Now that the growing season is in full swing, you can increase your stock of favorite plants by starting new ones through division and cuttings. Plant Propagation: The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques, by Alan Toogood (DK Publishing, Inc., 1999; $35), features some more unusual and specialized techniques for starting your favorite plants, along with the more common methods of propagation. The illustrations make the processes easy to understand, which should increase your success rate.
Clever Gardening Technique
Lavender flowers are beautiful in the garden, but they make great flowers for dried arrangements, as well. The key to having the most aromatic lavender wands, potpourri, and dried arrangements is the timing of the harvest. Cutting the flowering stems at the right time of day and in the right stage of maturity ensures the flowers and stems will be full of those oils essential for fragrance. The best time to harvest lavender is following a few days of dry weather, during the late morning after any dew has evaporated.
When I harvest flowers for everlastings, I check the flower heads daily and collect them at the swollen bud stage, when just one or two of the flowers have opened on the stalk. Harvesting them at this stage will preserve their dark color and ensures that the flowers will stay attached to the stalk when they have fully dried. Cutting them once they have passed this stage can result in shattered flower heads and bleached-out colors.
I use only the deep lavender colored flowers for drying. The white and pink colored varieties tend to turn odd colors when they dry, which isn't very attractive in an arrangement, but perfect for potpourri because they still retain their lavender scent.
To dry the flower stalks, I lay them out in rows on newspapers and place them in a cool, dark room. Keeping the flowers out of sunlight helps preserve their color. Or, instead of laying them flat, you can hold several stems in your hand and tie the ends of the stems together to hang from a hook where they will air-dry. It usually takes 10-14 days for them to dry completely.