Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dried flowers -Mediums/Gels- (By 4Ernesto)

You can find below information and instructions on how to use mediums in making dried flowers. I hope that those information will be useful to you.

Silica gel, sensational development
- This new chemical compound is expensive, and rather difficult to work with, but the results well merit its use. Exceptionally beautiful are roses, camellias, delphiniums, dahlias, Christmas roses, and daffodils preserved in gel. After continual tests, I am convinced that it is the best of all materials for drying flowers. However, let me assure you that if your time is limited or your pocketbook slim you must not feel that it is a necessity. The other mediums have much to offer; I have been using them for years and know that they will enable you to dry all of the lovely flowers that you could wish. If you decide to invest in silica gel, you should have a minimum of five pounds, but ten or fifteen are preferable. This will be costly but once you have purchased a supply it will last always. I feel that it is impractical to use silica gel for foliage when the other mediums will do just as well, and other methods (glycerine and pressing) are much easier and often better. I advise, in most cases, using silica gel for flowers only.

The different mediums

A. Silica Gel

- Silica gel has many industrial uses, among which are the packaging of baby powders and certain foods such as potato chips and cereals. It is also now being prepared especially for drying flowers and is sold under brand names at garden shops, hardware, chain and drug stores, and by mail order.
- These preparations are composed of a combination of two sizes of the gel, a fine mesh that is white and a small amount of a coarser mesh that is blue. When the blue "Tel-Tale" fades to white or turns pink it is an indication that it has absorbed moisture and cannot be used again until it has been reactivated. This is done by placing it in a shallow pan in the oven at 300 degrees F. until the blue colour returns. It should then immediately be poured into an airtight container and allowed to cool before re-using. Silica gel may be used over and over again.
- Mixing your own silica gel compound is not very practical. It is more expensive than the ready mixed preparations and also the materials are not always available in small quantities. If for some reason, however, you do prefer to make your own mix, here is the formula that I advise: mixes thoroughly 1/3 lb. of 6-16 mesh silica gel (Tel-Tale) with 5 lbs. of 28-200 mesh.
- An interesting feature about silica gel and one that you should know is that it could actually be soaking wet, yet to the touch and all outward appearances it will seem to be "bone dry". For this reason the "Tel-Tale" blue, or indicating grain, is absolutely necessary to let you know by its colour when the gel must be dried out in the oven.

B. Meal and Borax
- Combine ten parts of white cornmeal with three parts borax and mix thoroughly. (If some of this adheres to flowers after drying, it may be shaken off or removed with a small paintbrush.)

C. Perlite Aggregate (crushed volcanic rock)
- This is used in mixing plaster and can be obtained at building supply houses. It is fast acting and very inexpensive.

D. Sand and Borax
- If white corn meal is not available in your vicinity, sand may be used in its place, washed and sifted if necessary. I prefer meal and borax but when sand is lightened with borax in proportions according to weight of the sand you will find it efficient. Heavy sand needs three fourths borax to one fourth sand, whereas fine sand requires only one fourth borax to three fourths sand.
- After you have chosen the medium that you wish to use, the next step is to decide whether the flowers should be dried face-up (example, peonies), face-down (gloriosa daisies), or horizontally (spike of delphinium).

Drying flowers face-up
- Many flowers dry best face-up, their stems hanging straight down. To accomplish this follow the directions below:

