Bracken, a coarse leafed and prolific fern, is a common site across heaths and hills and around woodland edges where it flourishes on the dry margins. Spreading via its vigorous rhizomes, it’s not a plant that you’d want too close to your garden where it would swiftly take over, but out in the wild it’s a dramatic, sometimes breathtaking plant as autumn turns to winter.
It’s also a gift for flower arrangers at this time of year, when the fronds have all turned a deep rusty brown but are still dry enough to gather. The stiff and sturdy larger branches lend themselves to impactful arrangements in urns or as hanging clouds; break them down and the smaller fronds make a beguiling backdrop to autumn flowers.
Here, we take a look at how floral designers are using this beautiful—and free—material.
Collect bracken as it turns brown and don’t leave it too late – if it’s left damp it will soon rot. Collect it on a dry and sunny day then store somewhere dry. The leaves will eventually become more brittle but pieces can often last years and be reused in different arrangements.
Any leftover bracken can be used as a winter mulch on garden borders, where it will suppress weeds and break down over time. While bracken is toxic to animals when it’s in its spring growth stage, by the time it’s gone over it’s harmless. In some areas it’s used as winter bedding for livestock.
For more on foraged decor, see:
- DIY: Foraged Thanksgiving Tabletop with Berries and Branches
- DIY Holiday Decor: Foraged Foliage Decorations in Designer Maria le Mesurier’s Home
- A Star is Born: DIY Foraged Christmas Tree Topper
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