Friday, July 29, 2016

How to Make a Dried Flower Wreath

Now is the time to think about preserving some of summer's bounty and carrying it into the fall with a dried flower arrangement or wreath. 

Things you'll need:

• Dried flowers and a large bunch of dried Sea Lavender or Limonium latifolia

• Wire wreath frame (I got mine and Michael's. I was afraid that the dark green of the wire frame might show through, so I quickly spray painted it white.)

• Raffia, Spanish moss or some other material of your choice to fill the wire frame.

• Light gage florist's wire

• Scissors

Find simple techniques for drying flowers in this blog post.

Begin by stuffing the inside of your wire wreath form. The goal here is to fill the wire frame with some sort of material that will catch and trap the dried flower stems that you will insert into it. 

You can use an array of materials including Spanish Moss (grey in color) or fine wood shavings (often used to line Easter baskets). I used Raffia for my wreath. Unlike the Spanish Moss, there are no issues with allergies, and it comes in a convenient coil that I simply unwound and placed into the reverse side of my wreath form.

Twist florist's wire into a knot on the outside edge of your wire frame. Wrap it around and around the frame to hold the raffia in place. Once you have gone the whole way around the circular form, twist the end of your florist's wire onto the inside of the frame to secure it.

Next you need to create a pretty backdrop for your dried flowers. 

I would have preferred to use German Statice, which is very sturdy and easy to work with. In this instance, I was only able to find Sea Lavender or Limonium latifolia, which is much finer and more delicate. Its feathery branches can snap unexpectedly, if you are not careful. 

(A note about availability: Statice of varying kinds is commonly available most places you buy cut flowers. I have even seen it at my local grocery store in the floral department at this time of year. A local farmer's market is also a good place to look for it.)

You may find your dried Sea Lavender branches will shed some of the tiny blue flowers, so choose a smooth surface on which to work that will make sweeping up any flowers that drop fast and easy. 

Break off short stems from your bundle of dried Sea Lavender that are approximately five or six inches in length. 

Gather a few of the short lengths into a bunch and insert the them into the wreath allowing them to catch in the tangle of raffia.

Continue inserting small bunches of Sea Lavender, working your way around the wreath. 

(Tip: I found that it was best to work in a single direction, placing one bunch in the centre, then one on the inside edge and finally one of the outside edge of the wreath.)

Here is the completed backdrop of Sea Lavender.

Next, gather together your dried flowers. Shorten the stem length to about a five or six inches by snapping the flowers off.

Work with the largest type of dried flower first. In my case it was the Statice, Limonium Sinuatum

Insert the flowers into the wreath, again moving in a single direction around the circular wreath. Like the Sea Lavender, the flowers should catch in the raffia.

I placed all the white colored Statice (Limonium Sinuatum) first 
and then moved on to purple flowers. 

Next, I added in this pretty magenta Gomphrena.

The wreath with Statice, Limonium Sinuatum and the Gomphrena in place.

Now for the final touch, I added in the Strawflowers.

Here is the finished project.

When I was finished, I still had a small bunch of dried Gomphrena flowers left over. So I decided to make another wreath.

I snapped the flowers off leaving a half inch of stem on each. Then I hot glued the flowers onto a small grapevine wreath.

Here is the completed wreath.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Romantic Ivy-Filled Birdcage

I've always wanted to make a birdcage planter for my front porch. This Victoria Day Weekend I finally got the job done! Here's how I made it:

What you need to make this project:

• Decorative birdcage
• A selection of shade annuals: I used 3 small pots of ivy, one plug tray of trailing lobelia and one fuchsia
• A large bag of dried green moss (not shown above)
• A length of dried coconut liner
• Potting soil
• Scissors
• Permanent marker
• Garden gloves

Just a quick on the birdcage. Select a birdcage with a wire rather than solid bottom, if you can. The wire bottom will allow better drainage. I also chose a birdcage that opened from the top and came with a hook for hanging the finished planter.

