Drying Flowers for Everlasting Beauty (cont)
By: Braddock Bull
Don't air-dry all types of flowers. Preserve fragile and moist blooms like anemones, daisies, pansies, and zinnias with desiccants such as silica gel or a borax-sand mix. Silica gel isn't a true gel, but a granulated chemical desiccant composed partly of silicon. You can buy silica at florist shops, craft supply stores, and hardware stores. It's not cheap, however. Expect to pay about $15 for a 5-pound bag. The good news is that it can be reused indefinitely. Most silica gel products are blue when dry enough to use, but turn pink when they've absorbed moisture. (Some silica products are white.) If the silica you have has turned pink, dry it out by baking it in a 200°F oven until it turns blue, and cool it before using or storing in an airtight container.
Many dried flower enthusiasts report that borax crystals work just as well and are much less expensive than silica gel. Mix 3 parts borax with 2 parts dry, silver "hobby" sand. Follow instructions for silica-gel drying, but use at least 2 inches of mix over and underneath the flowers, and double the drying time.
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, faceup, 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.
A Note About Sunflowers. Drying large sunflowers (6 inches or more in diameter) requires some improvisation because of their size. Keep approximately 24 inches of stem attached when you dry sunflowers. Cover the heads with crystals, but let the stems hang over the container's side. Seal it all in plastic kitchen wrap, and leave untouched for at least a week to 10 days. Large sunflowers take a long time to dry, even in silica.