(Our guest in the NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN today is Hope Robb.  Hope is a Master Gardener and well known as one of the premier flower arrangers in Lincoln. Today she shares with us how to dry flowers by hanging them in a dark, dry place.  She also has included a list of her favorite flowers, grasses, and shrubs to dry and use in a dried arrangement.)

Everlastings - By Hope Robb

           I became interested in this field when I saw a beautiful wreath made by Edna Shields.  I had done fresh flower arranging but nothing like this. After one of her classes I began experimenting myself.  She has been a great help to me.

          Everlastings or dried flowers are names used interchangeably for plants that retain their color and shape long after they have been harvested and dried. Chemical desiccants and sand can be used to draw the moisture content out of many leaves.  The microwave may also be used to dry plant materials.  Books are available concerning these methods.

          The everlastings I shall focus on are those which can be air dried simply by hanging them in a dark dry place. This is the simplest method. The rules for drying flowers are as follows:

·       Cut flowers before they are completely open—semi-bud form, as they continue to open once they have been cut.

·       Remove all leaves.

·       Hang them in small bunches secured with a rubber band upside down in a dark dry place.  I use large paper clips which I have opened up.  One end I insert in the rubber band and the other I hang on a line.  I use my dark garage to dry my plant material.  I’ve strung lines across the walls.  One could also use a dark dry attic.  Light will fade the colors.

·       With experience you can determine the length of drying time. 

          The one exception is the Hydrangea.  These are harvested when most of the moisture is gone but before they start turning brown.  After cutting, place stems in a bucket with two-inches of water.  After this is absorbed you need to turn a tall box upside down.  Punch holes in the bottom of the box and place the stems in the holes with the heads resting on the box.

          I also use diluted glycerin to preserve Golden Rod (Solidago), Sweet Annie, Northern Sea Oats (Briza), and Bradford Pear leaves on branches.  It gives them a soft pliable quality.  I use one part glycerin to three parts hot water.  Some people use two to one.  Mix solution well.

          For Bradford Pear branches, cut stem at angle for more surface absorption.  Place stems in solution.  They will turn a beautiful chocolate brown.  Length of time depends upon time of year you cut them, early summer would be faster than early fall.  Size of branch would affect time also.  Remove from solution as soon as leaves turn a beautiful brown.  Leaving them too long makes them weepy and they cannot be used.

          For the Sea Oats and Sweet Annie I add a small amount of green food coloring.  The length of time is shorter for these, from a few hours to overnight.  You can see from the stem where the solution goes up.   Plant materials preserved using glycerin last for several years. 

          Master Gardeners Gladys Jeurink and George Edgar are generous with sharing things from their gardens. Gladys’ poppies are always thick, so to reach the sun, they twist and turn.  One then has unusual twisted stems.  They are wonderful in arrangements—especially Japanese. Put a couple of those twisted seed heads and all you need at the base are some large dried peonies.  For this you will need a Japanese container with a needle point holder.

          One can arrange beautiful bouquets using the materials you grew in your garden or ones that friends and neighbors have given to you. For a summer look incorporate colorful flowers with Misty Blue Limonium.  Add seeded Eucalyptus cascading down the front.  Tuck in a few nigella seed pods.

          In the fall there is nothing more striking than tall ornamental millet at the back of the arrangement.  Add glycerined Golden Rod and bright orange Bitter Sweet cascading down the front. Mix some of the Bitter Sweet among the flowers also.  Accent the base with the dark brown leaves of the glycerined Bradford Pear leaves.  You will need some filler material.  Maybe some small bits of the Sweet Annie.  For accent add some fall seed pods. 

          For large arrangements use large baskets and fill with an abundance of the dried plant material that you like. Mix flowers, filler materials and seed pods.  Always try to add something bright to catch the viewer’s attention.  There are many containers one may use.

          For large wreaths, I use a glue pan, filled with melted glue.  I then dip my dried material in the pan and arrange the material on the wreath. I divide it into thirds and start by placing the same group in the different three parts and adding other groups to this for a look of continuity.  When finished you can then add anything extra that you like.  It’s fun to have something special at the top, maybe bolder colors or textures.  Another special touch is to cascade various plant materials to create a draping effect at the bottom.

          You may create wreaths using the deep red-violet Crested Cockscomb (Celosia) and lots of Misty Blue.  Add seeded Eucalyptus tucked in to lessen the deep color of the Cockscomb. Wreaths done all in roses are very striking but require large amounts of plant material.  Group roses in bunches at angles and fill in with the seeded Eucalyptus for a stunning wreath.  Seed pods may also be added.

          Or simply fill a wreath with a mixture of the things you like.  Use different sizes of plant material, various textures, and a variety of flowers, seed pods and fillers.  With time you will begin to develop a feel for arranging some of your personal favorites.  In all my arrangements and wreaths I like a loose airy look.  I hope you will experiment and above all have fun!

          I have listed below some of the dried materials I use in my design work:

Seed Pods
Love in a Mist (Nigella)      
Husker Red Penstemon  
Black Berry Lily
False Blue Indigo (Baptisia): coat with floor wax to give a shine
Honesty (Lunaria) use membrane where seeds were removed
Chinese Lanterns (Physalis)
Milkweed Pods
Teasel (Dipsacus)
Globe Thistle or Sea Holly (Eryngium)

Sand Love Grass
Broom Grass
Miscanthus-morning light
Northern Sea Oats often called Quaking Grass (Briza)
Switch Grass
There are many more grasses to select from.

Ornamental Millet
Cat Tails
Pussy Willows
Lion’s Mane
Wild Dock or Sorrel
Hedge Apples from Osage Orange

Filler Materials
Baby’s Breath (Gypsophilia)
Sea Lavender (Limonium)
Artemesia – Silver King is one of my personal favorites
Sweet Annie (Glycerined)

Annual Statice (Limonium or Psylliostachys)
Cocks Comb (Celosia)                           
Bells of Ireland
Blue Salvia (Victoria)                       
Pearly Everlasting
Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth)              
Yarrow (Achillea)
Straw Flowers – Need to wire stems
Golden Rod

Curly Willow or Corkscrew Willow
Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick
Bitter Sweet
Bradford Pear

From the Florist

(I use these as fresh material, allowing them to dry in the arrangements.)
Salal – green leaves which also dry well.
Misty Blue (Limonium) wonderful filler, loses bluish color once it’s dried
Seeded Eucalyptus – I couldn’t design without this great filler, because it has     lovely leaves and great seed pods.  Drapes beautifully.  It is seasonal.

Copyright Sept. 25, 2004