Fresh flowers star in several fascinating craft projects. Match your garden's bounty to the project. Roses, for example, may not yield stunning colors for natural dying, but they make excellent jewelry beads. Jasmine, on the other hand, yields a heavenly scent for massage oils after its fresh petals steep in sun-warmed olive or jojoba oil.
By themselves, flowers don't make strong paper material. But fresh petals make lovely "inclusions" when added to sturdier plant fibers. Follow directions for your chosen material; plants like hostas, cattails and daffodil leaves make strong base materials, but "blenderizing" recycled paper is even easier.
Once you've chopped or pounded the plant fibers or recycled paper, add the fresh flower petals. Pour the paper pulp onto a paper frame (this is known as "pulling a sheet") and dry the sheets, following the manufacturer's directions. Alternatively, scatter petals onto the fiber after pulling the sheet, but before it begins to dry. The first method gives the paper a speckled texture, while the latter results in recognizable whole petal shapes sprinkled throughout the stationary. For a delicate effect, author Lesley Bremness suggests using small-petaled botanicals like corn flower, borage or violet.
Many strongly scented flowers, including roses, lavender, honeysuckle, jasmine and orange blossoms, lend their scents beautifully to oil or alcohol extraction. Add petals to olive or jojoba oil, or vodka or perfume-grade alcohol, and allow the mixture to steep on a sunny windowsill for at least two weeks, adding fresh flowers and repeating if you'd like a stronger scent. Use the scented oil for massage oil, moisturizer or as solid perfume when thickened with beeswax. Use the scented alcohol for lighter perfumes. The book "Perfumes, Splashes & Colognes" notes that 100-proof vodka works just as well for floral extraction as perfume-grade alcohol. Add complementary essential oils to add complexity and depth.
Fresh flowers and other botanicals make fascinating, subtle dyes for cotton, silk and wool fabrics. The time-intensive process usually involves three stove top "baths"---one for the fabric and a mordant (a chemical which helps the dye penetrate the fabric) to prepare the fabric for dying; one for the botanicals, to extract their color; and the final bath, in which the prepared fabric is gently simmered in the dye bath.
Flowers often used as natural dyes include chamomile, tansy, safflower, St. John's wort, agrimony and dyer's greenweed. Don't expect the colors to always match the flower. Depending on the mordant and the fabric, a flower like chamomile, for example, will yield a variety of dyes, ranging from vivid yellow to olive green.
Rose bead-making goes back for centuries. In fact, the earliest rosaries were crafted from actual rose petals. One or two bushels will yield a necklace of beads. Chop rose petals in a blender, cover them with water and cook the rose pulp gently for one hour in a cast iron pot, allowing them to cool for one day before reheating the mixture. (Lesley Bremness suggests a rusty pot for a more authentic, darker rosary look). Repeat this process four times, then roll the rose pulp into beads, thread them onto wooden skewers or thick thread, and dry for several days before stringing them onto the necklace or bracelet chain of your choice.
Flower arranging doesn't always spring to mind as a "craft," but in reality some methods, such as ikebana, are true art forms refined over several centuries. Among the sub-categories of the intricate craft are nageire, when floating fresh flowers in bowls, heika for vertical arrangements, and moribana, the art of arranging fresh flowers on a vertical surface.
Of course, Western-style flower arrangements can also be a "crafty" enterprise, in which every aspect of the arrangement, from fresh flowers to dried grasses and the choice of vase adds to the statement. Living wreaths represent another innovative use of fresh flowers as floral arrangements. Either hang the wreaths or lay them vertically for a centerpiece.