The Art of Drying Flowers Part 1
I’ve been drying flowers for a few years now, each year learning and exploring more about the ways to dry and what works best when drying. Previous years have seen me focus mainly on the those flowers that we all know dry well such as strawflowers, nigella seed pods, statice and all the grasses. These types of flowers and grasses are already part dried when picked, so the chances of success are high and the way in which they are dried simple.
This year I wanted to broaden my flower drying knowledge, to try out some of those more challenging blooms and to simply experiment. I’ve had varying degrees of success along the way as well as some delightful surprises all of which have helped form the plans for my garden and allotment - which I’ll be sharing more on soon and provided me with some beautiful materials to work with this Christmas.
Flowers left in vases to dry have shown me that even blooms you are told won’t dry, sometimes will. White cup and saucers cosmos and nigella “midnight” (shown fresh in the vase in the image above) were left to dry in a vase whilst I went away for a few days in October, I returned to find them unexpectedly dried. The time of year most definitely helped, come September/October time, most flowers are coming to the end of their growing season and may spend many weeks on the stem, I find that this makes their petals less fleshy than in the summer. This is the best time to pick your flowers for drying.
Drying large headed blooms
I’ve been playing around a lot this year with the drying of sunflowers, rudbeckia and echinacea. Drying them upside down resulted in flower heads with petals that curled in and hid the beautiful centres of the flowers. So I trialled drying them with the heads facing upwards and what a difference. The petals were forced to dry open and whilst the shrinkage is still severe, they make for structural additions to a dried flower display. I’ll be sharing more on how to dry large headed blooms in a future post.
I have always had a love for strawflowers (helicrysiums) but this year i have discovered a little more about their benefits and it has made me love them even more than before. This Christmas I was gifted an electric greenhouse heater, game changer alert! I was able to sow strawflower seedlings in January, planting them out in April and am still picking strawflower heads now, in early November. Strawflowers will continue to flower if you take the top middle section off once the main flowers are close to fully opening, the shoots of the main stem will develop into reasonable sized heads. I managed to squeeze in three sowings of these beauties this year and for that reason alone they remain top of my list of dried flowers.
Dahlias have been a huge success for me this year too, they take a fair while longer to dry than others and are very susceptible to mould setting in so even when dry you must keep them in cool dry space, don’t be tempted to take a risk. I tested a number of drying methods, hanging, leaving in a vase for weeks on end and also upright drying - all delivered similar kinds of results, a sort of faded, muted antiquey effect, really quite charming.
Perhaps most importantly for me, is that i learnt that bending the rules doesn’t result in disaster. Most books you will read will tell you that flowers must be dried in a cool, dark place for best results. So what do you do if like me you live in a small house with little storage or drying space? Improvise and hope for the best is what I suggest! I had so many blooms to dry from the garden and the allotment that I decided to create my how drying space in my studio, the problem is that there is a lot of light in my studio and I was worried the flowers would bleach. So far so good, it helps that I didn’t build it til end of August as the sun begins to dip in the sky and the intense heat of summer days are a distant memory. I now have a wide selection of blooms drying as I work which offers me daily inspiration and also a lot of crackling, I can literally hear the flowers crinkle as they dry, its really quite magical.
So much still to learn but this year has bought me nothing but joy when it comes to drying flowers. I will be sharing more posts on this subject so if there is anything specific you would like to know, please leave me a question in the comments below.