Silica Gel (Face-up)
- Obtain a 50 lb. lard tin from your hardware store. Cut a strip of corrugated cardboard seven or eight inches wide to fit inside and around the lower part. Place on top of this a circular piece of two-inch Styrofoam that has been cut one fourth of an inch smaller than circumference of the can.
- In order that this may be easily removed make a handle by inserting a folded piece of rather heavy florist wire through the centre, leaving a three-inch loop for the handle on top and bending the underneath wires at right angles to make secure.
- Honeycomb the Styrofoam with an ice pick, or other similar object, so that when stems of flowers are put through they will hang straight down while the heads are supported and will remain on top.
- To prevent the silica gel fro trickling through the holes when flowers are being covered, place on top of the Styrofoam a thin piece of cotton, either absorbent or batting, that has been cut one inch wider than the Styrofoam.
- Now you are ready to put flowers into the can. To do this, lift the cotton slightly to find where the holes have been pierced and draw stems of the flowers through both the cotton and the Styrofoam. Be sure that the cotton is well around the stems and that the heads of the flowers left on top are not touching. Gently pour the silica gel under, around and between the petals until the flowers are lightly but completely covered. Take great care not to bend or disarrange any part of the flower and last, but not least, be very certain that the tightly fitted lid is firmly pressed on the can immediately.
- You will find that when this medium is used the stems do not always dry as quickly as the heads of the flowers; therefore it is wise to hang them until they are thoroughly dry, before using.
- If you wish to dry a few flowers only, ones with very short stems, a cake or candy tin or other sealable container may be used. If you place a one-inch piece of Styrofoam, cut to fit, in the bottom of the can it will save a great deal of silica gel. The stems may then be inserted and covered as directed above. If container is not perfectly tight, seal the lid with freezer tape.
- When sufficient time has been allowed for dehydration, carefully pour off and save the silica gel, and remove flowers from the Styrofoam.

Other Mediums (Face-up)
- Use a heavy cardboard or corrugated box about three inches in depth propped over a carton eight or more inches high. Punch holes in the shallow box far enough (apart for heads of the flowers) not to touch and large enough for the stems to go through. Proceed in the same manner as that described for covering with silica gel, only it is not necessary to cover the box.

Drying flowers face-down or horizontally

All mediums
- If flowers are to be dried face-down, or horizontally, cover bottom of the can or box with an inch or more of the medium you have chosen. Holding the flower slightly above this, lightly fluff it up, under, around and over until the flower is barely covered. Put only one layer in each can or box. Clusters of flowers may also be dried in this way. Stems need not be covered.

Time required for drying
- The time needed for dehydration depends upon a number of things; temperature, humidity, medium used and moisture content of the flower. A marigold, for instance, will take as long as three weeks while a hollyhock will take only a few days. All flowers in silica gel dry more quickly than in other mediums. A sure test of their dryness is to brush aside a little of the medium and if the petals are crisp to the touch they will be thoroughly dry. If the hanging method is used the testing is simple.

Additional heat for quick drying
- It is sometimes desirable to hasten the drying time of certain flowers. This may be accomplished by placing the box, or can, containing the flowers, on top of a furnace. Watch the flowers carefully and remove from the heat as soon as they are dry, or they will become too brittle. Any flower desired in a hurry may be dried in this way.
- If you use the hanging method and desire quick drying, suspend flowers directly over the furnace.

Combining fresh and dried material
- Sometimes, to give an extremely naturalistic effect, dried flowers may be used with fresh evergreen foliage. If well conditioned, all foliage of this type will last for several weeks so that the arrangement will be semi-permanent. To condition, crush ends of the stems an inch or more and submerge the entire branch ten to twelve hours. When the foliage fades it will be a simple matter to replace with fresh evergreens. Hemlock seems to be a misunderstood evergreen. Frequently it has appeared in print that the needles are inclined to drop, making it impractical to use in arrangements. Our opinion is that when this happens the hemlock has not been thoroughly conditioned. If treated as directed above and always kept in water, it will definitely last for at least two weeks. Possible, if kept in an extremely hot and very dry room, the needles might drop, but under normal conditions it is long-lasting and dependable.
- In making the arrangement be certain that the stems of the dried flowers do not touch the water in the container. In order to accomplish this attach a florist pick to the end of the stem.
- Another suggestion which I highly recommend is the combination of dried pussy willows with fresh daffodils or other flowers. The season for pussy willows being so short we think that it is very advantageous to dry them, after which one can scarcely distinguish them from those freshly cut.

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