Everyone is decking the halls, by cutting boughs of greens from their property and using them for decorating. Foraging is the trendy way of describing the time honored tradition of using what you already have.
When spruce cones start to form on trees, I venture out with my long reach pruners and snip them off for fabulous accents on containers.
Pointers for plant foraging:
- Identify – Learn to identify what you are collecting as you don’t want to pick anything poisonous or on the endangered/threatened list. Wear long pants and closed toe shoes to protect against ticks and poison ivy.
- Poison Ivy – If you don’t know what poison ivy looks like, just google images of this lethal plant before venturing forth. Also, after the leaves have fallen off poison ivy, I would beware of any vine that you can’t identify. Poison ivy has white berries that birds relish through the winter, so beware of any white or grayish berries.
- Protection – If collecting by roadsides, wear protective gloves. Do not park or stop on the side of a highway. I try to find smaller rural roads to do my collecting. Always put safety first and park only where safely off the road.
- Be Respectful – Follow the principles of “Leave no trace” and leave your collecting area the same or better than when you entered it. Don’t strip it clean! And don’t dig up roots.
- Research – Do your research and don’t collect from the threatened or endangered plant list. Go to the USDA website at https://plants.usda.gov/threat.html for a state by state list. In my home state of Maryland, I don’t collect things like partridge berry, wild orchids, or ground pine, as many of these are on the endangered list. If in the Pacific Northwest, forage for Salal, an excellent broad leaved evergreen.
- Foraging Kit – Armed with bug spray, pruners, scissors and collecting buckets and bags, I troll the sides of the roads for likely prospects and always have a “foraging kit” in the back of my car.
- Hydrate – When you get your treasures home, strip all the lower leaves/needles off and plunge into water filled buckets/trugs in a cool spot for several hours at a minimum. I add some packaged flower sachets to the water. Conditioning your fresh cuts in this way will greatly prolong the life of your foliage. Keep them outside in the cooler weather. I keep them in a covered carport/garage out of the sun.
- Be Creative – Dried seed heads and berries are great for arrangements. Also interesting twigs, lichens, and, pods are excellent.
- Ask! – Always ask permission if on private property.
Putting It All Together
There are huge differences between a florist arrangement and a foraged one. Foraged ones are usually a bit wilder looking and have things you would never encounter at a florist, like dock, seed heads, and pine cones. I much prefer the wild foraged arrangements to the run of the mill florist arrangement and it doesn’t cost you a dime.