Also listed incatalogues are ornamental grasses. Every garden should have some of these for they really are beautifully decorative. Used in fresh flower they will often ‘flower’ in a way you might never see them bloom in a garden. The whole plume or inflorescence of the grass will be delicately hung with shimmering stamens. Those grasses which are used fresh in an arrangement can also be taken out and dried after use. However, the rule with these and also with any wild grasses you might gather is that the younger they are when picked the better colour they will be when dried. The time to pick all grasses, including the great cortaderia or pampas grass which blooms really late in the year, is just after the flowering part has emerged from its protective sheath.
Among the many grasses worth growing both for fresh and for dried arrangements are the quaking grass or briza, bromus or false oats, hare’s tail and squirrel tail grasses and the farm cereals, oats, wheat and barley.
There are many wild grasses well worth gathering. Most of these, enchanting when fresh and still lovely when dried, can be found quite easily once you know what you are looking for. Timothy grass resembles tiny green bulrushes and I find this grass extremely useful for bringing both height and contrast of shape to an arrangement. Incidentally, I always save the ‘straws’ cut from the ends of grasses which have to be shortened during arrangement, for these make splendid false. You can use them for all kinds of lightweight materials, such as individual . Usually all that is needed to fix one to the other is a touch of adhesive.
Rushes of all kinds are useful to those who want to ‘make really large decorations. Dry these and all grasses by hanging them in the way you would for. Bulrushes, however, need special care. It is most important that these are gathered really young. If they are left to mature they will soon burst and spread their seed and be of no decorative value. You can tell a young bulrush because it is lighter in colour and still has part of the inflorescence on its tip like the wick of a candle. Cut the and stand the bulrushes in a heavy, tall vessel to dry. There is no special drying method and you can arrange them right away if you wish. Should you use them in water with fresh flowers, be sure to dry the ends after use.
Autumn is too late
So many people wait until the autumn before they begin to think about their winter dried flower arrangements. But by then it is much too late for so many things. One should begin making plans and harvesting early in the summer. Certainly many grasses should be gathered then, long before the haymaking begins. Those things that mature at the end of the summer should be cut before the frost touches them. All perpetuelles should be gathered on a dry day.
Many seed heads, poppies for example, can be cut when green, even used in fresh arrangements and then dried after use. The seed head should be fully developed and not far off the ripening stage. This is not to say that fully ripe fruits should not be cut. Often such things as empty seed pods of lily,, bluebells, are perfect for arrangement, but there is always the danger that these may become damaged if left on the plant too long.
Many perpetuelles will last for years and can be used time and time again. If they become dusty they can be washed by swishing them around in water and detergent and then laying them out on newspaper in a warm, dry atmosphere to dry perfectly before being stored away again. A good way to store them is to hang them in plastic bags with the contents resting on their stems this time and not their heads.