(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 what you need to plant this spring so you can harvest flowers and seeds for those fall dried arrangements.)


          At this time of year we have enjoyed the red buds, lilacs, tulips, and daffodils. Now other plants are in bloom and we are enjoying the color of the perennials and annuals we are planting. We certainly aren’t getting excited about autumn just yet. However, if you are interested in making dried arrangements or wreaths in the fall, you will need to put in your plants and seeds now.

          Because of the recent availability of excellent quality artificial flowers and greenery at a reasonable price, the use of dried flowers has declined in recent years. However, for those still interested in growing and drying their own, the following are some plants and seeds I like to plant for later drying:

1.     Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth)-A delightful small, round headed flower that comes in several colors

2.     Blue Salvia-We can’t get along in designing without the deep blue linear blooms of this annual. One of my favorite large pottery vases that I use for fall arrangements has swirls of dark blue. The Blue Salvia looks great tucked into this container.

3.     Cockscomb (Celosia)-These large, velvety heads dry beautifully. I especially like the deep, violet colors. These big heads can be used as a focal point at the base of your arrangement.

4.     Statice (Limonium)-This plant comes in many bright colors and is almost dry when cut.

5.     Straw Flower (Helichrysum)-These also come in many colors. You will need to use wire to support the stems. Cut these flower just before fully open; they will continue to open once cut.

6.     Larkspur & Delphinium-These come in pretty blues and pinks. These linear materials add a softer touch to the arrangement.

7.     Chinese Lantern-Dries to a brilliant orange lantern. It looks beautiful in fall arrangements.

8.     Gourds (Varieties vary)-Many of the ornamental gourds can be used in swags, wreaths, or tucked down in arrangements. They provide interesting textures and colors.

9.     Seed Pods-There are many types of seedpods to use in arrangements. Among these are Poppy seed heads, Love-in-A-Mist seed pods, and Lotus pods.

     10. Because an arrangement with dried material tends to look stiff one          needs to incorporate other materials into the design such as the                             following:

·        Grasses-I like Miscanthus “Morning Light” and Eragrostis trichodes “Sand Love Grass”. These give the arrangements an airy feeling.  Tuck them in.

·        Also interesting are berried plants such as Rose Hips or a small Allium.

·        At the back to give it height use Ornamental Millet (which is my favorite), Curly Willow, or Red Twig or Yellow Twig Dogwood.

·        These materials can also be used in wreaths or swags. 

          You will need to plant the seeds according to directions and germination time. Place seeds in germinating mix in plastic containers, such as recycled blueberry containers. Seeds will need to be kept warm by placing them on top of a source of heat, either a heating pad or on top of the refrigerator. Once the seeds have come up, place them under lights until they get their first two true leaves. After this, transplant each seedling into a divided seed starter tray that contains potting mix. The seedlings need to be watered from the bottom. 

                You will need to "harden them off" by taking the tray outside during the daytime and bringing it in at night, allowing the seedlings to adjust to the outside temperature whether we have cool evenings or warm evenings with hot sunny days. At first you may want to place them in partial shade so they don’t get sunburned. When all danger of frost has passed, the plants should be hardened off enough to plant outdoors.

           When the time comes to harvest your plant material, remove all foliage from the flower stems. Gather material into small bunches; secure stems with rubber bands. Open a paperclip and insert one end into the rubber band and use the other end to hang the bunches in a dark, dry place.

          Over time my yard has become shadier, so I rely on Gladys Jeurink, George Edgar, and Edna Shields for much of my plant material. Such generosity!!

          To get more information about using dried flowers, I suggest “The Book of Dried Flowers” by Malcolm Hillier and Colin Hilton. Also check the Extension Division of University of Nebraska-Lincoln website at In the box on the left type in “Dried Flowers” or contact your local county extension office and ask for “NebGuide G1074”. You can also go to “”. In the first column are two publications on drying flowers.  

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