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Harvest art from recycled plant scraps.

Gather natural materials from the garden for wreaths, swags, and window box arrangements

Using dry vines, leaves, berries, and greens that most gardeners consign to the compost heap, Nita Jensen concocts extraordinary decorations for display in and outside her house in Yelm, Washington.

The artful recycling started one fall as she was trying to figure out how to get rid of tough old pumpkin vines. She formed the vines into wreaths and dried them, and everybody who saw them wanted one. This initial success led Jensen to experiment with other vines and plant parts, many of which she used in the arrangements shown here. Her simple techniques have as much to do with seeing the beauty in natural things as in arranging them.


Grassy leaves and vines. The best of these include bean vines, Siberian iris leaves, and daylily leaves, all of which are brown and stringy now. They form best when they're wet. Rinse them in warm water, then twist them into a kind of vegetable twine for tying into bows. They dry to the form they were in while wet. These are perfect for tying off bunches of berries, woody stems, and green leaves.

Scotch broom also fits loosely into this category. Collect its soft green stems, then rinse and form them.

Woody vines and twigs. Grapevines wind well into wreaths and swags that go over windows, fireplace mantels, or mirrors. The woody vines are stiff enough to hold a shape by themselves. Red first-year maple twigs and small branches look best bunched, tied off, and put into vases for vertical table-top arrangements.

Fruits and berries. Cranberry-colored barberries and hawthorn (both wild and domestic kinds), orange-red rose hips, and white snowberries all add color to arrangements and hold up well. No work is involved beyond cutting branches that are thick with berries and occasionally watering the containers that hold them.

Greens. The leaves of Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) hold their fresh, glossy, hollylike look well. Gray dusty miller leaves are a good, long-lasting contrast. To keep these fresh, Jensen puts sprigs into miniature vases filled with water.

For a green background, nothing beats moss brought in from the Jensens' riverbank. The moss can be used in arrangements with plants or formed into wreaths. To make moss wreaths hold their shape, Jensen starts with wire wreath blanks from a florist. Baby fern leaves poke out of the moss, which conceals the waterfilled small glass containers that keep the ferns fresh.
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sunset's Garden Guide
Author:McCausland, Jim
Date:Nov 1, 1995
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