Drying Flowers for Everlasting Beauty
By: Braddock Bull
My first attempts to dry flowers were less than spectacular. Some flowers didn't dry at all: They composted. Countless others turned out well, if you like the color brown.
Since then, I've learned that what you dry is just as important as how you dry it. The drying techniques that I describe work for all flowers.
Grow It and Dry It
All of the plants listed are widely available from catalogs and garden centers. The chances are good that you have one or more of them in your garden already. If not, don't despair; you can experiment by drying ones you do have.
Flowers that dry well are typically colorful, compact, strong-stemmed, and relatively low in moisture content. Also, you don't need a field full of these flowers. Just three or four plants of each type will yield enough stems for several dried arrangements.
Plants that you intend to dry don't need any special culture. Grow them according to instructions on the seed packet.
Harvest stems just as the first flowers reach maturity. Don't wait too long. Flowers on the upper stem area may be partially closed, but that's fine. The best time of day to cut is midmorning, after the dew has dried but well before any flowers wilt. Dampness can lead to mold and slows drying. If you live where the weather is often rainy, harvest when the plants are dry even if it means cutting them a little early. Do not wait out the weather and harvest damp or overmatured plants.
Take as much stem as possible, because you'll need long stems for bunching and for height in the arrangements. All of the flowers on my list should be dried with their natural stems; however, some other flower heads grow on weak stems or stems that weaken as they dry. In that case, cut the stem so that only an inch remains, then wire the flower head. Wire flowers before drying them; after they're dried, they may shatter.
I recommend that you harvest more flowers than you may need. Many preserved flowers are fragile, and you will undoubtedly lose a few in the drying and storing process.
If you plan to use silica gel or other desiccant to dry flowers, you may wish to cut off all of the stems, leaving only a small portion attached to each blossom. Drying whole stems requires a large amount of desiccant and a large container to position long stems or large flower heads like sunflowers correctly. In that case, air-dry the flower and then attach a wire "stem" as shown in the illustration and wrap with florists' tape to camouflage the wire support.