In the meantime, though, while out on a walk with my daughter we discovered these wonderful little seed pods on some of the landscaping plants -- dried out in the 100+ degree heat of South Carolina. Note the little seeds on the plate. We started with a dozen pods of different sizes.
And thus was a project forged. Follow along as my assistant demonstrates the method.
Simply dip the pods into the stain and place them on a paper plate (the type with a waxy coating) to dry. Now theses pods soaked up a LOT of stain, so "to dry" here means "turn occasionally," "move to a fresh paper plate occasionally," and "wait at least 2 days".
I was worried about the fragile stems of the pods, but after the dip they are hard as rock. They've been cat-tested and survived. Next is a drybrush and mounting them on a base. Total active time: ~ 15 minutes