Messy project warning: This project does create a bit of a mess, so work outside or somewhere inside that will be easy to clean up afterward.

Step 1: Roll open a length of the coconut liner. Place your birdcage on top, and with a permanent marker, trace the outline of the bottom of the cage.

Step 2: Cut out the shape of the birdcage with your scissors. Open the birdcage and place the coconut liner at the bottom of the cage.

My first idea was to use the coconut liner for the sides of the birdcage planter, but I found it cumbersome to work with in the tight space available inside the birdcage. 

So to protect the roots of my plants and to fill in the sides of my planter, I used a bag of dried green moss that I purchased at the craft store. Moss makes the sensitive skin on my hands itch, so when working with it, I always use gloves.

Step 3: Working with the moss is where this project starts to get a bit messy. 

With your birdcage open, begin to pack a thick layer of moss around the bottom two inches of the birdcage. Be generous with the moss! You don't want the soil in the birdcage to drain away every time you water the planter.

Now you are ready to incorporate the first of your plant materials. I wanted to hang my birdcage on my front porch, so I chose plants that would be happy in part-shade: ivy, trailing lobelia and fuchsia.

If you wanted to make something similar for sun, try a full sun vine instead of the ivy. For the flowers you could also use petunias, a small trailing geranium or any other full sun annual of your choice.

Step 4: To begin the planting, start with the small plugs of trailing lobelia. I found it easiest to place the root ball of the lobelia inside the birdcage first and then work the tailing stems of the lobelia gently through the birdcage bars.

Once you have added the lobelia, put another half inch or so of moss on the sides of the cage. Place the ivy root ball inside the cage and tread the ivy through the bars of the cage as you did with the lobelia. Once the ivy is in place, build up the sides with the moss about another 3/4 of an inch. Add the small fuchsia to the centre of your planting. 

Fill an spaces between the plants with potting soil.

Step 5: Next, hang up your cage, so you can see the sides clearly. Fill any gaps with moss. Don't discard any surplus moss! If any gaps appear with repeated watering, add a little of the surplus moss to fill any gaps.

Step 6: With a light spray of the garden hose, give the birdcage planter a good soak.

Hang the birdcage and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Faux-Succulent & Neutral Pistachio Nut Wreath

In my last post I showed you how to make florets with pistachio nut shells. In this post, we'll advance the technique and make a wreath.

To make the Pistachio Nut Wreath you need:

• Wreath form

• Low heat glue gun

• Glue sticks

• Pistachio nut shells

To make the Faux Sedum version of the wreath add these items to your materials list:

• 2 different colors of green multi-surface spray paint

• Small bottle of rose colored craft paint

• Paint brushes

• Old newspapers and some paper towel

• Mask (for protection from paint fumes while using spray paint)

A note about hanging your wreath:

Before beginning this project, you may want to give some thought as to how you want to hang your finished wreath. For my wreath I simply created a loop of heavy duty fishing wire. Alternatively, you might create a loop of decorative ribbon and tie a bow on the top of the ribbon. You could also fashion a hanger with some florist's wire.

Getting Started:

Step1: Eat some pistachios! Clean away any residual brown nut husks from the insides of the shells before you start your wreath.

2. Using the technique that you learned in the last post, make your first floret on the styrofoam wreath form.

3. Shift down and to the left and make a second floret. Move down again and slightly the right to make a third floret.

Step 4: Go back and fill in the spaces between the first three flowers with new florets. When you are finished shift down and make the next three florets.

If it makes it easier, you can take a permanent marker and make flower sized circles on your wreath to serve as a guide.

Continue working in a single direction around the wreath filling it up with florets as you go.

I am sure you must be wondering what happens on the sides of the wreath form. Create full florets where you can, but where you don't have the space available, make semi-circular florets instead.

One of the somewhat annoying things about working with hot glue is all the fine web-like strands of glue you end up creating. 

Clean away these little spider webs of hot glue with a soft paint brush. This is particularly important if you want to carry on and paint your wreath. The strands of glue will become more evident after you spray paint your wreath.

