My favourite plants to use in basketry

Making baskets using plants is all dependant on where you live. The climate will have a huge bearing on what you will find growing locally to you.

I live in Melbourne, Australia, which is a temperate climate. The plants I collect will be very different from someone living in the tropics or subtropics. Those of us in colder climates can get basket makers envy when we think of warmer spots, and their plentiful palms and vines. Truth is, there are still a wonderful array of plants you can gather in colder locations.

Plants I typically use are Daylily, Red Hot Poker, Watsonia, and Flax. These are either growing in my garden or nearby in a neighbour's garden. Once I knew what plants worked for basket making, I was amazed at how easy they were to access!

When I visited my sister in the UK about ten years ago, she was living in a beautiful little cottage next to a river. I remember sitting there admiring the view when I saw a long strappy leaf plant growing in a pot, it looked perfect for basket making. The plant turned out to be a New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax). Its traditional Maori name is Harakeke. My sister let me cut some leaves off and give it a go. So I stripped the leaves to about 2mm wide and started to coil.

This flax is now one of my absolute favorites, not only because I can access it easily (It grows well in Victoria) but because there's no drying time. I can pick it and strip it into bundles and use it straight away. I can also save it for later. It's so versatile and I can use it all year round. It is strong, flexible, and nice on the hands. It makes sturdy robust baskets and can be used for most basketry techniques.

Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia spp) is also a favorite of mine. It's a soft, long strappy leaf plant and soft to use. It has a subtle pinkish colour to it which looks great when paired with darker or lighter shades. It can be used in many basket making techniques.

Watsonia (Watsonia spp) is another favorite as it grows prolifically in Victoria. In my own garden, I have Watsonia borbonica which has a tremendous spike of white flowers. Again, it's a long leafy plant that grows each year. As it dies back, the leaves turn a beautiful golden brown which can add a lovely contrast to any basket.

You'll notice, as I did, that many of the plants perfect for making baskets are considered environmental weeds. If this is the same for you, you'll find that people are often trying to get rid of them. I discovered early on that people are usually quite happy for me to pick some once I ask. But always ask just the same.

Someone who has been making fascinating basketry sculpture with plants and has influenced me a lot is Nicole Robins. You can see her work on Instagram @nicolerobins_

If you'd like to know more about plants we have just released our Basket from the Garden online workshop. The workshop has three hours of content including information regarding what plants to source and three different techniques to use. You can watch the promo video below.

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