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Drying Flowers-The Dos and Donts


Drying flowers is pastime in itself both as a hobby and for the purposes of preserving a valued sentimental flower, bouquet, or floral arrangement. If flowers are dried you can continue to enjoy their beauty, preserved as close to their natural state as possible. As with fresh flowers, it is possible to create decorative centrepieces for your home, with the added bonus that they take little looking after. It is a great way to enjoy flowers in your home throughout the winter months, and prolong that little suggestion of the summer sun.

The Dos and the Donts

To enjoy the best results when drying your flowers always pick them, in dry weather. Picking flowers after rain can make the flowers mouldy as moisture gets caught in between the petals and leaves. This can be tricky though if you were given the flowers and are unsure of the weather conditions when they were picked! Most flowers should be picked when they are at their peak and are starting to open up. It is generally the case that if you wait too long the petals can fall off. Once picked, there are several methods that you can try to make your own dried flowers. You can go on to experiment with a whole new look in floral arrangement.

Flower Pressing

This is an easy and popular way of drying flowers, and is very useful for drying single specimens. All you need to do is press the flower between the pages of a book or newspaper and keep it pressed with a weight. There are special plant presses available. Pressing in books however is not the most practical method for large flowers or for many plants at a time. The flowers which react best to this method include violets, larkspur, pansies and ferns.

Air Drying

Air drying flowers naturally in the air produces some of the best results. It is the most common method used for large-scale drying operations. The flowers should be bound together in small bundles of the same type of flower using ribbon, twine, or raffia. Strip them of leaves after picking as these hold water and as such slow the drying process. Hang the flowers upside down in a dark room or at least out of direct sunlight to avoid spoiling the color retention. The room used needs to be well ventilated to aid the process and prevent rotting. To hang the flowers use either hooks, poles or wires, and keep some distance between each bunch so that the air can circulate throughout.

Depending on the type of flower and the atmosphere in which they are drying, the flowers can take from one week to about a month to dry. Monitor the process, and check if the binding needs to be re-tied as the flowers dry and shrink. Once dried, flowers can be sprayed with hairspray to prevent them from becoming crispy and easily breakable. Foliage and grasses can be air dried by laying them on newspaper or cardboard.

Water Drying

Although it sounds improbable, some flowers can be dried well in water. You will need to strip the leaves and put the stems in about 2 inches of water and leave to rest in a dry, dark and warm location. The water is then absorbed by the flowers and evaporated. The flowers best suited to this type of f drying include, hydrangeas, bells of Ireland, acacia, celosia and gypsophila take well to water drying.

Oven Drying

To dry in an oven use a very low temperature (100 degrees or less) and dry for several hours. The oven must be fan assisted; otherwise too much moisture will be created. Marigolds, zinnias, cornflowers, and chrysanthemums can be dried this way.

Thick petal flowers like hyacinth and magnolias are unsuitable for microwave drying. When picking flowers for microwave drying use them just before they are fully open. Foliage is suitable for microwave drying.

Silica gel is the best preservative for keeping flowers in their natural form while they dry. It will take about 2 minutes to dry flowers in half a pound of silica gel on a setting of 200 - 300 watts.

Sand Drying

With sand drying, the flowers are either laid in an inch bed of sand with space scooped out so that they rest snugly, or in the case of compact-headed blooms like zinnias, put them head first into the sand with wire supporting the stem. Cover only the petals and try not to submerge the flower. Place the box in a well ventilated room with some gentle warmth. Try sunflowers, roses, yarrow, larkspur, peony, lavender, delphinium and anemone.

Desiccant Drying

Although results with this method can be a little unpredictable drying with desiccants can produce some amazing results when it works. Silica is the most popular desiccant used, although you can try borax mixtures too. Dry out the desiccant in an oven first, and then prepare it in a shallow container which can be made airtight. Compact-headed flowers can be dried face up with their stem wired in position. Spiky and single-petal flowers like delphiniums and daisies can be dried face down in a mound of gel.

Whatever the method you choose to use when preserving your floral gift there is an option for all flowers and is a great way to cherish memories for a long time.