Making a Basket of Cattails


Cattails are so cool. Long, tall stalks with narrow, swordlike leaves and that one big brown catkin at the top of each cluster. They represent a slight design dilemma in finding the right container, though. They call for a high vase or basket. I looked around my house until I happened on one that was just right.

Now’s the time to harvest cattails. Look along roadsides near water. (You can grow cattails at home, by the way, though they won’t grow as tall as they do in the wild. They can be invasive, so grow them in containers.)

To dry cattails, hang them upside down for a few weeks then spray with a floral fixative (or hairspray works, too!).

I love the texture of cattails, and the combination of pattern, color, and texture in this arrangement with some small branches I cut from the hill behind our farmhouse. The leaves aren’t particularly vibrant–no bright golds or oranges or reds. Just a simple green and crisp brown with feathering branches.

On a side note, isn’t the paint on this old chair fantastic? I got several of these old yellow chairs at an auction last year. Somebody suggested to me that I could repaint them. Travesty! They are so perfect how they are.

All shabby, showing underlayers of paint, chipped, and beautiful.

I’ve seen bunches of dried cattails (and the amount I have here would constitute two bunches) for sale for $20 per bunch!

So go grab them while you can! There’s gold in them thar hills!

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on September 27, 2008  

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  1. 9-27

    We have so much in common!! LOL I use all the stuff I can from the ‘ditchs’ around here, the woods and the swamp!! LOL COuntry livin is great aint it!! :)

  2. 9-27

    Love it – OMG never repaint an old chair. I see it all the time on HGTV, painting an old piece of furniture green or blue. hmmmm I have a 100 yr old lamp and a friend one day said why dont you polish it! It is brass, 2 ladies, naked from the waist up turned toward the green glass globe. It was my grandmothers. I said what!!! to even polish it would ruin the value. from the waist down they ahve flowing gowns.

    when i livedin the country i could find natures wonders to bring in but alas in the city we have to resort to garden ridge, WM, Michaels or the dollar stores which are great. I am making tin can decorations to sell at my church. I take the lare vegetable cans schools use, bend them to oval, spray paint them fall colors, glue leaves on the do an arrangement in them, add rusted wire etc.

  3. 9-27

    Cattails are one of my favorite things. Great post! :)

  4. 9-27

    Cattails are a favorite of mine. They grew wild along the road where I used to live, but when we moved out of state I now can no longer find them….very sad. I loved using them for decoration.

  5. 9-27

    Love the cattails but covet the chair and basket. I love stuff…the older and more shabby and rusted the better. Friends are always calling to tell me where to find someting really cool that my yard needs.

    Nice job on the decorations.

  6. 9-27

    Great pictures, great website! I found your blog Wednesday when I googled apple butter. I needed a hint about leaving the peels on the apples. Thanks for your tip. I saw you are, like me, blogging from WV.

    I added your site to my ‘blogs I follow’ on Blogger. You blog like I think…interested in everything from cooking to writing. (I also keep hens [9 of them]…and *oh, no!* cats–just can’t turn the homeless ones away. We have 4 right now…as soon as I have the 3 new ones fixed – or broke as my dh says, I’m going to try to find new homes for 2 of them.)

    I’m going cattail hunting this morning, before it rains. What a great way to bring the simplicity and peacefulness of nature into your home. I love natural items… And chipped paint…

    As a former military dependent (dad, 30 yrs in the USMC; husband, 22 yrs in the USAF), I never felt I had a home or place where I could connect with my history. I started collecting a few antiques, especially the ones that had a wonderful history (my 1836 maple bread bowl is a favorite, I use it weekly when I make bread). Somehow living with someone else’s well-used and well-loved items connects me to a sense of belonging.

    I adopted WV as my home state when my husband brought me to meet his family…nearly 27 years ago. We’ve been retired from the AF for 6 years…trying to live a homesteading lifestyle on 1 1/2 acres just outside of Wayne.

    Sorry for the rambling…Love your Blog!!

  7. 9-27

    Whenever I see cat tails, I’m reminded of when my mother and I collected some a few years back. For whatever reason, we left them in the car over the weekend. I guess it must have been the heat in the car or something…but they BLEW UP! Those “tails” are made up of millions of little tufty things….and they totally self-destructed. My entire car was filled with a layer of the stuff.

    Your arrangement is perfect. And I’m with you…I LOVE the yellow chairs.

  8. 9-27

    What a clever autumn arrangement. Very creative. Cattails remind me of my grandmother. They grew in the ditches beside the roads where she lived.

  9. 9-27

    Beautiful. Did you know that the tubers (roots) of cattails are edible? You can eat them like a potato according to my foraging books.

  10. 9-27

    I never knew these were called “cattails”! As a kid, I thought they were wild corndogs, growing on sticks!

  11. 9-27

    Suzette had the same thing happen to hers that happened to mine. I oredered some online, but when they arrived they had already seeded. I loved the way they look though so I cheated and bought some of the fake ones. Now I can keep them forever. And, yes, I love old chairs too and they should never be painted. Adds to their charm. xxoo

  12. 9-27

    Great post and pictures, Suzanne. I love cattails, too! I wish I had some around here. Hm, just checked, nothing but concrete and asphalt. :( I miss living in the country.


  13. 9-27

    Coco is funny. I think she could fly if she really tried to catch that wind.

    Great arrangements, Suzanne.

  14. 9-27

    roflmao Kayis!

    My cats won’t let me have cattails!!!

  15. 9-27

    :mrgreen: Coco…sweetie pup!!! I just wish I could hug you!!! Love on you!!

    I am going to have to come back and read the Cattail story…as I am rushed…but it looks very interesting!

  16. 9-27

    I live in a very small,and already crampacked full of stuff, house! I like to do the decorating too, but can’t do much anymore. :no: I love all forms of plants…except maybe poison ivy/oak and stinging nettles. LOL

  17. 9-27

    Beautiful photos. I have not seen cattails in years. When we lived in Idaho, I was able to walk down the road to the creek and pick all the cattails I wanted……not so anymore what with living in the high desert and all.

  18. 9-27

    Great arrangement, Suzanne!

  19. 9-27

    How I miss cattails. Arizona’s missing a lot. :)

  20. 9-27

    Great arrangement! You’ve inspired me to start decorating for Fall too.

  21. 9-27

    gives new meaning to being catty huh

  22. 9-28

    Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen Cattails and I didn’t know a thing about them. They look like corndogs to me! LOL Interesting and so pretty! You are so creative Suzanne!

    My mother used to remove paint and repaint some old pieces – I remember the smells of paint or varnish remover…way back then, she was painting some pieces green (a med/dark pretty green…and burnt orange – I think that was the decor of the 60’s LOL)…and my toy box which I still little rocker I still have..small secretary…she even did an old radio chest, that later was used for thier liquor cabinet/glasses.

  23. 9-28

    I love all of your natural fall decorations. Can I come live there?

  24. 9-28

    I used to be creative and I think I lost every creative bone I have, excuse me while I try to find them. In the meantime, I’ll appreciate yours.

  25. 9-28

    As a kid we would get to pick these and then burn them. The smoke from burning them was supposed to be a natural bug repellent. I don’t know if it was true, but I do remember loving the smell.

  26. 9-29

    Where I grew up the cattails grew in abundance. I used to gather them and put them in old milk cans on my back porch. Now I regret giving away those old milk cans which were my grandfathers when I moved. Dang it!

  27. 8-24

    This is one of the best sites I have ever seen on the computer. I LLLLLLLLLLove it. I enjoy the simple life and making things for myself and my friends and family. Such Great Ideas!!!!!!!!

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