Do you find that your herb garden brings out
your inner child? The garden is a great place to play with both
your inner child and real children, who get along very well
together. Invite them all for a playful day of making crafts using
materials from the garden. Bring scissors, a gathering basket, and
a sense of fun.
Below are three projects to make with and for children. For ages
eight to twelve (or younger if the child knows how to braid), there
are pretty ponytail holders and friendship bracelets made from
sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata). For ages six and older (younger
girls will need adult assistance), dreaming heart bouquets can hold
a child’s double handful of gatherings from the garden. Finally,
dried-flower barrettes are challenging enough for older girls ages
ten to fifteen, or for an adult who wants to make a special gift
for a little girl’s dress-up occasion.
You’ll want to hit the craft store first for materials such as
barrette backs, wood veneer, and ribbons or lacings; then gleefully
go searching for the natural materials. When your baskets are full,
go inside, have a cup of peppermint tea, and enjoy a day of making
things from the garden.
Dreaming Heart Herb Baskets
These baskets are for hanging on the wall near sleeping heads.
Mugwort and yarrow were traditionally used to influence happy
dreams, but you and your children can use any herb or flower that
brings you delight. Angelica, St. John’s wort, lemon balm, roses,
lavender, and linden are excellent choices; lamb’s-ears and dried
sage also work well. Let your child add any dried weeds or flowers
that enchant her with their color or shape.
If your child is too young to use pointed scissors, prepare the
punched hearts in advance, and supervise closely as she laces the
1-foot-square piece of basswood, birch or maple veneer, birch
bark, fancy handmade paper or construction paper for each heart
Heart pattern, about 5 inches across and 6 inches tall
Scissors, large and smaller curved-blade scissors
Drywall or X-acto knife
Leather or paper punch
1- to 2-inch natural-bristle paintbrush
1 to 11/2 yards ribbon, yarn, or sweet grass per heart
Large-eyed, blunt-tipped crewel needle or bodkin
Beads, bells, or other embellishments
Dried flowers and herbs
Floral foam and/or masking tape (optional)
1. Create a heart pattern by tracing the heart pattern at left.
Using a sharp pencil, carefully trace the heart pattern onto veneer
or paper twice. If you’re using veneer, be sure that the centerline
of the hearts is placed parallel to the grain of the wood. This
will help prevent the points from breaking off.
2. Mark places along the sides where you’ll punch holes, 1/4
inch from the edge and 3/4 inch apart. Stop where the straight part
of the heart’s side ends and the curve begins.
3. If using veneer, soak the marked sheet overnight in warm
water. This will render it pliable and much less likely to split
along the grain lines.
4. Cut out the hearts. If using veneer, you may want to cut
straight across the rounded tops of the heart, then use smaller
scissors to cut out the notch of the “V”. Or you can place the
heart on a cutting board and use a drywall or X-acto knife to cut
out that area.
5. With a leather or paper punch, punch the holes around the
lower edges, being sure that the holes in both hearts line up.
6. If you’re using paper, skip to step 8. If using veneer, color
it using undiluted watercolor paints. Hold each heart by the edges
and stroke firmly downward to spread the color evenly.
7. Lay the hearts on waxed paper for about 15 minutes to allow
the ink to soak in.
8. Sandwich each heart between paper towels and cover both sides
with waxed paper. Weight the hearts with books or plates so that
they will dry flat, and leave them for a day. Check them the next
day. If they are not quite dry, leave them out to finish drying
until they are dry to the touch. (It’s okay if they curl up a
9. Lace the hearts together using ribbon, yarn, or sweet grass.
Choose one side to be the back side, and place all knots on that
side. Whipstitch up each side of the heart, allowing the ribbon or
sweet grass to show. If you wish, embellish the ribbon lacing with
beads or bells. Tie the excess together to form a hanging
10. Fill the heart with dried herbs, flowers, leaves, or other
dried materials. A special stone or crystal can go in as well. If
you like a sparser arrangement, but the flowers won’t hold their
position, you can use floral foam inside the heart, or masking tape
to hold floral sprays together.
Sweet Grass & Beads Ponytail Holders
Fresh or dried, undyed sweet grass (to find dried sweet grass, see
“About Sweet Grass,” at right.)
Beads or small bells (their holes should be slightly smaller than
those of pony beads)
Fabric-covered, elastic ponytail holders in colors to match the
Large bowl of warm water
1. If you’re using dried sweet grass, soak it in a large bowl of
warm water for a half hour to an hour to render it more pliable. (I
like to have a snack and tell stories while the sweet grass
2. Gather six or nine strands of sweet grass; trim the ends to
even them up. Tie an overhand knot about 11/2 inches from the
bundled ends. Check to make sure the beads you’re using can be
coaxed over the knot. (If they can’t, trim off the knot and remove
some of the grass from the bundle. Re-knot.) If it can, remove the
bead and commence dividing the bundled grass stems into three equal
parts. Braid the strands right over center, then left over center
until you have about 8 inches of fine, tightly plaited braid.
