Mary Jane McReynolds, Extension Associate
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Flowers blooming in your garden may be dried for use in arrangements
this fall and winter. Drying methods are very easy and the results will
surprise you if you have not tried your skill at preserving flowers before.
For your efforts you can have an excellent collection of materials for
making arrangements, wreaths, and decorating your home long after the flowers
in the garden are done blooming. The easiest method is to air dry plants
by hanging bunches upside down in a dark, dry, well ventilated area, such
as a closet or attic. Select flowers that are near their peak of maturity.
Remove unnecessary foliage and gather the flowers with the stems still
attached into small bunches. Wrap a rubber band around the end of the stems
and with the last loop, attach the stems to a hanger. The drying process
is complete in three to five weeks. It may be worth noting that with strawflowers
you can collect only the flowers themselves and dry them with out their
stems on a screen or in an open box. See the following list of plants suitable
for hang drying.
Borax, corn meal, kitty litter and sand are among the common household items which can be used to dry flowers. An effective, homemade, drying compound can be made from one part borax and three part white cornmeal. Of all the granular desiccants, silica gel is the best to use. It is available at most local craft stores. Silica gel can be used many times, but when the blue indicator crystals turn pink, it has absorbed all the moisture it can. Recharge the gel by heating it in an oven at 225 degrees for several hours to restore the blue color.
Flowers to be dried should be picked just before they are at peak maturity
and the petals are free of moisture. Select flowers that are free of injury
or bruises because these conditions will become more evident after the
drying process. Natural stems may not give the flower enough support when
dry and may be difficult to manipulate and position. Cut off most of the
stem, leaving only about an inch. Stems can be replaced with florist’s
wire after drying. Start the drying process by placing about two inches
of silica gel in the bottom of a shallow container that has a tight fitting
lid, such as a tin or plastic bowl. Carefully place the flowers face up
on top of the silica. Slowly add more silica until the flowers are completely
covered. Replace the tight fitting lid to the container. Generally, one
to three weeks are required to dry flowers in a desiccant. When fully dry,
the plant material will be very brittle. Carefully remove the flowers from
the container. Flowers recommended for drying using a granular desiccant
are included in the following list.
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