Capitol Corridor
Capitol Corridor
Capitol Corridor
University of California
Capitol Corridor

Using Plant Materials for Decorating

I love crafting and decorating.  I also love nature and being around plants. So, when I can combine my two loves, life is even better.  I am not a florist, but I have picked up some tips over the years.  Some of the best, have been from other Master Gardeners. 

Helping to gather and enhance plant-based materials for the decorations table at our annual Master Gardener Wreath Workshop has been educational.  I now look at plants in a totally different way.  I've also been responsible for decorating tables and displays for several organizations that all had one thing in common: little to no decorating budget.

One of the most versatile ideas for floral bouquets was to get two clear vases, one narrow and one much wider. Next place the narrow vase in the center of the larger vase.  Fill the space in between the vases with materials to match your season or theme of your event.  It could be candy corn for Halloween, acorns or fall leaves for Autumn, peppermints or pine cones for Christmas, whatever you can think of.  If the space between your vases is large enough, you could even place small whole fruit like kumquats, crab apples, or key limes. Once this space is filled, fill the center vase with water and place simple greenery and flowers to enhance your filler material.

Vase Set up for floral arrangement.

Have you ever encountered problems arranging flowers on weak or drooping stems?  I've come across two possible solutions. One is to slide the weak stem into a wide clear or green straw that will be better able to support a heavy blossom head.  The other helper is to anchor a floral wire in the bottom of the blossom and then gently wrap the stem with the wire, reinforcing the stem and giving you the ability to curve the stem to your liking.

One of the favorite things I have learned to use is Agapanthus spp, or Lily of the Nile.  They have striking blue or white blossoms that remind me of fireworks and are beautiful in vases.  But did you know you can continue to use them after they are bloomed out?  Cut green flower stalks and pull the faded petals off, then add these to a vase to make a strong architectural presence in an arrangement. I've had so many people ask me what they were.

Agapanthus dried flower stalk.

Another way to use Lily of the Nile is to dry the flower stalk upside down in a protected area.  Once dry, remove any remaining petals or seed capsules, then you can use as is or spray paint them.  Red, gold and silver are always favorites at out wreath workshop, but gold and silver for New Years, pink and red for Valentines, and red, white and blue for Fourth of July are great too. They can be left long to put in arrangements or bouquets, or cut shorter to insert in wreaths or even shorter for a package topper or to place in a bowl.

Agapanthus spray painted flower stalk.

Liquidambar styraciflua or Sweetgum is a tree that has spiny fruiting capsules called “gumballs”.  These can be dried and used as is or spray painted or glittered.  These can be used in wreaths, as vase fillers or scattered as part of a tablescape.  If you don't have a Liquidambar of your own, they are plentiful in our area.  If you ask a neighbor, most of them are very grateful to have the “gumballs” picked up off their lawns.

Other small cones, dried seed pods, or small pieces of rolled bark can be used in similar ways as the “gumballs”.  You can create a charming tablescape by grouping a collection of these materials scattered down the center of a table.  Then you can nestle in votive candles in glass holders and add fresh or dried fruit, like pomegranates, small oranges, or artichokes.  We've barely scratched the surface of this topic, but hopefully some of these ideas will be stepping stones on your path to creating with the natural materials you have on hand.

Dried decorating materials.
Dried decorating materials.

Posted on Saturday, February 10, 2024 at 12:00 AM


Thank you for the creative floral arrangement tips, like using candy corn for Halloween bouquets. The advice on strengthening weak stems with straws or wire is invaluable. I'm inspired by your ideas for repurposing Agapanthus and using natural materials like Liquidambar gumballs in decorations.

Posted by franklinlutwyche on June 21, 2024 at 12:11 AM

Thank you, Franklin

Posted by Karen Metz on June 21, 2024 at 3:31 PM

Leave a Reply

You are currently not signed in. If you have an account, then sign in now! Anonymously contributed messages may be delayed.

Security Code:

Read more

Webmaster Email: