Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Air Drying Flowers

***This is the sixth article in a series of 100 articles on floral design and running a flower shop.

Air drying flowers is the simplest method used to dry flowers for use in arrangements and wreaths. This method takes a minimum amount of time and requires no special equipment. Moisture is removed from plant material by air circulation, without any use of drying agent.

To air dry most flowers, remove some or all of the foliage.  Bunch similar flowers together loosely, tying together with a rubber band or twine. Hang bunches upside-down, as this enables stems to dry straight. Hang bunches in a well-circulated, dark area. A barn, closet or dark garage would be ideal. Attics tend be dry and dark and are a good place to hang flowers, while basement may be too damp. In an attic, you will usually have overhead beams. On the beams, you can hammer nails directly into the beams, and hang the flowers upside down by string or florist wire. You will need a room that does not have dust or direct sunlight. Wooden pegged coffee cup hangers and pieces of lattice attached to the wall are places to air-dry flowers. Temperature should be cool and dry. Damp conditions will promote poor results, as well as mold and mildew. Dark, cool conditions will help flowers maintain their color and keep them from becoming brittle. Most flowers should be dry within 1-3 weeks. You can tell they are dry completely when they feel crisp to the touch.  

A variation of air drying is to place grasses and branches upright in container filled with a few inches of warm water or to dry them flat on newspaper. Flowers can also be dried upright in buckets to allow some of the material to gain natural curves and a drooping effect as they dry. Some flowers that have air-dried well for me are: yarrow, dahlias, poppy seed heads, roses, marjoram, delphinium, larkspur, lavender, strawflower, globe thistle, cornflower, statice, baby’s breath, globe amaranth, and peonies. Grasses, such as wheat, rice grass, and any natural grasses along the creek bank dry well. Pick wild grasses while still a little green. 

Dried flowers make excellent floral centerpieces. Dried flower wreaths are also a wonderful addition to a bedroom or kitchen. Wreaths can be made of dried roses, gypsophilia, and statice. Bunches of herbs can be air dried and made into a wreath for the kitchen. For extra scent and visual interest, add cinnamon sticks, cloves, and dried apple and orange slices. Once dried, many flowers, grasses and seed pods benefit from a light coating of commercial sealant. The sealant will keep the flowers and grasses from shedding. 

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