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Arranged Marriages (of flowers, of course): Enjoy Twice the Beauty!

Floral Arrangement with Nigella

Do you grow larkspur, cockscomb, yarrow, strawflowers, or globe amaranth in your garden?  Not only are all of these flower varieties beautiful as cut flowers when placed in a compatible container filled with water…they can provide twice the beauty because they are perfect candidates for air drying!

Blue thistle, nigella, and brunia are other varieties that have uniquely interesting character and all air dry easily. Nigella is the slightly burgundy-toned “pod” with delicate foliage, pictured in the flower arrangement shown above.  You may be familiar with brunia. It is native to South Africa, but is also commercially grown in California. The “flower head” is made up of light grey small rounded balls and is very textural.  All of the flower varieties that I have mentioned are likely to be available at a florist, but season may play a role. Summer is likely to be the best time to find most of them.

Air drying is the simplest way to dry flowers.  Begin by removing the foliage from the stems.  Foliage does not dry attractively and is messy to remove if allowed to dry.  If you do grow some of these flowers and would like to dry them, cut them at peak bloom for the best show.  If you buy flowers from a florist or floral wholesaler or a farm market, and they are not in peak bloom you may need to put them in water for a few days to develop the blossoms more.  If you do grow them yourself or buy them before they are at peak and have to develop them in water, enjoy the process…this is part of the “twice the beauty” experience.

So now the flowers are in perfect bloom and ready for the air drying process.  Bundle them firmly in bunches that don’t include too many stems. Use a rubber band or twist tie to secure them. The band should be tight because the stems will shrink as they dry and could slide out of the band. Stagger the flower heads so that they don’t rest against each other.  This promotes better air flow.  The size of the flower and length of the stems will determine how many stems per bunch.  Remember, air flow is the most important factor…it decreases the possibility of mold.

Hang the flower bunches upside down in a warm (even hot) room.  Some recommend a dark room, but I have had good success using a well lighted or sunny room.  Logic tells me that a dark room would be more prone to allowing mold to form.  Would you agree?  The reason for “upside down” is that gravity keeps the stems straight as they dry and the petals will dry in their natural orientation.

Hydrangeas are my favorite!  I have saved the best for last not only because I love them, but because they require special consideration for air drying. As a florist, I have been asked many, many times how to dry cut hydrangeas.  Sad but true, it is not possible to dry the lovely big white or blue cut hydrangea blossoms that you see in the florist.

The best (if not the only) way to dry hydrangeas is to leave them on the bush until they start to dry naturally.  That is usually late July or early August.  You will need to feel the blossoms to determine if they are starting to feel slightly crisp.  Cut a couple of “test blossoms” and hang them upside down.  If they don’t wilt they are ready to cut and be air dried.  You can possibly enjoy them in a vase of water.  I have seen them dry beautifully left in a vase of water if they were left on the bush until just right.  You might even enjoy “thrice as much beauty”…on the bush, in a vase of water, and then in a dried arrangement!

Posted By: Evelyn Kinville, Behnke’s Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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