Modern Gardens Editor FIONA CUMBERPATCH loves upcycling and making things for her wild garden in a Northamptonshire village.
During October, I’m tidying up my garden ready for the winter months, but what I once regarded as a chore has turned into a treat. Instead of putting the dried flower heads and wrinkled seed pods in my garden waste bin, I’m collecting the prettiest ones to make striking arrangements to fill vases and jugs in my house. I love the sculptural shapes and ghostly colours of plants which are, supposedly, past their best. Many of them have a natural pearly sheen which doesn’t need enhancing but if I think they look too dull and brown, I spray them lightly with a white enamel paint in Primer White from Wilko (£3.95 for 400ml). I’m displaying some seed heads now, but I’ll also be saving my prettiest finds to use for making unique Christmas decorations. When I’m thinking about what to plant in my garden, I always have an eye on the decorative potential of what’s left once it has flowered. That way, I’m getting double the pleasure from my borders and pots.
Alliums I really love these flowers for their upright purple pom-poms on skinny stems during summer, but I think I almost prefer them once the tiny petals have gone, leaving a gorgeous white skeletal starburst. Just three dry stems placed in a simple glass vase look really striking. One of the best varieties to grow is Allium schubertii, whose giant heads can be as big as one foot across. Another good size one for drying is Allium christophii. Now’s the perfect time for planting allium bulbs so I’ll definitely be popping some more of these in my garden for an even bigger harvest next year.
Chinese lanterns These tiny pumpkin-shaped seed heads in burnt orange just say misty autumn mornings to me. You can preserve their fragile beauty by collecting a bunch, hanging them upside down in a cool, dry place then taking off the leaves. I love adding them to home-made wreaths, or stringing them on a fine wire and pinning them to a dresser top to make a seasonal swag. Plant these and they’ll come back every year, so you’ll these and they’ll come back every year, so you’ll always have a ready supply.
Honesty A display of purple flowers on tall stems in late A display of purple flowers on tall stems in late spring and summer gives way to wafer thin, coin-shaped seed heads in autumn. These hav coin-shaped seed heads in autumn. These have a mother-of-pearl shine, which looks amazing when simply displayed in a plain zinc jug. They when simply displayed in a plain zinc jug. They really need no further embellishment.
Teasels In wilder parts of a garden, these biennials (plants which flower every other year) look stunning. I spray them gold or white, and tie in a bunch with raffia, or cut the heads and keep them for Christmas, when you can wire some to your tree. Leave some behind for the birds, though, as they love to eat the seeds!
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