If you want to leave the wreath a neutral color, all you need do now is hang it!

Transforming your creation into a faux-succulent wreath is basically a matter of painting it.

I used two colors. One is a brighter green: #85082 Tropical foliage. The other is a dusty blue-green: 85084 Leafy Rise. If you can't find these exact colors, just look for greens that are similar.

The final painted look of the three colors together.

Move outdoors or to a well ventilated area. Lay down some old newspapers- this will get messy! Before you paint, put on a face mask, so you don't breath in any paint fumes.

Start with the bright green. (Tip: Shake the can to mix the paint really well.) Spray the whole wreath bright green. I moved around in a circle to spray the paint in a variety of directions. It may take a number of attempts before you have every nook and cranny of the wreath painted green.

Now comes the somewhat tricky artistic part of the paint process. (But I know you have the talent to pull it off!)

Take the other can of blue-green spray paint and spritz it lightly here and there. These should be short, uneven bursts of paint. Basically, you are accenting the wreath with this second color.

Switch back to the brighter green and spritz a few bright accents on top of the last blue-green layer of paint.

For the final step, add some rose accents to the green wreath. Many succulents have a blush of rose and that is the look you are aiming to imitate. 

To add these rose accents I simply used a bottle of rosy-pink craft paint.

The application of the rose paint uses a dry-brush technique. Put some paint on your brush. Now take a piece of paper towel and wipe most of the rose paint off the brush onto the paper towel. Then drag the "dry" brush across the surface of the wreath allowing the paint to catch here and there.

And that's it. Your done! 

Hang your finished wreath and enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Pistachio Florets: Using the Basic Technique to make a Trinket Box

My husband adores unsalted pistachios. He could eat the better part of a bag of them if I didn't stop him! 

When he done, there is always a little pile of the discarded beige shells. Poking around on Pinterest one evening I came across a idea for making florets with pistachio shells. It was just the inspiration I needed to get crafty.

Because I had lots of shells available, I came up with a wreath project that takes making nutty florets to a whole new level. Before I get to my wreath design however,  I thought it might to be best to demonstrate the basic technique for making pistachio florets with a simple project. Hence this little trinket or gift box project.

To make the Decorative Box you need:

• Either a cardboard or wooden box of your choice

• Low heat glue gun

• Glue Sticks

• Pistachio Nut Shells (clean and remove any residual brown nut husks from the insides of the shells before you begin)

• Multi-surface spray paint

• Mask (for protection while using spray paint)

How to:

1. Pick out three small shells. The hollow curved part of the shells always faces inward. 

Take your glue gun and make a small blob of hot glue in the centre of the box top. Place the three shells upright into the glue. You may have to hold the shells for a few seconds until the glue sets.

2. Make a semi-circle of glue to one side of the centre group. Into your semi-circle of glue, place three more shells at a less upright, slightly more open angle.

3. Make a second semi-circle of glue on the other side of the centre group. Into this newest arc of glue, place three more shells on the same angle.

4. To make the next row of petals, add yet another semi-circle of glue and use four shells this time. Relax the angle of these newest row of shells to be a bit more open. Use the same process to add four shells on the opposite side.

5. Keep building out your flower until you are happy with its size. (Tip: I tend to use slightly larger nut shells as I build out the flower.  The angle of the shells should get more and more relaxed and open as you reach the outer petals of your flower.)

6. Move outdoors or to a well ventilated area. Lay down some old newspapers- this is about to get messy! Before you paint, put on a face mask, so you don't breath in any paint fumes. Then use a multi-surface ivory spray paint (or color of your choice) to paint your box.

I kept my trinket box all one color, but you could always paint the flower a different color if you like. 
This floral box could be a perfect place to store earrings or bracelets. It could also make a great party favour or gift box.

Now that you have the basic technique down for making the florets, you may want to tackle a bigger project like this wreath.

I'll post full instructions shortly.

With a little paint you also have the option to create a faux-succulent version of this wreath.