If you are fortunate enough to have a garden or outdoor landscape space, you may already have a ready supply of your own summer flowers available for cutting. However, various reasons may preclude even an avid gardener from clipping away pretty blooms. Weather conditions, insect damage, and disease may have hindered a season of prolific blooms. Perhaps you want all the color to remain in your landscape outdoors. Or, you may live in a smaller, urban space that won't allow for much gardening.
So what's an flower fanatic to do? There are several options. You could order a pretty arrangement of long-stemmed cut flowers from your local florist, but, ouch!, you may get stuck with a thorny price. A less expensive option is to pick up a precut bouquet from your local grocer or farm market. Prices may still run a bit high for those with a frugal persuasion, but you will get a nice, long-lasting arrangement.
There is a third option, and this one comes without sticker shock. You can have pretty, fresh, and colorful cut flowers gracing your tables and bringing in the summer sunshine all season long - for free! How? By foraging for them yourself.
You can have fresh flowers - free for the clipping - by searching the highways and byways of your community for wildflowers. There you will find a virtually endless supply of pretty-colored flowers, all season long - all you have to do is look. Keep your eyes peeled for flowers gracing the shoulders of the roads you travel along. Get out of your car and walk along railroad embankments where you could find deep magenta sweet pea or vibrant orange, sturdy-stemmed tiger lilies. Search along easements and drainage ditches for purple crocuses, buttery-yellow daffodils and lavender iris. Later in the season, collect large-bloomed Queen Anne's lace (which can be spray painted pretty, pastel shades!), tall purple coneflowers, lithe, airy daisies, pink prairie clover, bright black-eyed susans and red or white wild roses. The flower species will vary across the country, but you can count on finding a wide variety of colorful blooms no matter where you live.
To get started on your foray into foraging for free wildflowers, all you need to do is keep a pair of garden sheers, clippers or scissors in your car, along with garden gloves and some wet paper towels, wrapped in plastic. When you spot a patch of color, pull your car carefully over to the side of the road and walk to the flowers. Be sure you are not on private property or are clipping someone's plantings. Watch out for insects and thorny brambles and be sure to check yourself for ticks after traipsing through any tall grass. Clip your flowers and wrap in the wet paper towels. Take directly home, reclip stem ends and place in a water-filled vase. Cut wildflowers will wilt quickly in a hot car, so hurry home with your collection.
Keep your eyes open all season long for the grace, color and beauty of nature's wildflowers. Make a game of it while traveling with your children and teach them to respect and enjoy nature. Bring the vibrancy and sunshine of the growing season indoors with vases full of fresh flowers - they're wild, beautiful and, best of all, free!
Lucynda Koesters is the author of Finding Your Way Home, How to Become a Successful Stay-at-Home Parent
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