If you've been admiring dried bouquets lately, consider growing your own flowers for drying.
Summer never fades away when you preserve garden blooms for year-round display. The best flowers for drying are everlastings, a special group of annuals that can be air-dried without losing their color or form. Read on and realize your garden's potential for immortalizing thebeauty of flowers.
Everlastings supply natural materials for dried wreaths, bouquets, and potpourris. For variety in color, texture, and fragrance, grow a mix of flowers and foliage plants that retain their beauty long after summer has passed. You can anticipate flowers by midsummer if you sow seeds in the garden after the last expected frost.
Make borders no more than 4 feet wide so all blooms are within easy snipping reach. Mulch the plants to keep out competing weeds, conserve soil moisture, and prevent mud from splattering and spoiling blossoms.
Finally, remember that a dried bloom is only as beautiful as it was fresh, so take care to pick flawless garden specimens.
Annual statice: Statice supplies sprays of papery flowers on 12- to 30-inch-tall stems. Plants grow and bloom best in moist, fertile soil.
Learn more about statice.
Bachelor's button: One of the easiest annuals to grow, this wildflower produces papery blossoms in blue, purple, white, and pink. It grows from 1 to 3 feet tall.
Learn more about bachelor's button.
Blue salvia: Tiny spiked blooms smother 18-inch-tall Salvia farinacea all summer long. Pair it with the variety 'White Porcelain'.
Learn more about blue salvia.
Globe amaranth: Despite heat and drought, the clover-like flowers of globe amaranth bloom nonstop on stiff, 2-foot- tall stems.
Learn more about globe amaranth.
Sweet Annie: Foliage, not flowers, makes this 5-foot-tall annual popular for drying. Use supple side branches as a silvery foil in wreaths. Crush brittle main stems and use as a fragrant potpourri.
Many everlastings have papery blooms even when they're growing. These flowers readily air-dry hung from racks or rafters. Once you have the hang of it, branch out to other bloomers. With the desiccant silica gel, there's no reason to pass over any flower.
Whatever drying method you choose, pick blooms at their peak. Any basket, crock, or vase can be used for displaying driedflowers. For large bouquets, place florist's foam in the bottom of the container to hold stems in place. Insert dried foliage first. This filler material should be about 112 times the height of the container. Next, add tallerflowers, then medium and small blooms. To make a wreath, buy a wire form or fashion your own with grapevines. Wrap floral wire and tape around shortened stems to secure them to the wreath.
Prolong the beauty of dried flowers by displaying them in a dry room. Humid areas, such as bathrooms, promote mold. Preserve the blooms' rich hues by keeping arrangements away from direct sunlight, which bleaches the natural dyes of flowers.
Air-drying is the simplest way to preserve everlastings and other garden flowers, including statice, strawflower, gomphrena, amaranthus, celosia, salvia, helipterum, lavender, baby's-breath, bells-of-Ireland, coneflower,Russian sage, and safflower. This method also works well for many field flowers, such as goldenrod, yarrow, daisy fleabane, and Queen-Anne's-lace. Pick blooms when they're fully open at midday, after morning dew has dried.Strip the leaves and gather stems into bunches, securing them with elastic bands. Hang the bunches upside down in a dark, dry, ventilated area-such as an attic or shed-for two to three weeks.
Silica gel, a sand-like drying compound, is used for flowers that wither and lose color when air-dried, such as daisy, dahlia, delphinium, marigold, rose, peony, and zinnia. Insert the shortened stems into a 1-inch-deep layer of the granules in an airtight box. Avoid overlapping flowers. Sprinkle more silica gel on top until flowers are covered to a depth of 1 inch. Cover tightly and label with the date and flower name.Exact drying time depends on species and bloom size, but check flowers after three or four days. When petals feel papery, brush away the granules, removing blooms carefully. Store the reusable silica gel in a tightly sealed container.
Store small bunches of dried flowers in a tissue-lined cardboard box until you need them for arrangements. Place flower bunches in layers, separating layers with small pieces of tissue paper. Don't combine flowers preserved by different means in the same box. To prevent crushingthe fragile blooms, loosely overlay bunches so that individual blossoms do not touch each other. Some flowers, such as salvia, are hygroscopic, meaning they readily absorb moisture from the air. For this reason, it's important to keep boxes in a warm, dry area. Use a dehumidifier and a fanto thwart mold problems. Seal boxes with masking tape to keep pests out.
Safflower Here's a cute curiosity that sports a tuft of orange "hair" on top. Pick stems of annual safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) as soon as the flower "hair" fluffs out. After drying, blooms will redden and shrink.
Russian sage Shrubby Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is at home in all borders. Dainty blooms and downy foliage create a smoky effect by the spiky blooms of globe thistle.
Munstead lavender The most fragrant of all lavenders, this dwarf English variety grows 12 to 18 inches tall. A variably hardy perennial, this plant bears deep-purple blooms all summer long.
Bells-of- Ireland Named for the green, bell-shape calyxes on its 2- to 3-foot-tall stems, this annual adds a tone of its own to bouquets. A lemony-mint aroma remains after drying. Dried bells crumble easily.
Statice Statice comes in a rainbow of hues, including yellow, blue, lavender, red, salmon, white, and rose. Cut blooms when fully open. Flowers dry best hung upside down.
Flamingo Feather celosia Plumed celosias come in yellow, cream, orange, red, and pink. These annual blooms last all season; pick just before frost.
Strawberry Fields gomphrena The first true red gomphrena, this hybrid retains its color indefinitely in a bouquet. Also available are yellow, pink, and white varieties; the dwarf purple strain, Buddy; and a deep pink and white bicolor bloom.
German statice Unlike the everblooming annual, perennial statice (Limonium tatarica) blooms only in early summer. But the broad, white flower heads are worth the effort.
Globe thistle A prickly bed- fellow for other perennials, globe thistle (Echinops Ritro) is actually more colorful prior to blooming. For drying, cut flowers before the spiny, blue bracts open to reveal a brown hue inside.
Cockscomb celosia Cockscomb (or crested) celosias come in many bright colors. Because of high moisture content, dry blooms in a hot, ventilated area to prevent mold growth.
Tassels of red or maroon blooms dangle
from amaranthus, giving this 3- to 5-foot-tall annual its nickname, love-lies-bleeding. Pick blooms just before frost. Quick to dry, they hold their color well.
A more lavender lavender Would you guess this is the same species shown above? Poorer soil produces a truer lavender hue. Cut stems before lower blooms fully open. Add aromatic leaves and blossoms to potpourris.
Autumn Joy sedum Pick the flower heads of this sedum in early fall, when the tiny green blooms open to reveal a rosy glow. The plants require a long time to dry.