Drying flowers is a wonderful way to preserve the beauty of your garden. For most people, dried flowers conjure up images of lavender, strawflowers, and statice. There is, however, a wide range of flowers that can be successfully dried.
Step 1: Use a pair of flower shears to help you harvest your flowers without crushing their stems.
Joyce Chen Flower Shears
Available at the NYGB Shop
Step 2: Bundle several stems together. Take a rubber band and slide it over 2 to 3 stems. Coil the rubber band several times around the entire bundle of stems, sliding it over 2 to 3 more stems toward the end of the bunch. The rubber band will look as if you twisted a wire around the stems. As the stems dry, the rubber band will accommodate shrinkage.
Shown here: lavender (Lavendula)
Step 3: Take a paper clip and pull it apart to create an S-shape. Hook one end to the coiled rubber band on your bunch of flowers, and attach the other end to a coat hanger.
Hang the coat hanger in a warm, dry closet or attic until the flowers are dry. The drying time -- anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks -- will depend on the thickness of the flowers' stems, humidity, size of the bundle, and air temperature.
Shown here: strawflower (Helichrysum)
Thick-stemmed flowers, such as hydrangea, should be placed in a can or jar and dried standing upright. The stems will not be as straight as flowers dried by the hanging method, but this may soften the look of your dried flower arrangement.
Shown here: mophead hydrangea (Hydrangeaceae 'Endless Summer')
The air drying process often shrivels large and fragile blooms beyond recognition. Roses, peonies, dahlias, sunflowers, lilacs, zinnias, hyacinths, and daffodils fare much better when dried with a desiccant (a drying agent).
Silica gel is the one of the easiest and most reliable desiccants to use. It is actually not a gel and looks like white sand with blue crystals. Once the gel has reached its saturation point, the crystals turn pink.
Shown here: daffodil (Narcissus)
Step 1: Place 1 inch of silica gel in the empty container. Place the different plant parts in the container so that they do not touch each other or the edge of the container.
Note: For hyacinths, lilacs, and daffodils, you will be drying the entire plant intact. For other flowers, separate the flower from the stem, leaving 1/8 inch of the stem attached. In some cases -- for example, peonies -- you will have to separate the foliage from the stem as well.
Shown here: rose (Rosa 'Opening Night')
Step 2: Spray dried flowers outdoors with a surface sealer to prevent them from rehydrating or falling apart.
Step 3: Place flowers on a sheet of wax paper until they dry.
Step 4: Reattach the flowers and stems with floral wire and floral tape or a hot glue gun. Reconstructing the flower can be a complicated process. Another simple option is to create a stem out of floral wire and floral tape. (Place the floral wire 1/4 inch into the flower and wrap with green floral tape.) Otherwise, the stem and leaves can be reattached with floral tape or hot glue.
Shown here: peony (Paeonia)
Most of the supplies used to dry flowers can be found in your local crafts store.
Silica gel is expensive; a more economical alternative is 40% borax and 60% white cornmeal. This recipe takes longer to dry the flowers, so leave them in the container for 2 weeks.
Shown here: sunflower (Helianthus annuus cv.)
If you love roses, you may find inspiration in Easy & Elegant Rose Design by Ellen Spector Platt. An instructor at The New York Botanical Garden, Platt provides comprehensive and clear directions that make even the most complicated project possible. She also presents tips for selecting, growing, and preserving roses.