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Season for dried flowers and foliage

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 Air-dried flowers and plant materials

Air-dried flowers and plant materials

Dried and preserved plants materials are popular for floral arrangements and home decoration.

Why dry flower and plants?
Dried plant materials provide distinctive indoor decoration. Dried floral arrangements, both formal and informal preserve the graceful lines, textures, and colors of flowers and foliage with a subtle and gentle aged appearance. Many preserved materials will last almost indefinitely with little care. That is why they are also known as perpetuals. If they become dusty, a careful whisk with a soft brush is usually sufficient to clean them. Dried materials can be used in vases, baskets, plaques, wreaths, shadow boxes, and fresh flower arrangements. They can also be used as wall decorations, as decorations on gift boxes, corsages, and leis. Pressed flowers and leaves framed under glass take on a fresh life-like appearance. You can dry your favorite blossoms at home and keep your house full of flowers, even when they are out of season.

History
Preserving plants in a dried form is not a new idea; it has been considered an art for centuries. Fragrant dried herbs were encased with mummified bodies in Egyptian pyramids. Traditionally, herbalists have used various dried plant materials in ethno botanical medicine, a practice that is still popular today. Dried herbs and spices derived from plants are used in many culinary styles. Dried flowers arrangements have been popular in Europe for hundred of years. During the Middle Ages, monks dried flowers, foliages and herbs for use in decorative motifs or for making dyes to color their hand-printed books, and as early as 1700, Colonial Americans used dried flowers to brighten their homes, especially during the dark winter months. Restored Williamsburg, capital city of colonial Virginia state (1699-1780) and historic city of America Revolution, presents numerous examples of these designs. With the development of some new preservation techniques, dried materials that are available commercially and those preserved at home with modern methods are almost unbelievably fresh looking and represent a wide range of colors.

Collecting plant materials
Almost any plant part-flowers, foliage, or stems can be dried naturally or artificially. Many interesting and decorative gourds, seed pods, nuts, flowers, fruits, even small graceful trees branches can be obtained by taking a walk in the forests, fields, along roadsides. Nature, with its seasonal variability, offers all the time a tremendous diversity of colors, textures, forms and sizes of plant materials from which to select, the only limitation being the collector’s imagination. There is no one time of the year to collect materials for drying, since plants can be collected every month and stored for future use. However, the best time to consider doing air-drying is the harmattan season, taking advantage of its dry crisp air for gathering the abundant plant materials and utilizing natural air-drying method.

There are two general types of dried materials, those collected in an already dry condition and those picked fresh and in need of artificial drying. Flowers and other plant materials should be picked close to their prime. Flowers to be air-dried continue to open, as they dry, so should not be fully open when picked. They will continue to open slightly as they dry, and a fully open flower may lose its petals. Flowers and other plants material for drying may be collected during their growing season.

Always collect more materials than is needed, to allow for damage and inevitable loss that occurs both in the drying process and the subsequent makeup of a design. Poor shapes dry as poor shapes. Use only plants free of insects and diseases damage. Damage becomes more obvious after drying. Pick flowers when they are free from dew and rain. Generally, fresh materials should be picked at midday, when water and food stored in plants are at low levels. Use shears or sharp knife to cut the materials. Place stems promptly in a container of water to prevent wilting while gathering.

Naturally dry materials
Some grasses, reeds, pines and other conifers, and most seedpods dry naturally. They should be harvested when they are in good condition, before they become weathered in appearance. Exceptions like cattail however, should be picked when they first turn brown, while the flowers are still visible at the top of the spike.

Usually some grooming is all that is needed for collected materials. However, cones and pods may need to be washed in water and a mild detergent. Fragile seed heads, such as that of pampers grass and mature cattails, may be sprayed with air spray or other aerosol lacquers or plastics to prevent shattering as they age. Remove seeds from pinecones to prevent shedding, which may occur at a later time.

Air-drying
This is the simplest method and costs almost nothing. It takes little time and skill and nearly always produces satisfactory results. Many garden flowers, as well as wild plants, can be dried simply by hanging them upside-down in a warm, dry place that is well ventilated for several weeks.

Steps for air-drying
Cut flowers of good quality in prime condition or slightly immature.

Remove foliage from stems. If stems are weak or become brittle after drying, remove them and wire the flowers.

Group the stems into small bunches with rubber band, which will pull tighter as the stems shrink during drying.

The rubber band shouldn’t press so hard that it creases the stem; this can cause damp pockets and lead to rot. If you’re concerned about this tie the bunch with twine or raffia instead. You may need to re-tie the twine halfway through drying.

Hang upside down in a warm, dry, dark area to prevent rot and minimize fading. Air circulation helps the flower dry and prevents mold, so keep the bunches spaced in an area with a good cross-ventilation, at least 6 inches (15cm) below the ceiling. You can hang flowers from hooks, nails, or coat hangers. One easy way to do this is with a paper chip bent into an s-shape. Poke one end underneath the rubber band, and the other end over the hook.

This method works best for small, sturdy blossoms such as bachelor’s button, baby’s breath, cockscomb, honesty (money plant), daisy-like flowers Eucalyptus. Large flowers such as hydrangeas, roses should be dried individually. Strawflowers and some other species have weak stems that break apart when dried. Cut the stem off instead and thread florist’s wire through the base of the flower. Do not place the material in a warm oven or in front of electric heaters to speed up the process, which can be dangerous, but some air circulation is necessary to prevent growth of mold and to allow proper drying, which normally takes two or three weeks to dry, depending on the thickness of the stems and foliage.

The fleshier the flower or foliage, the more time it will take. The flower is ready when the petals are crisp to the touch. Occasionally a bunch will take longer than four weeks usually because the room isn’t ideal or the flower petals are unusually thick. The stems usually dry completely straight. If you want a more natural curved look, submerge the stem in warm water until soft. Bend them which way you like and hold them in position with weights until they dry again.

Creating dried flower arrangements is a fun hobby and which could turn into a lucrative job.



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