Friday, August 6, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer

Mary Kennerly writes in the Smallstuff digest:
I found some years-old dried material in the garage and took a picture, though it doesn't include all the species used for the flowers. I bought some of this stuff (most notably a thrift-store hearth-broom - it bleaches nicely and has lovely twisty stems), but generally I found raw materials from this time of year on into fall while dogwalking in vacant lots, along roadsides, and in neglected residential alleyways. The blossom shapes are mostly the calyxes that cupped the original flowers. The most delicate material was the awns of some cereal-type plant, plus some superthin stems of quaking-grass (the "flowers" are pale pink and stuck into one of those awns.

Those red tulips (for a change I tried to make tulipish leaves) came from a hairy, sticky, quite unlovable-looking weed. A more delicate species-tulip starts from another weed, nipplewort. And a head of garlic, or its ornamental garden allium cousins, is yet another source for deeply cupped shapes.

(Teazels are the armature for a couple of the standard plants, providing both the trunk and the head into which greenery is glued, instead of using a plastic ball. Globular seed-pods from the sweet-gum tree also have holes that can be used the same way.)

Once you have the dried stuff, making blossoms is pretty quick. Add stems; paint; and there you are. So very easy. I hope somebody is inspired to do a bit of neighborhood foraging.

In the snapshot of made-up flowers, on the left there's a bunch of orange-petaled flowers with dark-rimmed yellow centers. They're made from feverfew. But feverfew calyxes are even more realistic-looking with the stem clipped short and turned upside down. I seem not to have any on hand to photograph. Worth mentioning, I think, because feverfew, with its bright green foliage and its miniature daisy flowers, is nice to have in the real-life garden. One stem is like a whole bunch of flowers to tuck in a little pitcher.

Mary's album with more information:

Ed. Note - Look for Queen Anne's lace, put a bouquet in a jar with water and food colouring of your choice, and the blossom will pick up the colour.