I live in the southwest. This is the area with which I am most familiar. In the spring, rice grass comes to life. It can be picked while green and also after it has field dried. It will then be a beautiful natural tan color if picked late in the summer. You will want to harvest rice grass before it gets wind blown which is what happens as the summer progresses. Pick bunches not to big. I trim the bunches of rice grass so they are nice and even so when I get home, they are ready to hang. If I want colored rice grass, I paint the bunch right there in the field. Rice grass in great for wreaths and to use as a filler flower in flower arrangements.
I love peppergrass. It can be used as fresh cut material while in bloom. Use it right away in fresh floral arrangements or hang to dry. It is white when in bloom. Peppergrass works the same in flower arrangements as baby's breath. It is a bit lacier. If it is picked when naturally dried in the field it is a nice tan color. Whether you harvest it dried or fresh, make bunches not too large and secure the ends with a rubber band. When picked dried, you can spray paint your bunch any color you desire, then bring them to your shop and hang. Do not wait too late into the season to pick, as it will become too brittle.
Curly dock is found throughout most of the United States along creek banks and in abandoned fields. Early in the season it can be picked while green and hung to dry. Later in the season, it turns naturally an awesome chocolate to russet color. It can grow up to 2-3 feet. I would cut as the dock long as possible. You can always cut shorter, but it is harder to lengthen materials. If cut earlier in the season, May -July, there is less chance of shattering. When picked in the fall, you may need to spray with a sealant to prevent shattering. Curly dock is a very versatile floral material. Use in autumn arrangements, wreaths, or dried and fresh arrangements.
Mullein grows on dry hillsides and on roadsides. The leaves are grayish green and they feel like velvet. Mullein flowers are yellow and the stalk grows to a height of 3-6 feet. The mullein plant reminds me of liatris in nature, only taller, thicker, and dries to a soft gray to brown color. The stems can be cut and hung to dry. I would paint them after they are completely dry. If you need a very tall line flower for a dried arrangement, mullein is perfect.
Of course in the southwest, sage is plentiful. I would gather sage while newly bloomed early in summer. Gather in small, shorter bunches. It can be hung upside down to dry and used year round. Sage is great for wreaths and hand wrapped tussie-mussies. It is very pungently fragrant. Add other herbs for a wonderfully natural bouquet.
Just get out and wonder about. There is no end to the materials you can find to use for home and professional use. Seeking out unusual floral materials is what helps to set your flower shop apart from all the others. Have fun and do not forget the sunscreen and big garden hat!!
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