Having visited Sarah Raven’s garden at Perch Hill at the end of the summer I spotted two ideas for using Silver Birch which hopefully will inspire you to get creative with Silver Birch twigs and small branches at home.
Using Silver Birch twigs
I am a real door wreath fan. As soon as I saw the plant supports in the Delphinium bed at Perch Hill I thought ‘ah-ha’.
These hoops are really easy to make. Check out the video I filmed with Alexandra from the Middle-Sized Garden last year. It’s called how to create a simple Christmas door wreath.
The trick is to find really supple Silver Birch branches which are at least an arm’s-length long. You need them to be pliable enough to form a circle and then wrap and bind from there – adding in additional twiggy lengths as you go.
You can either cut direct from your tree or pick them up from the ground. I have a mental map in my head of the Silver Birch trees that are local to me. After a windy storm you’ll find lots of branches –when I say branches, I really mean twiggy stems – have been blown off the tree, ready for picking up.
Your branches will dry out reasonably fast. So, you’ll need to start work on your hoops sooner rather than later. If you leave it too long they dry out and become brittle. They’ll snap as you try to bend them into shape which doesn’t make for a lovely flowing circle to your hoop.
Tuck in your loose ends as you go – or tie them in with string. You can work with any plant materials that take your fancy. Have a read of my post on making a foraged autumn door wreath.
Using Silver Birch branches
Sarah Raven also used Silver Birch in her Dahlia beds. The grid she uses to support these fabulous flowers can easily be scaled down in size and used to support your cut flowers.
You can make your own grid by using thicker sections of Silver Birch. I used the discarded ends that I’d collected to make my door wreath. They need to be reasonably substantial to support your vase of flowers – you’re probably aiming some something similar in size to a pencil.
Start by gauging how long you need your stems. They should balance across the mouth of your container, with an overhang at either side.
I used six stems and laid them three horizontally, then three vertically on top. From there you’ll get an idea of the size of grid you'll be creating. You might find it helpful to use your phone to take a photo, so you can follow the pattern/spacing of your sticks later.
Starting with two of your stems place them at right angles and fasten them together. I like using paper covered bindwire as it only takes one hand to twist tie your sticks in place. String or raffia would work equally as well – although you might find it a bit fiddlier to tie.
Don’t be disheartened. This is the kind of project where you’ll need to just keep working. The more twigs you tie in, the stronger your grid will become. Make sure you fasten your stems together as firmly as you possibly can. As they dry out they’ll shrink. Your fixings will loosen slightly and your grid might collapse.
And a vase
I was also inspired by one of the glass vases I spotted on the refectory table in the café at Perch Hill. Sarah had used it to display some artichoke heads. In this video I’m using it to arrange some autumn berries.
Until next time, happy flowers!
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