Today I share one of my favorite ways to make free gifts and budget home decorations using the weeds and native plants on my property: bouquets of weeds.
Chosen with care and arranged artfully, it is possible to create stunning floral arrangements using only leaves, branches, and blossoms of native plants, weeds, and herbs.
An herb bouquet including edible flowers
Made using fennel blossoms, fennel fronds, calendula flowers (used for making tea), and bachelor button blossoms.
How I Got Started Making Weed Bouquets & Herb Arrangements
Hawk Hill’s garden is home to many perennial flowers, but by late summer my vases are usually empty. One day I realized that even though my flowerbeds were empty, there were many colorful and unique plants- even weeds- on the property. I wondered if I could use these native plants to create beautiful weed bouquets to make arrangements for free.
Since the herb garden was bursting at the seams with growth and second-year flowers, I decided to add herbs too. I began cautiously- and snipped some of the delicate blossoms from my gigantic sage plant. Adding fronds from fennel balanced out the blossoms sweetly:
A vase filled with herbs
In this photo from my simply decorated sun porch, an herb bouquet vase is filled with purple sage blossoms and fronds of dill weed.
2 herbal floral arrangements
Featuring sage, fennel, pokeweed (poisonous), and creeping jenny.
Pleased with that result, I jumped at the opportunity to be even more creative when I had a big group of house guests come in the fall.
Making my First Weed Bouquet
With a large bucket and strong scissors in hand, I walked the perimeter of my property (which is, on three sides, a hedgerow with a lot of wild growth). As I walked, I took cuttings of plants, branches, blossoms, and berries that looked visually interesting.
⚠️ If you cut unknown plants, make sure you know how to recognize any poisonous plants native to your region. Here’s a visual guide to the most common poisonous wild plants in the USA.
After collecting my clippings from the properties weeds, native plants, and herbs, I returned with a full bucket. I spread them out on newspapers on a large table in my garage, gathered a few vases, and started arranging my non-flower arrangements.
Basic flower arranging rules still applied: countering tall with short, balancing from side to side, contrasting colors throughout, etc. Unique to my “bouquets of weeds” was that instead of balancing blossom colors and styles, I was balancing shades of green with lighter shades of green, and delicate vines with more robust branches.
How to make an herb bouquet with weeds, & native plants:
Grab a bucket and Gather Flora
Being careful to avoid thorns and poisonous plants, begin to collect bits of growth 10-18 inches long. Look for interesting flora, but don’t ignore less flashy growth because it’s ordinary. Common greens can make nice filler or may even carry a particular beauty when placed in an indoor arrangement.
Gather vase(s) and spread out your cuttings.
I recommend working on a large work surface so you can see what you are working with. Outdoors or on a covered surface is ideal. Weeds and native plants are successful because they are good at spreading seeds! If you’ve collected anything that’s gone to seed, it may drop a lot of debris during this process.
Work tallest to shortest, center to outside.
In other words, place big stuff in your vase first, then progressively add shorter pieces that complement around the outside edges of that center section. Then add another circle of shorter cuttings, etc.
If you have particularly delicate branches, like branches with berries still attached, save them till last, and then gently add.
Play and rearrange
Fuss and rearrange till you love it- but resist perfectionism The point of a weed bouquet is to see beauty in natural elements that aren’t favored!
A vase filled with weeds
A vase is filled with native and invasive weeds, including Moneywort, Queen Anne’s Lace, American Pokeweed, and others.
I wish I could narrate the native plants I used for this bouquet above, but I don’t know the names of most! Furry sage leaves and delicate fennel seed pods are included, as well as clippings from my planted landscaping and lots of native wild growth. The berries are from an invasive and poisonous-if-eaten plant called Pokeweed.
🔎🌷 In My Garden…
I let the perennial herbs in my garden run wild. In this photo the tiny white flowers are thyme blossoms, the round purple blossoms on the left are chive blossoms, the purple blossoms dominating the upper left are sage blossoms, and the green fronds at upper right are fennel fronds.
Designating one section of my yard as an herb garden where perennial herbs are allowed to grow without containment has been a great! Maintaining large, vigorous herbs means:
- There is never a shortage, and always enough herbs to cut, bundle, and gift (or in the case of sage, bundle and burn for a fragrant campfire), or cut, dry, and use over winter.
