Updated: Feb 24, 2022
There's no doubt that a basket made from plant fibre is a beautiful thing. Making baskets from natural materials is also one of the oldest crafts in the world across many cultures.
These days, your average weaver doesn't always have access to a garden setting full of suitable fibres. There are, however, still many common plants you can source, prepare and store for your next basketry project.
As a rule of thumb, bulbous plants, such as daffodils, provide good textile fibres - as do grassy plants such as Couch grass (Cynodon dactylon), Tussock grass (Poa labillardieri) and many other Poas.
There are other plants you may also not realise are great for basketry - and even the most ardent inner-city dweller should be able to get their hands on some of these:
Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia sp.)
Calla lilies look like your average lily but in fact, aren't considered lilies at all. They grow from rhizomes and are a hardy perennial, meaning you only need to plant them once. From then, they are good to go! Gardening facts aside - the Calla lily is also a great basket-making fibre. This sun-loving hybrid grows a tight, trumpet-like flower in a range of colours.
Although these don't grow in my garden, I saved them after enjoying them bought as cut flowers from the florist. I will often save my florist bought flowers and see how they dry and experiment to see if they are suitable for baskets.
Belladonna Lilies (Amaryllis belladonna)
Now this here is a genuine lily for all your gardening purists out there. It's also a great fibre to use in basketry. Belladonna lilies, are also called Naked ladies, by a man I'm guessing. This bulbous perennial varies in colour but often gives off a vibrant pink hue. I discovered these in a friend's garden when I saw them drying in the garden bed. I started to look at the fibre and discovered they would be great for making cordage - and they really are!
Onion Weed (Nothoscordum sp)
One person's problem is another basket maker's delight. Due to its ability to grow rapidly across gardens and farmland, Onion Weed is considered a noxious weed in most parts of Australia. It has certainly taken hold in my garden. Last spring I weeded five wheelbarrow loads and there was still too much. I did however save and dry a portion. It is ideal to make into cordage.
Oyster Plant (Acanthus sp)
The Oyster Plant, also known as Bear's Breeches is a common evergreen, garden plant. Its largeish lobed leaves are a deep green. Once you have it in your garden, it is both easy to grow and almost impossible to remove! In the spring months, long spikes with whiteish flowers bloom and die back in the summer. These long, stemmed leaves (not the flowers) are suitable for cordage and can be incorporated into your next basket coiling project.
Drying and storing plants can take up space, so depending on what your space is like, keep in mind that whatever you harvest will take up some room. I have heard of apartment linen/broom cupboards, bathrooms, laundries and verandas being used to store drying plants. This is fine if you can hang them somehow! The good news is that the plants will shrink, like onion weed, often to a fraction of their original size.
With basket making, I always encourage people to be as creative as they like. This means you shouldn't feel confined to only using the lengthier fibres for your baskets. You can incorporate the dried flowers too, however you like.
Hot tip: A plant I don't use is Agapanthus. They have very little fibre and once dried have nothing left to work with.
My last tip with using plants, or any material in basketry for that matter is: to shake off your inner perfectionist. The fibre you use will always have a say in how your basket will turn out. So, sit back, start making, and let yourself just go with it. It's a very forgiving craft.
Interested in making your own natural baskets?
Try our Baskets from The Garden course! Learn more.