Hydrangea flowers are one of many kinds of dried flowers and seed pods that can make beautiful fall and winter decor. Luisa Fumi/Shutterstock

The flowers in the yard have gone by. No more dahlias, tithonia, gladioli or other blossoms to cut and bring inside to brighten up the house.

But the garden still has lots of items that anyone can bring inside to add color and texture to the indoor environment.
One example is seed heads. I’ve written previously that my wife Nancy and I no longer cut back all of our perennials in the fall, letting the ones that don’t flop to the ground stay and spread their seed, thus creating a more natural garden.

But bringing some of that seed inside will not deprive the yard of that many plants.

Rudbeckia, echinacea, many alliums, veronicastrum or Culver’s root and most grasses have striking stems with seeds. Some, such as echinacea or purple coneflower, still have some color while others have gone brown.

Sitting in a vase in our living room as I type this are seven dried stems of Actaea (formerly cimicifuga) racemosa, ranging from two to five feet long, and the look is spare and architectural.

The results can even be prize-winning. Steven Edney, a professional gardener and host of a radio gardening show in Kent, England, won an award at the Chelsea Flower Show this spring using seed heads saved from the previous year, according to an Oct 11 article in the New York Times Style Magazine. (Don’t think I stole the idea for this column from the Times. I told my editor Oct. 5 about my plan to write on this topic.)

Some of our favorite plant-based Christmas decorations are seed heads of unusual alliums, especially Schubertii, that we have spray-painted silver. They are about a foot in diameter and look like an early space satellite. The spray paint makes them – and many other dried flowers – stand out, but they are attractive without the paint as well.

One of the best late-season flowers to bring inside is hydrangea. All of the cultivars work. These blossoms will stay on the shrub all winter, and can be cut and brought inside at any stage of their development.

A popular way to use the plant is to make a hydrangea wreath. To create these the blossoms must be dried, a process that can be done in several ways. Nancy prefers to put the stems in a vase with about a half-inch of water. She splits the stems, removes all the foliage and just leaves the blossoms alone after the water disappears – all that time they provide a spot of color while they are drying. Alternatively, you can tie several blossoms together and hang them in a cool, dry place.

There are several methods to make the wreath, as well. The flowers can be attached to a grapevine wreath with floral wire (a highly pliable wire, often green) or with a hot-melt glue gun. Or you can use a metal wreath form and attach the hydrangea with floral wire. They look stunning but must be displayed indoors or in a well-protected porch because rain will ruin them.

Fall is foliage season and it makes sense to bring some leaves inside for decoration. Display them in a dish or flat bowl or maybe cut off a small branch and put it in a vase. Large red or yellow maple leaves are especially attractive.

Don’t forget branches. A piece of wood may look good for all sorts of reasons — because it twists attractively, serves as host to mushrooms or has an interesting color or texture. Birch and red-twig dogwoods always look good.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Walk around your yard – always an enjoyable task. If you see something that attracts your eye, bring it inside and see what you can do with it. Just be sure to check thoroughly for any insects first.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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