- As they grow larger, many herbs spread underground and are easier to divide at the root. To create a free but always appreciated housewarming gift of a planter filled with herbs means I just need a shovel!
- The extra growth of the unique leaves and blossoms of herbs are beautiful sniped and placed in bud vases or as additions to week bouquets.
One more closeup of one of my bouquet of herbs and weeds featuring moneywort, pokeberry, sage, fennel blossoms, and (look close- do you see it?) a hawk feather found while harvesting greens to arrange!
Tips for Making your Weed Bouquets “WOW” bouquets
Making beautiful arrangements – whether you are using expensive greenhouse flowers, herbs, or just weeds- involves a few simple rules.
To make a good weed bouquet or urban arrangement, you’ll need to pay attention to color, texture, and form. You’ll also need to combine these elements in a balanced way. A good bouquet, of weeds, herbs, or flowers, involves balance and proportion.
Choose a focal point for your bouquet
In a typical professional flower bouquet or arrangement (which is what we are trying to copy, right?) the most important element is the focal point. The focal point of a bouquet is usually the largest or most striking element in the design, and everything else in the design should support it.
For your weed bouquet or urban arrangement, the focal point should be the most interesting leaf, blossom, or other elements. The other plants or cuttings should be arranged in a way that leads the eye towards this main point of interest. This can be done by using elements of different sizes, by creating lines or curves, or by using contrasting colors. The goal is to create a design that is pleasing to look at and that guides the eye towards the focal point.
Pick and stick with a color scheme for your arrangement
In browsing your garden, weeds, and green spaces, you may find leaves, flowers, and seedpods of a huge variety of colors. One trick for creating a stunning weed bouquet or herbal arrangement is to choose a simple color scheme and stick with it. Avoid creating a bouquet using a rainbow of colors. Instead, pick a single color and choose variations of it (like building a bouquet using various shades of yellow and gold) or choose a few colors that match and complement one another (such as pairing purple garlic chive herbal blossoms with the delicate pink flowers of a blossoming sage plant and the white blooms of chamomile)
Keep scale in mind
One of the challenges of creating a head-turning weed bouquet is that there’s a huge variety of native plants to choose from. From large-scale blossoming native plants that are as tall as a human to diminutive little blossoms that pop up on the edges of lawns, there’s a big variation. You’ll want to choose blooms that will fit well together and create the desired look. Often, the simply requires cutting down the original plant’s stem. For example, Queen Anne’s lace, an enormous native plant common in Missouri works great in tiny bouquets when blossoms are closely trimmed.
Use a variety of textures. To add interest and depth to your weed bouquet, use a variety of textures. This can be achieved by choosing different types of flowers, and foliage, and even adding in some unique elements like berries (like in my example) or branches.
Finally, Balance Filler and Flowers
When it comes to creating a stunning bouquet of weeds, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the balance between flowers (or other showy greenery and filler). Too much of one or the other can result in an unappealing arrangement.
One way to achieve this balance is to start with a small base of filler, such as common weeds or herb leaves, and then add in the flowers. This will help to create a fuller look without overwhelming the arrangement. Researchers have actually found that our expectations for a bouquet shape how visually satisfying we find an arrangement,1 so you may appreciate a bouquet of weeds more than an expensive one, thanks to lower expectations.
Making your own weed and herb bouquets for events and parties
Need a fun and free activity for a garden party, herb-themed birthday party, or a playful bridal shower? Making bouquets with flowers from your own herb garden- and the weeds beyond – is a great way to save money and show off your creative side. Show your guests the flowers you want to allow them to cut and use. If you’re not sure what will go well together, consult a flower arranging book or website for ideas.
Once you’ve selected your blooms, show your guests how to cut them from the stem (making sure to leave a few inches of the stem). Next, provide pretty ribbon-wrapped vases or other containers with water. Once your guests have gathered their weeds, native plants, herbs, and flowers, show them how to begin arranging the elements- starting with the larger blooms and working your way to the smaller ones. You and your party guests can create a loose and natural arrangement, or go for a more structured look. Once you’re happy with your arrangements, you can allow each guest to take home their arrangement as a party favor.
- Gåfvels, C. (2016). Vision and embodied knowing: The making of floral design. Vocations and Learning, 9(2), 133-149.