Summer’s end doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to bid farewell to your favorite garden flowers. Preserve those summer bouquets instead and use them for a variety of decorative purposes, such as wreaths, potpourri and floral arrangements.
Preparing Flowers to Preserve
Regardless of the preserving method you choose, the process for selecting and preparing flowers is the same. First, select flowers that are in good shape and show no signs of decay or disease. Cut flowers in the late afternoon or evening, as opposed to the morning, when they may be damp. Cut more than you think you’ll need to make up for damage. If you plan to hang flowers to dry, pick them just before they open. The flowers will continue to open as they hang.
Dried flower arrangements can seem stiff and awkward. Look for flowers that have naturally arching or bending stems for a more natural look. Some may need wires for support or shaping.
Flower Preserving Methods
Air Drying Flowers
The simplest method of preserving fresh flowers is probably air drying, a method that has been used since colonial times to dry flowers, as well as herbs. Cut the flowers, leaving stems at least 8 inches long. Arrange the flowers in bundles of one dozen stems or less and wrap the stems gently with a pipe cleaner. Make a hook on one end of the pipe cleaner and hang the flowers from a nail or rafter in a warm, dark, dry location, such as a shed or attic.
Allow the flowers to hang until they are thoroughly dry, which usually takes two to three weeks, depending on environmental conditions. Flowers take longer to dry in humidity, less time to dry in arid conditions. The flowers may fade or shrink slightly during the drying process, which is normal.
Use air-dried flowers in wreaths and arrangements or brush individual petals off into a bag to make potpourri. Some flowers well-suited to air drying include:
- bachelor’s button
- baby’s breath
- cock’s comb
- wild grasses
Preserving Flowers with Borax and Sand
Borax and sand act as desiccants when poured over flowers, wicking moisture from them within a few days. This method requires a light touch to avoid crushing the flowers, but when done properly, the flowers retain much of their color and texture.
To dry flowers, mix 1/3 cup sifted, dry sand with 2/3 cup borax, which is a laundry additive available at grocery stores. Lay the flowers in a tray and pour the sand and borax mixture around the flowers at the perimeter of the tray. Slowly shake the sand mixture so it sifts over the flowers, which is less damaging to them than just dumping the sand directly on top of them.
Check the flowers every 2 to 3 days, and remove them as soon as they are dry. If they are left in the sand for an extended period, they may become brittle and fragile. Some people prefer to use white cornmeal instead of sand because it has a fine, loose texture. Flowers that dry well with this technique include:
- Queen Anne’s lace
- black eyed Susan
Want to learn more about how to dry and preserve summer flowers?
See these helpful websites:
Drying Flowers by University of Missouri Extension
Drying and Preserving Flowers and Plant Material by Alabama Cooperative Extension
Drying Flowers by Clemson University Extension