As the leaves change, and the garden nears the end of the season, there is a way to capture some of its beauty, to linger indoors. Preserve some of your flowers for arrangements and gifts. There are three primary methods of drying flowers: pressing, hanging and using silica sand.
Old phone books can be repurposed as your flower press. Cut pieces of tissue paper slightly larger than the phone book. This will help you locate the pressed flowers later. Place your plant materials on the tissue paper, so they do not touch each other. Experiment with blossoms that are fairly flat, and lay open, such as pansies or Queen Anne's lace. Also experiment with a variety of leaves and small sections of fern fronds.
Cover with your plant materials with tissue paper, and close the book. Additional tissue paper and blossoms can be placed throughout the phone book. Set some heavy books on top of the phone book, and leave it for a few weeks. The plant materials will be flat, dried and ready for use. They can be glued to greeting cards, around mats in picture frames, or arranged into a small framed bouquet. To protect the fragile blooms, put them behind glass or cover your cards with contact paper.
For larger arrangements, collect plant materials, and hang them to dry. Gather small bundles of blossoms, and bind their stems with a rubber band. An opened paperclip can be slipped into the rubber band to make a hanger. Hang your bundles from nails in a rafter or on a clothesline, in a cool, dark place. They will dry over several weeks. Experiment with a variety of items from your garden. Try goldenrod, dusty miller, roses, oregano flowers, and other herbs. Hydrangea blossoms dry beautifully, especially the fall-blooming varieties. Once dried, the flowers can be arranged into vases or containers. A light misting of hairspray or acrylic spray can be applied, if desired.
Silica sand can be purchased at a craft store. Blossoms dried in silica sand retain their shape and most of their color. Blossoms buried in the silica sand can be dried quickly in a microwave. Mum flowers take only three to four minutes. Directions are included in the box. For best results, remove the stems from flowers before drying with this method. Stems can be dried separately and glued on later, or replaced with floral wire. Flowers dried in silica make a bright accent to arrangements made from flowers that were hung to dry.
Have fun experimenting with the blossoms from your garden. A small investment in time and supplies can yield a wealth of beautiful blooms to enjoy all winter long.
The mission of the Chautauqua County Master Gardener Program is to educate and serve the community, utilizing university and research-based horticultural information. Volunteers are from the community who have successfully completed 50-plus hours of Cornell approved training and volunteer a minimum of 50 hours per year.
For more information on the Master Gardener Program, please contact: Betsy Burgeson, Master Gardener Coordinator, at 664-9502 ext. 204 or Emh92@cornell.edu
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