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The easy, enchanting everlastings.

GROW THESE FLOWERS TO DRY ... FOR BOUQUETS

The enchanting beauty of fresh flowers needn't fade with the seasons. Dozens of cool- and warm-weather bloomers lend themselves to drying and can be preserved for years in arrangements and wreaths.

Strawflowers and statice--often referred to as everlastings--are well known to many gardeners. Botanically, everlastings are a group of plants in the sunflower family that have papery bracts (petal-like structures). But the broader definition includes any flower (and seed pod) that retains form and color after it dries.

Many flowers suitable for drying are common annuals, perennials, and shrubs--delphinium, feverfew, hydrangea, lavender, larkspur, liatris, roses, salvias, and yarrow. But a wide variety of materials beyond these common plants can be dried. They range from delicate-looking fillers like cloud grass (Agrostis nebulosa) and statice (Limonium latifolium) to dramatic artichokes and poppy pods. Many wildflowers, grasses, and pods also dry well. The chart on page 62 lists 30 plants that are suitable for drying.

You can air-dry most of them by hanging them upside down; a few of them are dried upright.

GETTING STARTED

If you're new to gardening or just want to grow a small patch of flowers, you can buy nursery transplants instead of sowing seeds; many better nurseries now carry good selections of perennials in containers; you can also buy small plants through the mail. Fewer annuals for drying (cockscomb, gomphrena) are sold as seedlings.

If you want to try some special varieties, you need to start from seed. Sow love-in-a-mist, safflower, and grasses directly in the ground. Others can be started in flats or small pots filled with a mixture of equal parts of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Add a controlled-release fertilizer. Most seeds germinate readily in household temperatures (60|degrees~ to 75|degrees~ during the day, 50|degrees~ to 60|degrees~ at night).

For all seeds, keep the soil moist. Once seeds have germinated, move containers to a sunny window. Thin seedlings so they have plenty of room to develop.

Before planting outdoors, harden off seedlings by placing containers outdoors in a sheltered area. Slowly expose them to sun over the next week or so until they can take full sun.

Prepare the soil as you would for any flower garden. Cultivate, add organic matter, and mix in a fertilizer. If you don't want to strip your flower garden bare at harvest time, set out extra plants (space permitting) so some flowers can stay on the plants.

To produce healthy flowers with optimum color, fertilize and water regularly. If you use sprinklers, water in the morning so the flowers aren't wet overnight.

HARVEST FLOWERS AT THE OPTIMUM STAGE

Depending on the kinds of flowers you grow, harvest can last for months. Flowers must be harvested at the proper stage to retain good color and form after drying. With some flowers, you may need to experiment.

When multiple flowers develop on a single stalk, you can either harvest individual flowers will short stems (you can extend the stems with wire) or cut the entire stalk when flowers are at various stages of development.

To harvest, pick flowers after the dew has dried but before temperatures rise. If you want 10 strip off large leaves, do it before drying.

To air-dry flowers, make small bunches (15 to 20 or so) of a single kind and tie them together with a rubber band (don't use string; the bunches will fall apart when the stems shrink). Then you can hang them upside down on a coat hanger or drying rack; leave plenty of space between bunches for air circulation.

Allium, statice, yarrow, and tall grasses like pampas grass can be dried upright in an empty vase. For baby's breath and hydrangea, fill the vase with 2 inches of water.

Place materials in a dark, dry area with good air circulation and temperatures between 70|degrees~ and 110|degrees~--an attic, warm basement, or water heater or furnace room, for example. Keep them out of light and high humidity.

Allow about three days (and at least 24 hours) for most flowers to dry well. If stems are still soft after several days, temperatures may be too cool, and rotting or loss of quality may occur.

Most flowers are dry when stems snap. The exception: dense flowers such as cockscomb. Break one in half to check. Seed pods, grains, and roses need a couple of extra weeks to dry.

After drying the materials, you can leave them hanging in bunches away from sunlight or store them in boxes in a warm, dry area. Wrap them in newspaper and layer them. Don't overcrowd the boxes or flower heads may be crushed.

DESIGN TIPS

Just before arranging flowers, recondition them by spraying lightly with water to make them more pliable and less prone to breakage.

To protect the flowers and prevent shattering, finished arrangements can be sprayed with a dry-flower sealer (available at craft stores).

Some flower stems are weak and must be wired if used in arrangements.

WHERE TO BUY SEEDS OR PLANTS

The following catalogs are free unless noted.

Goodwin Creek Gardens, Box 83, Williams, Ore. 97544; (503) 846-7357. Sells seeds and plants. Catalog $1.

Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 N. Pacific Highway, Albany, Ore. 97321; (503) 928-9280.

Park Seed Co., Cokesbury Rd., Greenwood, S.C. 29647; (800) 845-3369.

Territorial Seed Company, Box 157, Cottage Grove, Ore. 97424; (503) 942-9547.

Thompson & Morgan, Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527; (800) 274-7333.

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COPYRIGHT 1993 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:flowers
Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:907
Previous Article:Utah's backways invite you to linger.
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