Fresh cut flower arrangements are a special summer treat for many gardeners. But wouldn’t it be nice to look at daisies in December or Joe Pye Weed in January?
Whether you plan to dry or press your flowers, follow these basic guidelines for collecting and storing fresh cuts for best results.
Mid-morning, after the dew lifts is the best time to select flowers. Dry, fully open blooms work best for pressing and drying. Always use a sharp, clean shears to prevent damage to the mother plant. Start the drying process as soon as possible. If you will be in the garden for a while, place the fresh cut stems directly in a bucket of water; but do not leave them in water long, excess absorbed water will slow the drying process.
Here is a list of simple drying methods that can be used for flowers and herbs.
Choose a warm, dark, dry place with good air circulation. Sunlight tends to fade blooms.
Gather stems together, bind and hang upside down until completely dried.
Petals and/or herb leaves can be air dried by placing them uncovered in a single layer on a cookie sheet and storing in a dust-free environment for several weeks. I like this method best for potpourri and spice mixes. Make sure these are completely dry before storing or mold may develop.
Oven and microwave drying will speed the process but you will lose some of the valuable essential oils. I would only use these methods if absolutely necessary.
Oven drying can be done overnight by the heat the lightbulb for an electric range or pilot light of a gas range. Spread the petals, single layer on a cookie sheet. Leave the door slightly open to allow moisture to escape.
Place flowers in a microwave safe container containing a half inch of drying agent (do not use drying agents for herbs or flowers for consumption) such as sand, borax or silica gel. Insert flowers upright, sprinkle with more drying agent until covered. Put the uncovered container in a microwave along side an uncovered bowl of water. Microwave for about 3 minutes, rotating every minute. Let set overnight before removing flowers, gently shake or use a makeup brush to remove drying agent.
Burying flowers in a drying agent has the advantage of helping them keep their shape.
Fill a sturdy bottom cardboard box with two inches of clean, dry sand, or a mix of ½ borax and ½ cornmeal. Lay the flowers on top, sprinkle with enough agent to completely but lightly cover flowers. Place the uncovered box in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight for about two weeks or until completely dry. Gently scoop flowers out by hand, and remove excess drying agent.
A simple and effective set-up for pressing flowers is to place them between a folded sheet of newsprint (not newspaper because ink may transfer) for absorbency, then sandwich between cardboard layers and stack with books or a heavy weight on top.
Preserved flowers make great craft ideas and gifts all year long!