Some of us may remember the last time dried flowers were ‘a thing’.
It was the late 1970’s and into the early 80’s and from my memory, the fascination with beautifully dried and arranged botanicals seemed to align with an increased interest in the environment.
The time before this was the Victorian Era, when people had almost an obsession with the sciences, including botany.
Perhaps our recent interest in dried flowers and foliage is bought on by the fact that many of us are spending a lot more time than usual at home.
In this space we are exploring lost and new ways of connecting with our immediate surroundings and our environment.
Collecting and drying found and harvested botanicals is as popular as it is rewarding and is a way to extend the use of both your garden and plants.
HOW TO DRY FLOWERS AND FOLIAGE
There are lots of ways to dry botanicals including the use of presses, silica and commercial freeze drying but I want to share with you the gentle and the more natural way of letting your specimens slowly release the moisture of life on their own and become something that is still indicative of their living form.
You will need a place that is very well ventilated, shaded to dark and cool to dry your botanicals.
Hanging them upside-down in bunches is the method that suits most but make sure that flower and seed heads are not touching each other.
Bind bunches no more than the thickness of two or three fingers with elastic bands that can be tightened, if need be, as the bunches dry. I use part of a patio that is rather dim and also the darker areas of my garage.
Some flowers need support as they dry, and a clever idea is to thread them through a soil sieve suspended from the ceiling.
Another way that is popular uses wire racks.
This method works best if the racks are resting on a supports or legs so that air can circulate completely around the botanical materials.
Finally, the evaporation method works well for plants that need a slower process.
Strip leaves from stems and place in fresh full vase of water. Place in a cool dim area and leave until water evaporates.
GROWING YOUR OWN
Although you can dry and use just about anything in your arrangements, some plants are better for the job than others.
So, let’s firstly explore what you could grow in your garden.
When selecting plant material, you will always find that stems that are woody rather than fleshy always dry best and will be far easier to handle and less likely to break.
This list is just a tiny fraction of suitable plants and the best drying method.
Everlasting Daisies (Xerochrysum bracteatum) Hang. Cut before flowers fully open.
Banksia Evaporation or hang dry.
Kangaroo Paw Hang. Cut stems low on plant.
Mulla Mulla Hang. Wait until flowerhead is fully open.
Billy Buttons Hang. Cut stems low.
Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) Hang. Leave leaves on.
Roses (Rosa spp.) Hang singularly or in bunches.
Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila spp.) Evaporation method.
Immortelle (Helichrysum italicum) Hang. Buds and flowers can be used.
Statice (Limonium spp.) Evaporation or hanging. Harvest stems from base of plant.
Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascene) Hang. Cut when flowers are in full bloom and keep leaves on.
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) Hang or flat on wire rack. Harvest when fully open.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) Use the seed heads by cutting when they are still green and hanging to dry.
Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) When flowerheads are being to die, cut stems from bottom of plant. Strip leaves and place in vase of water and let evaporate.
We live in an environment in which collecting materials for drying or even finding armfuls of botanicals that nature has already prepared for us is relatively easy.
Be mindful because picking native flora is public spaces is against the law and that goes for fallen and dried materials.
Also, make sure that you stay away from roadside areas that could be sprayed with herbicides and other chemicals.
Foraging on land that you have permission to do so and with a good knowledge of what you are picking up is advised.
Gum Leaves (Eucalyptus spp.) This foliage makes the most beautiful draping design element which suits circles, wreaths and hanging arrangements.
It can also be wired or wrapped around vines to form shapes.
Harvest small branches when they have begun to naturally droop and dry themselves or have fallen.
Best used when in this semi-dry state and letting dry in your display.
Ferns Cut from plant when they are beginning to lose their structure and droop.
To retain their form these are best dried by pressing although some ferns do look pretty when hung to dry.
They will usually curl.
Palm Leaves Collect when fresh or dried.
They usually dry very well standing or hanging but if you want a bit more control, dry flat on wire racks.
I personally love the stringy way the edges dry but if you prefer, you can trim the leaves to make them neater. Palm leaves make dramatic displays on their own or as background elements to other arrangements.
The Weird and the Wonderful
When foraging or even in your own garden, watch out for empty curled seed heads, interesting sticks and branches, withered dried stems, twisting vines and interesting seed pods.
These can all add amazing texture, colour and interest to your displays.
Dry out by hanging or placing on wire racks. I have also found that the flowers and seed heads of the Allium family, (garlic and chives for example), make brilliant, dried elements for your crafting.
Palm inflorescence are another interesting element that you can usually spy when out and about.
This is the flowering stem of palm trees and dries to look like a twisted little tree.
Popular as well in weaving, if you see one, knock on the door and ask if the homeowner can save the fallen inflorescence branches for you.
The easiest way to display your dried bounty is in a vase, just as you would fresh flowers but don’t miss the opportunity to make wreaths, small posies for gift giving and even hanging dried flower ‘chandeliers’ (my Easter project!).
Locally, I highly recommend the monthly workshop at Coachwood Nursery as the instructor, Ruth Donnelly is not only a local with an amazing insight into what is available for foraging and growing in our area but is a highly experienced florist. The next workshop is this Sunday 28th March at 3pm Everything you need to know about preserving and drying flowers and foliage naturally. Designed for florists and plant lovers of all ages.
To book: 049 1147 448 coachwoodnursery.com
DRIED DISPLAY CARE
Your arrangements will last a very long time but exactly how long will depend on the botanicals you used.
Everything breaks down eventually and deteriorates so they won’t look perfect forever.
You may find a time comes when you will need to send them off to the compost pile.
To keep them looking good longer, position out of direct sunlight and away from wet or damp areas.
Clean regularly with a hair dryer on the cool setting to blow off the dust and you might find a microfiber type feather duster helps with this as well.
I hope these ideas open up another use for your garden and perhaps even the possibility of even creating a commercial opportunity through the growing and/or creation of dried botanicals.
AROUND THE COAST THIS WEEK
Succulent Workshop Saturday 27th March, 3pm Coachwood Nursery & Dried Flowers, Somersby.
Everything you need to know about succulents. Includes plants to take home. To book: 0491147448 coachwoodnursery.com
Dried Flower Workshop Sunday 28th March, 3pm Coachwood Nursery & Dried Flowers, Somersby. Everything you need to know about preserving and drying flowers and foliage naturally. Designed for florists and plant lovers of all ages. Take home a gorgeous flower arrangement that you create on the day. To book: 0491147448 coachwoodnursery.com
Weaving up a Storm, 1 April to 9 May 2021, Gosford Regional Gallery. 9.30am to 4pm daily. Four Central Coast artists explore the possibilities of weaving as a contemporary environmental artform. Free entry.
THIS WEEK YOU COULD PLANT
Artichoke, Asian greens, broad beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrot, cauliflower, coriander, English spinach, leek, lettuce, onion, parsley, radish, rocket, spring onion, calendula, candytuft, carnation, cornflower, delphinium, everlasting daises, foxgloves, godetia, baby’s breath, hollyhock, larkspur, pansy, Iceland poppy.
Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden coordinator and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 – 10am every Saturday on Coast FM.
Send your gardening questions, events and news to: email@example.com