Who can resist the lure of a summer garden in bloom? The riot of color, texture, and scent captivate our senses, helping us to shrug off the day’s worries. Pausing to admire a bed of marigolds or sniff a climbing rose is good for body and soul.
With the coming of fall blossoms subside, tree leaves fall, and annuals complete their life cycle as nature prepares for winter. But wait – it doesn’t have to disappear completely. You can start today to preserve the beauty of summer by drying flowers, leaves, and stems to decorate your home.
Before You Start Drying
Beautiful dried bouquets, wreaths, and swags start with plant material in the best condition. Select flowers and stems that are at the peak of their freshness. Always gather more that you think you will need. Some plant material shrinks by as much as a third when dried. Others may break apart or shatter easily. It’s annoying to get near the end of a decorating project and be short of one or two dried blossoms.
Traditional Air Drying
The simplest method for drying flowers while on the stalk is to hang them upside down to dry. A little patience is all that’s required. Gravity helps to hold the petals and leaves in a more or less natural position. This method is best for sturdy flowers and stems that don’t have a high moisture content.
Use rubber bands to secure the stems together. As they dry, the rubber band will shrink, keeping them from falling. When tying stalks together don’t make the bunches very large. A large bundle will tend to stay moist in the center and may start to rot.
Don’t have a bar or frame to hang your herbs? Create clusters of herbs or flowers, run a length of string through the bunch, and hang it on a clothes hanger that you can put almost anywhere.
Hang your botanicals in an undisturbed spot where the temperatures will be warm. For most of us, this will be a garage, attic, or shed but you may have other options.
One crafter I know used a spare half-bath in her house for this. An electric space heater provided warm temperatures. She would turn on the ceiling fan to draw moist air out of the room. The result was a walk-in dehydrator.
Air drying is probably the best way to preserve most ornamental grasses or grass-like plants. Try it with fountain grass, eulalia grass, inland sea oats, hare’s tail, quaking grass, or spike grass. Remember some of these shed seeds very easily. A friend of mine once brought fresh-cut pampas grass into her home and was vacuuming up seeds for weeks afterward.
Drying herbs by hanging them in the keeping room ( aka walk-in storage) has been used for a very long time.
Suggestions for Dried Materials
- Plants like yarrow, tansy, or lavender with strong stems and flowers that remain on the stem work well.
- Shrubs and trees with flexible stems can be twisted or woven into a wreath or swag shape before drying. Rosemary, sage, artemisias, and bay laurel are good examples.
- Ornamental grasses dry nicely but the stems are sometimes too slippery to hang. Then it’s best to lay them on a screen or absorbent towel.
- Seedheads of dill, coriander, or garlic chives can often be allowed to dry naturally outside on the plant.
- And of course flowering herbs like calendula, bee balm, and roses.
Imagine having baskets of dried botanicals to use for decoration around the home this fall.