There are lots of ways to dry botanicals, (flowers, foliage, seedheads),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 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.
Grow 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.
Only permissible on private land where you have permission. Be mindful because picking native flora is public spaces is against the law and that goes for fallen and dried materials. Stay away from roadside areas that could be sprayed with herbicides and other chemicals.
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.
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.
Dried Display and Care
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’ .
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.
late autumn - temperate areas
You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, artichokes, broad beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, cress, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, shallots, spring onions, silverbeet, spinach, ageratum, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, carnation, cineraria, columbine, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria, lobelia, nigella, pansy, poppy, primula, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, viola, wallflower
Cheralyn is a horticulture author and along with Pete Little,
hosts ‘Home with The Gardening Gang’
8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM96.3
contact via: cheralyndarcey.com
She also writes the weekly 'DOWN IN THE GARDEN' page for the Coast News Newspaper and this originally appeared in The Coast News.