3. Tie a knot in the end, and trim so that there’s about 11/2
inches of fringe.
4. Coax a few beads over the knotted ends–enough beads to be
decorative, but still allow some of the braid to show. Tie a second
knot over the first one in each end so the beads will stay on the
5. Completed braids can be worn as friendship bracelets or ankle
bracelets, or knotted onto ponytail holders. To attach them to
elastic ponytail holders, loop the braid in half, put the loop
through the holder, and pull its ends through the loop. To make
bracelets or ankle bracelets, tie a long braid loosely around the
wrist or ankle, allowing enough slack for the beads to move. They
can also be used to tie the ends of pigtails. If the sweet grass
becomes brittle, wet it before tying.
Floral Fantasy Barrettes
Girls of all ages enjoy making these dress-up delights, which
look like delicate little sculptures.
Small dried flowers, leaves, and bracts of roses, celosia, salvia,
basil, lamb’s-ears, butterfly bush, lavender, or others
Thin cardboard (cereal boxes work well)
Spring-back barrette backs (available at fabric and craft
Scraps of lacy ribbon or net fabric
Fabric-covered floral wire (optional)
Felt or non-woven fabric interfacing
“Tacky” glue or other very thick craft glue
Popsicle sticks or coffee stirrers to spread glue
Rubber bands of various sizes
A large drinking glass or small coffee can
Drying the flowers
Most small flowers can be dried on an old window screen. If you
want to create interesting curves in the small stems, trim the
stems of the fresh flowers to about 6 to 8 inches long. Bind them
with a rubber band. Then, instead of drying them on a screen,
position the stems on a horizontal surface so that the flowers hang
over the edge. Hold the stems in place with a weight such as a
book. As the flowers dry, gravity will make the flower heads droop.
Some will develop more graceful curves than others, so you’ll want
to dry several bundles in order to have lots of choices.
Another method involves draping the flowers over a curved
cylindrical object, such as a narrow drinking glass or an empty
paper towel tube, and holding it in place with rubber bands. The
stems will curve to its surface as they dry. (You can also ‘tweak’
plant material while it dries to coax it into a pleasing
I occasionally experiment with microwave drying, especially
during humid weather. The open rose in the large barrette
photographed here was microwaved on medium for three minutes, then
coaxed into an open form and placed on a screen to finish drying
slowly. (If you are unfamiliar with your microwave, it is best to
begin my microwaving on low for three minutes and increase the time
while monitoring until blossoms are dried.) Microwaved blossoms
sometimes retain form and delicate colors better than air-dried
Assembling the barrettes
1. Cut a rectangle from scrap cardboard for each barrette, about
11/4 by 31/2 inches for the small ones and about 3 by 6 inches for
larger ones. (These rectangles will be trimmed to their final size
and shape later.) Experiment with the placement and positioning of
dried flowers and leaves until you are satisfied with their layout.
Flat, textured leaves such as lamb’s-ears make a lovely background;
rosebuds add texture and color.
2. If you are using any small, delicate flowers such as salvias,
that will be positioned to extend beyond the cardboard base’s final
size, you may need to support them with netting or lacy ribbon in
the same color as the flowers. Cut the netting larger than the
cardboard and glue it to the cardboard, letting the glue come
through the holes in the lace.
3. Place the flowers carefully and glue them, building up each
layer and covering the stem ends with other blooms. Bind the stems
of floral sprays together with floral wire first, so they can be
glued in place as one unit. Then use other flowers to cover the
stems. Fill in any gaps with small rosebuds, salvia, lavender, or
other tiny blooms. Use tweezers to place any particularly tiny
4. To give the cardboard a curve that will match the curve in
the barrette backs, use rubber bands or masking tape to hold the
cardboard around a large drinking glass or coffee can while the
5. When the glue is dry, cut the excess cardboard away from the
flowers. Then fold any excess netting or ribbon over and glue it to
the back of the cardboard backing. Cut an oversize piece of felt or
non-woven interfacing to cover the back side of the cardboard. Glue
this in place, and stand the barrette on its side while the glue
6. Carefully glue the felt side of the assembled piece to the
barrette. Be sure to place it on the barrette the way you want it
to look in your little girl’s hair.
Louise Gruenberg lives in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of
Chicago. Her book Herbal Home Hints (Rodale, 1999) won the
International Herb Association’s 2000 Book Award for best book in
the general category.