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Everlasting Flowers

“The earth laughs in flowers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Flowers are out in full  force in late summer and fall, and this is the perfect time to preserve some of that color and beauty to brighten your home in winter.

Drying flowers is easy and inexpensive, requiring just a little know-how. The trick is to cut flowers at the right time of day, late enough in the morning so that the dew has evaporated, but before the blossoms become wilted by the sun. Pick immature blossoms for the best results. If cut at their peak of perfection, flowers will open farther during the drying process and leave you with a less than perfect result. For dried bouquets, however, you may want to pick flowers ranging from buds to nearly fully opened blossoms.

Once flowers are cut, to prevent fading, remove them from the sunlight. Gather in bunches of six to 10 stalks. Tie the bunches with a string or a rubber band about 2 inches from the stem end and hang them upside down in a dark, ventilated place such as a barn loft, potting shed, or attic. Darkness is the key to maintaining color. Blue, orange, and pink are the easiest colors to retain.

Then comes the hard part—waiting. Drying can take from 24 hours to three weeks, depending on the type of flowers and the humidity. Flowers are dry when they feel brittle and the stems snap easily.

Some flowers, such as baby’s breath, globe thistles, and Chinese lanterns, are best dried upright. Place them in wide-mouth jars or coffee cans. Other top-heavy flowers, such as Queen Anne’s lace, dill, or fennel, can be dried upright with the stems stuck through the holes of ¼-inch hardware cloth (metal fencing material).

Drying Agents
To dry larger or more delicate flower heads, such as anemones, daisies, pansies, and zinnias, use a drying agent such as sand, laundry borax mixed with white cornmeal, or kitty litter (fresh, not used). Many now use silica gel, available at craft stores. Spread an inch layer of the gel or one of the other drying agents in a shallow, lidded glass or plastic container and place the flower heads face down in the drying agent. Then cover the flowers with an inch of drying agent. Seal the container and store in a dark area for 3 to 5 days.

You can speed up the process by placing the container in a microwave oven on high for a few minutes, then allow to cool before opening to check for dryness.

Arranged in bouquets, wreaths, or table decorations, everlastings can, as their name implies, last for many years. Keep them out of direct sunlight to prevent fading. Clean them with a gentle feather dusting. To store them, wrap in newspaper to keep out moisture and place in boxes. Avoid storing them in overly damp places such as basements.

Some Flowers for Drying

Asters
Calendula
Cornflower
Globe amaranth
Larkspur
Marigold
Mums
Pompon dahlia
Roses
Statice
Strawflowers
Yarrow
Zinnias

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