Wonderful Weeds: How to Make a Winter Centerpiece From Wild Plants
(This article was originally published on December 7, 2007.)
Many plants that are looked down upon as pests and weeds, are actually quite attractive and unique when closely examined. The Winged Elm is one of those. In this area, it’s a commonplace fencerow ‘trash tree’ that gets no respect. It spreads it’s multitudes of seed by bird and wind, and dozens of new saplings sprout in unwanted places. By looking closer, one can see the lovely cork-like wings that grow along the younger branches. This is a great branch or twig for any arrangement.
Another so-called weed is the Teasel plant. It’s even on the list of invasives for some states. If the intimidating thorns were not reason enough to keep them from your garden, the fact that they multiply like rabbits might help convince most gardeners not to cultivate them. The stunning dried flower heads have potential for a great centerpiece though.
The last plant we will be using is Greek Oregano, which is a popular herb. The dried flower stalks are generally of no use to the gardener, as the tasty herb is derived from the leaves. Most herb gardeners snip the flower buds before the plant blooms to ensure a tastier herb. If allowed to bloom, the flower stalks are usually cut back and discarded after the butterflies have sipped all of the nectar.
Here is a list of things you will need to create this frugal, but creative arrangement. You can substitute any attractive branches or weed stalks that happen to grow in your climate. It will give you the opportunity to look at wild plants with new eyes.
Winged Elm branches
Greek Oregano blossom stalks
Plate or platter from a thrift shop or garage sale
Piece of medium grit sandpaper
Silicone adhesive, pair of wire cutters
Styrofoam florist base
Can of flat white spray paint
Handful of silk flowers and berry picks from the dollar store.
Bit of moss for covering the foam if desired.
First, use the sandpaper to scratch the center of your plate. This will allow the silicone to adhere to it better. Just rough up the finish where you will want to attach the florist’s foam.
Poke several holes in the bottom of the foam and fill them with the silicone. This secures the foam to the plate better. Then put some silicone on the plate and center your foam. Let this dry overnight.
While you are waiting on the silicone to dry, you can spray your weeds with the flat white paint. Do this outside in a ventilated area. Use short bursts rather than a continuous spray. These look best, and the most natural if you lightly spray them and not try and coat the whole thing solid. A few shadows of the natural color give depth, and look more realistic.
The next step is to start arranging your centerpiece. Cover your foam with a bit of moss if you so desire at this point. Where your arrangement will be placed will dictate the finished height. Start with the Winged Elm twigs. Tallest in the center, and a few on the sides. Remember, ‘Less is More” You can always add if you need to, but think with a minimalist approach to this and you will be more pleased with the result.
Teasel is next. The thorny stems might be uncomfortable, so use gardening gloves or a dishtowel to hold them if they bother you. Place several at various heights around the Elm branches. If your centerpiece is to be viewed from all sides, make sure that it is visually pleasing from all points
Place the berry picks and the Greek Oregano next, all the while using as few as possible to achieve the design. These look best as fill near the bottom of your arrangement. Less is more again, and make sure that you stagger the stem lengths to achieve a natural look.
The last items to be placed will be your flowers. I chose deep red silk roses. They look festive, and are not as limiting to the season as poinsettias are. This arrangement can sit on my coffee table through Valentine’s Day if I wish. Use an odd number of these focal point flowers. The look is more natural than if you group them in twos. Place them near the base of the arrangement, as it’s more visually appealing to have your heavier, or more solid items at the base, and your airy pieces higher.
You now have a stunning Wonderful Weed Centerpiece. Most of the items are either found growing in the fencerows and ditches, or cost a minimal amount. Total cost was less than $10.00
Look at natural materials with a creative eye, it’s amazing what you can build with just a little imagination!