Want to make your garden’s summer flowers last all year? Ok, the easiest way is to bring your garden flowers indoor and dry them.
* First: Harvesting Flowers
It is best to cut your flowers in the morning hours after the dew has evaporated from the plants. Once cut, group stems into bunches using rubber bands (pure rubber rubber bands work best) and remove them from the sunlight as soon as possible.
There are definite developmental times which are best for cutting flowers for drying. This can be very specific for different plants or even different cultivators of the same plant. In general, it is best to pick immature flowers (ones that are not completely open) since flowers continue to open during the drying process. If you pick a flower at the time that it looks perfect, it will continue to open while drying, leaving you with a flower past that ‘perfect stage’. Most people pick flowers too late. For example, have you ever seen a pretty dried rose? If you really look at it, the flower is still fairly closed. Avoid harvesting flowers too mature in development. Such flowers will generally shed upon drying and will not hold up well in arrangements.
We offer specific picking and growing recommendations for each flower we grow. Just click on any dried flower name on any of our lists to obtain a wealth of specific information including pictures!
* Second: Preserving Flowers
With only a few exceptions, we air dry all our flowers. We simple hang flower bunches upside down on wire (over two miles of it is stretched in our circa 1860 barns). The barns offer ideal conditions: 1) darkness; 2) very good airflow; 3) cool updrafts; 4) perfect (usually) humidity levels. Once you have cut your flowers, it is important to remove them from the sunlight as soon as possible. This, along with drying in the dark, is the most important factor in maintaining good color.
1)How to Hang Flower Bunches
Suspend a 1/2-inch-diameter horizontal pole or pipe from the ceiling. If fastening hooks into your ceiling or walls is not an option, use tripods or two high-backed chairs to support the pole. A bent paper clip makes a perfect hanger for your bunches. Put newspaper or a drop cloth on the floor under the hanging bunches to catch fallen leaves, seeds, and petals. Hang bunches far enough apart to allow good air circulation.
2) How Long to Hang Flowers to Dry
The drying process takes from 10 to 20 days, depending on the plant. When dried, the stems should snap. You must test the flowers for dryness. Dissect one or two, and make sure the flowers” insides are thoroughly dry.
Some flowers, such as delphiniums, keep their color better if dried quickly near sources of warm air such as a heater. Large, many-flowered blooms such as dill, fluffy grasses, and Queen Anne”s lace, should be dried upright, not hanging upside down.
3) How to Dry Flowers with Silica?
Silica-gel drying is done in shallow, airtight, plastic (or glass) containers or trays. I dry many flowers at once using a 10- by 18-inch airtight plastic container. Yours need not be that big, but make sure that the flowers aren’t crowded. Spread the flowers out, face up, on a 1-inch (minimum depth) bed of crystals. Carefully spoon or sprinkle more silica on top until you’ve completely covered the flowers with at least another inch of crystals. Drying flowers with single-petal structures, such as daisies, facedown is another technique, but my results have been identical using both approaches. To dry flowers facedown, create a small mound for the flower head, place the flower head facedown on it, and add silica over the flower until it is covered. Flowers can be almost touching, and because similar kinds of flowers dry at the same rate, you may wish to group similar blooms in the same container. Seal the container, and don’t disturb it for three to four days.
Remove delicate blossoms very carefully. Shake or brush off the crystals lightly with a soft artist’s paintbrush. Leaving flowers in desiccant too long makes them very fragile, so remove flowers right away once you’ve determined that they’re dry enough.
4) How to Use Sand to Dry your Flowers?
Sand must be very fine, clean, dry, and preferably salt free. Sifting is recommended to remove coarse grains and foreign particles. Rinsing the sand in water several times to remove any soil is also recommended. Damp sand can be dried in an oven by placing in shallow pans and baking at 250 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Be sure to use only flowers in their prime and process them quickly to prevent wilting.
To dry with sand, place an inch or two of sand in a container; scoop away a small amount of sand to form a depression on the surface; place the flower head upright in this depression and press the sand in and around the outside of the flower to support it. Next, scoop a little sand into your hand and allow it to trickle in a fine stream around each petal. Start with the outer petals and work inward row by row, allowing the sand to build up equally on all sides of each petal so its position and shape are not altered. Flowers dried with sand are fragile so be very careful when removing them from the sand. Notice that flowers must be stored in a strong carton to protect the petals from breaking.
5) Using a Microwave Oven to Dry Flowers
The latest and fastest method to dry flowers is to use a combination of silica gel and a microwave oven.
With the use of a microwave, you can now dry your flowers very quickly. Flowers should be gathered at their peak or else they will turn brown. Use any of the drying agents (silica gel, sand, borax) in a container deep enough to cover the bloom. Leave a 1/2 inch stem on the flower, and place it face up on a 1/2 inch layer of drying agent. Carefully sprinkle enough agent to cover the flower, and place it in the microwave along with a small bowl of water. Do not remove the flowers from the agent immediately, but set them aside for several hours. Listed below are some times for drying flowers in a microwave.
By using air drying and other methods also, many flowers can be preserved for year-round enjoyment. Plan now to include some flowers in your garden for drying, and check nearby fields and road sides throughout the summer and fall for more dried plant materials.
* Third: Care of Dried Flowers
Routine dusting can be accomplished using a real feather duster or hair blow dryer on it’s lowest setting.
* Last: Storing and Enjoying Dried Flowers
We recommend wrapping the flowers in newspaper and placing them in a cardboard box. Do not store the box containing the dried flowers where it is unusually damp (some basements) or very dry (some attics). Also, a lot of people think you should never store dried flowers outside (it would be way to cold). This is simply not true. Temperatures are not important. In fact, a garage can be an ideal place for storing dried flowers. Actually, if your home is heated by forced air, the preferred place to store dried flowers would be in a outside building away from the dry heat.
In general, dried flowers should remain out of direct sunlight while you enjoy them in their final state. This will minimize fading over time. We also suggest not to place dried flowers in the path of forced air heat registers. This extremely dry air is very hard on dried flower structure (causes shattering).
Suggestion for use of dried flowers would include wreaths, swags, sheaths, bouquets, and sprays. Simply hanging dried flowers in a room can be very appealing. Also, placing clusters of bunches in a basket, as though you just came in from a garden, is most attractive.
Caution: if you do store your dried flowers outside, make sure you protect them from small rodents and insects (a few mothballs will work).
Finally, I should to say that drying flowers can be addictive! Before long, wreaths will adorn all your doors, and swags will hang from every wall. And they’ll all have come from your own garden. Talk about an extended season! You’ll soon see why dried flowers are often called “everlastings”.