DRIED flowers, grasses, grains seed heads, pine cones and other plant materials such as stem, bark are popular materials for decorative perpetual floral arrangements and other craft projects.
Using a wide variety of plant material gives the best results, and one may find an assortment of usable plants throughout the year. A preservation method exists for just about any type of plant or flower depending on how much time and expense you want to commit to the project.
Its good to have a supply of dried flowers on hand for things like wreaths, perpetual arrangements, bouquets, sachets, other crafts such as jewelry making from plant materials, artistic compositions or any creations coming from one’s imagination.
Harvesting and drying many flowers throughout the growing season ensures a plentiful supply when the time comes to arrange them.
Harvesting and Timing
No matter which drying method you choose, harvest flowers at the correct time, just before they reach their peak or close to their prime. The best time to harvest your everlasting (or perpetual) plants is in the morning before the blossoms are fully opened, but after the dew has dried. Taking them while they are only partially in bloom is best because they continue to open as they dry. Flowers that have passed their prime do not dry or hold their color well.
Choose flowers or seedpods that are close to perfect looking as possible because flaws like insect attacks become more obvious once they’ve dried.
Amount: Always dry more than you think you could possibly use. Not only may you discover more ways to use them but dried arrangements often need more material for a finished look. As with any project involving fragile material, you may destroy quite a few pieces until you become accustomed to working with dried material.
How to dry flowers and plant materials:
They are many ways to create dried flowers, but we are only going to consider the most practical, easy and effective methods.
Air Drying: The Hang and Dry Method
For the hang-drying method, generally fresh materials to be dried or preserved should be picked just before midday, when water and food stored in the plant parts are at a low levels. Collect foliage at the peak of its growing season, and pick flowers in perfect or near perfect condition at early maturity, but not quite at full bloom. Avoid flowers that are damaged or defective. Use a sharp knife or shears to cut the material and place them in water to keep them from wilting.
Since stems dry very slowly and add unwanted bulk, remove them from flowers, leaving only an inch or two to which a wire may be fastened. Remove leaves from branches that are to be preserved. Groom foliage so that only the desired portion is dried. Next, find a dry area with good air circulation to hang your flower bunches, like your garage, basement, attic, spare room, garden shed, or even a closet with louvered windows.
Air Drying is by far the simplest and least expensive and old -fashioned method used to dry leaves and flowers. It takes a little time and skill and nearly always produces satisfactory results. All flowers or stems that are semi dry and that do not wilt easily can be used. Use a drying rack (an old window screen works fine) for individual specimen or tie them in small loose bunches with rubber bands or twist ties and hang upside down in a cool well ventilated room. Large flowers should be hung individually. Be sure to hang them so that the flower bunches don’t touch each other while drying. No rule says materials must be hung upside down, but often works best. The least damage occurs to materials neatly hung in small bundles, and stems remain straight. Don’t place material in a warm oven or in front of electric heaters to speed up the process because this can be dangerous, but some circulation is necessary to prevent growth of mold and to allow proper drying. Flowers usually take one to three weeks to dry, depending on the thickness of stems and foliage. The fleshier the flower or foliage, the more time it will take to dry.
Some flowers retain their best color if dried in the dark. Covering plant materials in paper bags works well if the drying room is too light.
Using a microwave oven for drying flowers is another method to preserve flowers and other plant materials. Microwave drying, which takes only a few minutes in the oven, provide materials that looks fresher and more colorful than that obtained by other method.
What to Do.
Use a microwave safe container
Use a silica gel or borax-sand mixture to support the flowers
Leave the container uncovered and put a cup of water in the oven to prevent excessive drying.
Let flowers stand after drying to finish drying and cooling.
How long-Drying time varies with the materials, African Daisy, marigold, chrysanthemum, pansy heating time like 3 minutes and 10 minutes standing time after heating. Cooking times vary, depending on characteristics of the leaf or flower. After cooking, allow the water to cool and leave the flowers to dry in the drying agent for several hours. Some specimens may need an overnight standing period when using a microwave oven. Experiment with length of cooking time and length of time that the dried flowers should remain in the desiccant before you remove them.
The colors and forms of many leaves and some flowers can be preserved by placing them between layers of newspaper or pages of a catalogue and weighting the top with a heavy flat object.
Foliage should dry with a week, flowers in two weeks. Wires can be added to stems later for ease of arranging. Flat or single flowers work best, double or thick ones may mold before they dry. Sprays of small flowers may be readily pressed and dried. Ferns dry well in this manner, as do branches of thin-leaved foliage and leaves.
Fresh plant materials can be dried by one of the methods described. Whichever method is used, the principle of drying flowers or leaves is the same: to remove moisture slowly while at the same time maintaining as much of the original shape and texture as possible.
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