What and when to collect
- Collecting flowers for drying draws attention to many beauties of nature that might otherwise be overlooked. The collector should not wait till summer, with its profusion of blooms, but must be ready to observe and select from springtime's earliest offerings of pussy willow and daffodil.
- The flower garden of course, will supply choice specimens throughout the growing season until frost takes the last little chrysanthemum. But beyond the garden gate this delightful hobby leads you into fields and woods in search decorative shapes, colours, and textures. The lowly milkweed's pod is lined with gold and sumac's torch of crimson berries may be just the right accent needed for striking dried arrangements. In the foliage and berries of autumn you will find that there is much colour to be harvested. A profusion of lovely materials for drying, both flowers and foliage, is to be found in the florist shops at all seasons of the year.
- The hobby of drying flowers enhances the discoveries of travelling. A collector scans new scenes more closely for unusual materials not obtainable at home. Such non-perishable oddities as tornillo pods or cotton pods are brought back from a tip for a double purpose; they give novelty to dried arrangements and serve as mementos too.
Methods of drying
- Flowers and foliage must be died separately and by different methods
- Small compact blooms usually dry well by the old-fashioned technique of hanging. Flowers with large or intricately shaped petals, or heads that must be supported in place during drying, need the silica gel, meal and borax, perlite or sand and borax treatment.
- For foliage too, there is a choice of methods. Leaves pressed between weighted newspapers or magazines will keep their colouring of both summer green or autumnal red and yellow, but will dry flat and brittle. Another process of treating leaves is with glycerine and water, one that will preserve both flexibility and three-dimensional arrangement but usually at the sacrifice of colour stability.
- Grasses can be dried standing upright in a container, thereby bending in a natural curve, or they may be hung by the stems in a bunch.
- Choose the method that promises best results for the material that you have chosen.
1. Hanging Method
- Many flowers dry well by this extremely simple process. If you are too busy, or lack space for other methods, you can easily hang them and still have lovely material for winter bouquets. Flowers used in the beautiful arrangements in the exhibition buildings of Colonial Williamsburg are all dried in this manner and are in keeping with the custom practiced in that era.
- Tie flowers in loose bunches and hang heads down until they are dry. Space is saved by using a wire coat hanger from which several bunches of flowers may be suspended. To tie and hang the flowers easily, wind an elastic band several times around the stems, loop it over the wire of the hanger and catch it again in ends of the stems. The bunches can be removed easily with a slight jerk or pull.
2. Surrounding and Covering Method
- This is a more complicated method in which flower heads are surrounded and covered by a medium that holds the petals and other parts of the flower in place during dehydration. For this purpose there is a choice of materials that may be used. These are silica gel, meal and borax, perlite, and sand and borax.
- The most perfect results are obtained with the silica gel; however, there are the other mediums that may be used. Meal and borax are very satisfactory and dry all flowers extremely well. Perlite, or sand and borax, also bring good results.
- The general principle of dehydration is the same no matter which of the mediums you choose to use, but the silica gel must be handled quite differently as its affinity for moisture makes it imperative that it be kept in an airtight container at all times.
Preparing the Flowers
- All flowers, unless other wise noted, should be cut when they first come into full bloom. It is safest, of course, to dry them immediately but if this is not convenient and they have been well conditioned, it will do no harm to delay dehydration for a short time. To condition, place flowers in deep, slightly tepid water overnight or for at least five or six hours.
- If drying must be delayed for several days, flowers should be kept in the refrigerator. In extreme cases it will often be possible to keep them fresh for a much longer period by means of the following method. Make sure that there is no dew or other moisture on any part of the flower. Immediately after cutting put the flowers in a large plastic bag and twist the end, secure it with an elastic band to be certain that it is made airtight and place the bag in the refrigerator. The flowers will then remain fresh for as long as two weeks without ever having been in water. After removing these from the refrigerator recut ends of stems diagonally and condition the flowers in warm water. This no doubt sounds fantastic but try it and see!
- When gathering flowers or other plant material any distance fro home, place them in a small amount of water (exception: glycerine-treated leaves) to keep fresh in transit. If this is not possible and you find that they have wilted somewhat before you reach home, they may very often be revived as follows; flowers such as peonies, roses, dogwood, chrysanthemums and others that have hard or woody stems should be put in hot water in a metal container and left until the water has cooled. First recut the stem ends and crush slightly. Flowers with soft stems, daffodils, for instance, should be put in warm water because they cannot take much heat.
- Before drying, be sure to remove, or dry thoroughly, the wet part of the stem. Also see that there is no moisture on any part of the flower. Strip all foliage from flowers that are to be dried.
- When drying flowers that have no stems of their own, such as hollyhocks that are pinched from the stalk as blossoms bloom and strawflowers that are usually picked very close to the head, a substitute stem must be made before drying. Insert a piece of florist wire into the back of the flower. During dehydration the flower will shrink around the wire, holding it firmly in place. We also add stems to any flowers that require it, after they have dried.
Where to dry
- A dry, dark, warm place should be used for the drying. Attics, closets or hot furnace rooms are ideal but never a garage or an ordinary basement because of the dampness.