Anyone can arrange wildflowers---all you need is a love of flowers. As a lover of wildflowers, however, be a conservative, responsible collector. Never pick roadside wildflowers for your arrangements, or any growing on public lands, preserves or protected natural areas. Find flowers on private land and get permission from the owners to pick them, or better yet, grow your own. The best materials can come from your own backyard or garden. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center provides information on buying wildflowers seeds, planting and growing them.
Make a checklist of any item you will need, and assemble your collecting equipment before you leave so that you don't forget any important supplies. Always include sharp shears and a knife for cutting, and string or rubber bands for binding your plant materials. You may also want a pair of tongs for handling thorny or prickly materials. You will also need several containers of water (only partially filled so that they won't spill in transport) to hold the cut materials.
Dress appropriately! For maximum protection, wear long pants, long sleeves and a hat. You may also want to bring along a pair of heavy gloves, insect repellant and sunscreen. Be sure to include a notebook to record any details on location, date, habitat and other observations.
Always identify wildflowers before picking them. Most areas have comprehensive wildflower field guides that will help you learn the local flora. Never collect endangered species; to find out which species are endangered in your state, contact your state Natural Heritage Program.
Cut wildflowers early in the morning or late in the day, never during the heat of the day. Before gathering, be aware of the number of wildflowers growing in a particular area. If there are only a few flowers, find another spot with a greater abundance of flowers, and leave small populations alone. Even in areas where there are many blossoms, never remove all of the blossoms from a single plant: leave some of the stems to set seeds. Remember that some wildflowers do not make good cut flowers. Before cutting a bucketful, try a few stems in water and stick in the green foam florist's block used in arranging to see how the flowers will hold up.
Always use scissors of clippers for cutting; pulling plants up by the roots only ensures fewer flowers in subsequent years. Pick one type of flower at a time and bind each type together in bunches with string or rubber bands. Strip of excess leaves and thorns from the stem, and shake off any insects.
Place cut flowers in a container of clean water as soon as possible after cutting. A few drops of bleach in the water will help keep it clean and prevent algae from growing.
Before arranging your wildflowers, you need to determine the height, color and container you will use in your arrangement. Consider some of the details that would affect your design, such as where will the arrangement be placed? Will the arrangement be outside under full sun or in the shade. Or will it be inside with bright lights or candlelight? If it's inside, will it be placed on a dining table, buffet or in an entry hall? Will it be seen from the side or placed against a wall?
Remember certain common sense rules when arranging. An arrangement used on a dining table should be low enough that guests are able to see each other over it. If the flowers are outside, use a container with a low center of gravity, such as a shallow bowl or heavy crock. Pale or tiny flowers won't be seen from a distance.
Now that you have decided on the details of your arrangement, it is time to create it. Use a vase filled with water or the floral foam brick mentioned earlier.
The foam brick - called Oasis - has several advantages. It holds the flower stems in place, does not spill water and is easy to use in all types of containers. If you use Oasis, fill a sink or bucket with clean water and soak the brick for at least 45 minutes.
When using Oasis in baskets or other containers that cant hold water, wrap the bottom and sides of the brick with a triple layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Arrangements containing Oasis should be watered daily.
As you begin the arrangement, always re-cut the flower stems at an angle using sharp scissors or a knife. Heavy stems should be smashed with a hammer or the back of a knife, or the last two or three inches of the stem can be peeled like a stalk of asparagus. Both methods prevent the stem ends from sealing off so that they can continually draw water.
For flowers with a milky sap, such a corn poppy, seal the tip by holding over a flame for a few seconds.
For flowers with heavy heads, such as sunflowers, it is a good idea to insert a piece of heavy floral wire into the back side of the blossom, then wrap the remaining wire gently along the entire length of the stem, trimming any excess wire.
For soft, hollow stem flowers, such as cornflowers, insert a light- or medium-weight wire directly into the center of the stem, poking into the flower head but not protruding.
When it comes to the design, be creative. There are few rules to arranging. The most important guidelines are that you like the design and that it fits the area and color scheme you have selected.
Experiment with different types of wildflower looks. Adding grasses to the flower mixture lends a meadow effect, and the flower colors and heights may give a more casual air to the arrangement.
Attempting too much too soon might discourage a potential flower-arranger, so the best advice for beginners is to start with a simple project. Even one stem in a tiny bud vase can be beautiful. Work up from there.
Bringing wildflowers into your home can be the perfect way to make your living space more natural and inviting. Just remember to treat the natural landscape with respect, leaving plenty of wildflowers for others to enjoy.
We gratefully acknowledge Rose Lyn Scott for her assistance in preparing this fact sheet.