by Don Janssen, Extension Educator
The materials for dried wreaths and other projects will be as close as your garden if you include "everlastings" in your plantings this year. These are garden flowers that are so easy to dry and long-lasting that some plant and seed catalogs even list them under "everlastings".
Though many garden flowers can be dried successfully, those usually recommended for drying include strawflower (Helichrysum bracteatum), sweet Annie (Artemisia annua), statice (Limonium sinuatum), money plant (Lunaria annua), celosia (Celosia), globe amaranth (Gomphrena) and baby's breath (Gypsophila elegans). These are all annuals, grown from seed or planted as transplants in the spring. Perennials for drying include yarrow (Achillea), false spirea (Astilbe X arendsii), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), sea holly (Eryngium planum), baby's-breath (Gypsophila paniculata), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi), perennial statice (Limonium spp.) and a number of ornamental grasses.
Most of the plants recommended for drying require full sun; a few, such as money plant and astilbe, do well in partial shade, so it's easy to incorporate them into your garden plan. Some, such as artemisia and lavender, are at home in the herb garden.
Annuals are usually sown in the garden in the spring or planted as bedding plants. Perennials may be grown from seed, in which case they may not bloom until the second year. Transplants can be planted in spring or fall. Spring-planted ones are more likely to bloom the first year. Annuals bloom only in the planting year unless they seed themselves and volunteer the next year.
To dry most everlastings, simply harvest them as they reach full bloom and hang them upside-down in loose bunches in a warm, well ventilated, shady spot. Avoid exposure to full sun after harvest -- this will fade their colors. Ornamental grasses and plants grown for their colorful seedpods can be allowed to dry in the garden.
Dried flowers and grasses can be used in arrangements in vases or combined with cones, nuts, weed seedpods, gourds, Indian corn and a host of other materials in dried wreaths, centerpieces, swags and other decorative arrangements.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office