating I pull back the husks and remove the silks but leave the husks attached.

Then I divide up the ears into groups of 3 or 5 ears depending on their size, pull the husks up above the cobs and fasten them tightly about halfway up the husk leaves with floral wire. I twist the wire around all the husks and then in back twist the wire to make a loop for hanging, then dry them in a cool place indoors away from the sun.

How to make a dried flower wreath

DIY: Make a Dried Flower Wreath

Once dry, my mini Indian corn arrangements make wonderful decorations for twig wreaths, centerpieces, basket arrangements, and tree ornaments outside during the holidays to feed the squirrels.

If you store dried Indian corn in moisture and vermin-proof containers they will last for many years. I've had mine for more than 10 years.

Tall Grasses and Cattails

If you have tall grasses growing in your garden - for example pampas grass or some of the other plumed varieties, cut stalks for drying when the seed heads are newly formed.

You can tie bunches together and hang them upside down to dry or stand them in tall cartons and let the heads droopp a bit. Make sure the spot you choose for drying is an airy place away from wind, sun and rain, like a screened in porch or garage.

Bird Nests and Feathers

We have so many birds living in our yard that we never fail to find at least one nest that's done serving its bird family at the end of the summer. As I walk around the garden I often find feathers, too. I collect these and use them in floral arrangements or display them on a window sill.

Before I use nests or feathers as decorations in my home, I heat treat them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 190 degrees. This will kill any insects or germs that might be living there and make sure your nature materials are completely dried out and safe to use.

Lee Hansen


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