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It's All Cut and Dry: Drying Flowers

Dried Flowers - How to Dry Fresh Flowers

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Strawflower (Helichrysum)

Strawflower (Helichrysum)

Courtesy of "Sonia's Garden" and The New York Botanical Garden

Drying flowers is a wonderful way to preserve the beauty of your garden. For most people dried flowers conjure up images of lavender, strawflowers, and statice. There is, however, a wide range of flowers that can be successfully dried. Below are two techniques for drying flowers.

Air Drying

The easiest way to dry flowers is air drying. Use a pair of flower shears, like the Joyce Chen Flower Shears we offer in our Shop to help you harvest your flowers without crushing their stems. Bundle several stems together. Take a rubber band and slide it over 2–3 stems. Then coil the rubber band several times around the entire bundle of stems, sliding it over 2–3 more stems towards the end of the bunch. The rubber band will look as if you twisted a wire around the stems. As the stems dry, the rubber band will accommodate shrinkage.

Take a paper clip and pull it apart to create an S-shape. Hook one end to the coiled rubber band on your bunch of flowers, and attach the other end to a coat hanger. Hang the coat hanger in a warm, dry closet or attic until the flowers are dry. The drying time will depend on the thickness of the flowers’ stems, humidity, size of the bundle, and air temperature (anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks).

You can also dry thick-stemmed flowers by placing them in a can or jar and dry them standing upright. The stems will not be as straight as flowers dried by the hanging method, but this may soften the look of your dried flower arrangement.

The best way to dry interesting foliage is by laying the leaves flat on an old window screen and placing newspaper on top, so that the leaves do not curl during the drying process.

Silica Gel

Air drying works well for smaller flowers, but for large, fragile blooms the air drying process often shrivels them beyond recognition. Roses, peonies, dahlias, sunflowers, lilacs, zinnias, hyacinths, and daffodils fare much better when they are dried with a desiccant. In fact, if you love roses, like I do, you may find inspiration in Easy and Elegant Rose Design, by Ellen Spector Platt. An instructor at The New York Botanical Garden, Platt provides comprehensive and clear directions that make even the most complicated project possible. She also presents tips for selecting, growing, and preserving roses.

Silica gel is the one of the easiest and most reliable desiccants to use. It is actually not a gel: it looks like white sand with blue crystals. Once the gel has reached its saturation point, the crystals turn pink.

You will need to dry these flowers in a plastic container with a lid. Place one inch of silica gel in the empty container. For hyacinths, lilacs, and daffodils, you will be drying the entire plant intact. For other flowers, separate the flower from the stem, leaving 1/8 inch of the stem attached. In some cases, for example peonies, you will have to separate the foliage from the stem as well. Place the different plant parts in the container so that they do not touch each other or the edge of the container.

Slowly cover the flowers, stem, and foliage with silica gel using a measuring scoop. If you bury a flower too quickly, you will bend the petals and ruin the shape of the flower. Cover completely with silica gel. If your container is deep enough, you can preserve two layers of flowers. Flowers take 2–7 days to dry. Slowly pour off the gel to see if they are ready.

Spray dried flowers with a surface sealer to prevent them from re-hydrating or falling apart. Spray flowers outdoors, and place on a sheet of wax paper until they dry. Reattach the flowers and stems with floral wire and floral tape or a hot glue gun.

Reconstructing the flower can be a complicated process. One simple option is to .create a stem out of floral wire and floral tape. Place the floral wire 1/4 inch into the flower and wrap with green floral tape.

Otherwise, the stem and the leaves can be reattached with either floral tape or hot glue. If you have removed the foliage from the stem, cut small segments of floral wire and place them in the stem where the leaves were removed. Do this while the stem is still fresh. Once it has dried, apply hot glue to the wire and position the leaf on the wire. Repeat this process when connecting the flower to the stem. Place the stem in florist foam (Oasis™) when rebuilding the flower, so you do not damage the flower and foliage.

To reuse your silica gel, place in a glass baking dish and heat in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour. All of these supplies can be found at craft stores.

Silica gel is expensive; a more economical alternative is 40% Borax and 60% white corn meal. This recipe takes longer to dry the flowers, so leave them in the container for 2 weeks.

Now you are ready to find the perfect vase for your arrangement. Browse our extensive selection to find one that will add a warm touch to your home décor.

For more gardening tips visit us online at http://www.nybg.org. For great garden and garden-inspired product visit us at www.nybgshop.org.

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