Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Dried Things, You Make My Heart Sing

There’s probably a fine line between what is a bouquet, an altar, and a pile of stuff you just like to look at it. Whatever makes your own heart sing. Bouquets might come from the backyard, the park, or a beach. Sometimes an actual flower is involved, sometimes a bunch of twigs. Winter leaves for example. The hardiest ones have come through the seasons gnarly and gorgeously blemished, each an abstract painting. Arrange them on a flat surface or standing up in a container. Seed pods, pine needles, rose hips, vines, stones, a single leaf . . . foraged material for inventing non-traditional bouquets.

I know where this all started. My grandmother again. We’d be driving along in the middle of nowhere, she’d see some flax along side of the road, stop and cut an armful. A tumbleweed or a stone, a handful of wheat, any of it raw material for nature’s praise. I know this sounds like the makings of a mess that might have ended up in her house or garden, but no. An organized person in general, they ended up in just the right spot, sometimes in a creative arrangement for one of her garden club events. They were often stunning. She collected bags of dried pine needles and made baskets with them. And she knew when to throw a thing away. Full of heart about nature’s bounty and beauty, but realistic about when it had to go. So, I have this genetic predisposition for foraging/gathering and not quite enough for the throwing away part.

Hydrangeas from the previous season . . . old news, but a respite all winter long.

I’ll admit that I have a wild thing for stones. A pile of them are like a bouquet.  To me anyway.

Pomegranate, rose hips, poppy seed pods, pine needles. Yes pine needles. Their fragrance lasts for years.

And finally, my favorite dried thing. Sundried sungold tomatoes from the garden, not for anybody’s bouquet, but for my own belly. These are exquisite morsels of sweet sunshine. Especially mid-winter. In a bowl with a piece of garlic, bay leaf and plenty of olive oil these are an orange eyeful. An edible bouquet.

And then the forageables that aren’t dried.

A single new vine  from the grape.

Mint. Gardeners have a love/hate relationship with it. It knows no boundaries and can make itself a nuisance so pruning or pulling out a bunch is necessary. Toss a handful in a pitcher for lightly flavored water or into a green salad, another fistful into a glass of its own water for a bouquet. Aromatic and bright green, a fine addition to the kitchen scene.

A large leaf from an artichoke or hosta, by itself or with one bold flower.

Foraging for Backyard Bouquets

It’s Father’s Day. His kids gave my dad an excuse to indulge in his second or third favorite thing, playing. Especially outdoors. Horseback rides, rodeoing in the back pasture, ice skating on remote ponds, fly fishing, not fly fishing while he untangled our line, camping with pack horses and cast iron pans for steak and potato breakfasts. We crept hand over hand up steep river canyons, and slept, literally, on beds of pine needles. He was a dare devil, but ever patient and loving.

Hail Dads and surrogate Dads. Your attention and love are incredibly important in our complicated lives.

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4 Responses »

  1. Hello

    your posting about dried things just happened to catch my eye. I enjoyed your words and your photographs – felt llike I’d read a a kindred spirit. I recently moved to West Seattle. I’m an artist working in mixed media. I garden as well. I love to work with natural materials. I work with found objects and I would like to get into foraging and learning more about the natural things that now surround me. Would love to hear from you again.


  2. Hi Sally…loved this post, knowing this is another thing we have in common. Great photos and was touched by the references to your grandmother’s love of wild things…can this be genetic? I’m not sure who I would have gotten my rock addiction from, but I indulge myself as often as possible. It has made for some bulging parka pockets and heavier backpacks over the years! Those burnished leaves reminded me of my childhood years in MI, where the Autumn colors are so vibrant and gorgeous. Ahh yes…riches found in the simple things…
    Miss you

  3. My fellow foragers, Wren and Elaine, I think it’s in our blood, the urge to notice and gather. Survival instinct from a million years ago maybe! Wren, welcome to Seattle. Elaine, yes, some time soon.

  4. Good for us in so many ways, flax. Thanks for visiting, Amy.