Steamboat Springs How many times have you had a special bloom from your garden and wished to preserve it in a lasting arrangement or an aromatic potpourri? Think about drying these blooms yourself! It is easy to do and fun.
Dried flowers are great for inclusion in wreaths, swags, gift decorations, table settings, etc. Almost all plant materials can be dried: flowers, foliage, branches, seedpods, grains, cones, nuts, berries and other fruits.
In general, all plant materials should be collected when they are in peak condition. Plant parts can be harvested at different stages of development for variation in color, form and texture. Flowers, for example, can be cut at the bud stage and at any later stages until just before full flower.
Usually, a little grooming is all that is necessary for naturally dry materials. Fragile seed heads, such as grasses, mature cattails, fruits and cones can be sprayed with hairspray or other aerosol lacquers to hold the heads in place, prevent shattering as plants age and give them a shiny, decorative look.
Air drying is the easiest method of preserving flowers and plant materials. Many garden flowers and wild plants can be collected, tied together at the stem ends in loose bundles with rubber bands or pipe cleaners and hung upside down in a warm, dry, dark area. With good air circulation, flowers take one to three weeks to dry completely.
Pressing is a method of preserving plants to use on pictures, stationery, place cards, etc. Most foliage and simple flowers with few petals press very well. Pansies are an excellent flower for pressing at all stages of flower development as well as bleeding heart, cosmos, delphinium, larkspur, daisy and phlox.
Place your plant materials between layers of an absorbent paper material and apply weight or pressure until the plants are dried.
Newspapers, telephone directories, blotter paper or tissues are good papers to use. Plant presses are also available.
Burying them in a plant-drying mixture can also dry flowers. The drying agent in the mixture helps support the flower while removing moisture, preserving the flower's shape and form. The most common mixtures used are borax mixtures and silica gel.
After choosing a drying agent (desiccant), select a container that will fit the flower types and desiccant to be used.
Flowers dried in borax mixtures should be left uncovered during the drying process to allow for good air circulation and faster drying. A shallow box can be lined with newspaper to strengthen the box. The box should be deep enough to allow the flowers to be covered completely. If drying flowers face down, it is not necessary to cover the stems, just the flower.
Silica gel must be used in an airtight container. Plastic containers or tins with airtight lids are excellent choices.
Now have some fun making creative and artistic items with your newly dried blossoms.
Kathy Conlon is a Routt County resident and a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. No endorsement of products mentioned in this article is intended. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail: email@example.com.