Growing flowers for drying later in the season was something that I started a couple of years ago. I had grown some Celosia and noticed that it dried right in the vase and kept its colour. Intrigued by having colour year round I tried to dry other flowers. I know, who dries flowers? Isn’t that something they did way back when? Yes, I remember when dried flowers were all the rage back in the ’90s. Turns out I am ahead of the game as last year dried flowers came back into vogue for weddings.
A couple of years ago I grew a cut flower garden for my daughters wedding. In that garden I incorporated flowers such as gomphrena, bunny tail grass, celosia, amaranth and dusty miller. I didn’t know it at the time but these flowers would become staples in my garden. As fall approached and the garden started to wind down I gathered some flowers in bundles and hung them to dry. I had to think about how I was going to hang the flowers and where. I knew it had to be somewhere dry and away from the sun. The garage seemed like the perfect place. I grabbed a wreath I had made from willow branches and secured the bundles of Celosia to the wreath so that the flowers hung upside down. Within weeks they were dry and we had celosia seed all over the garage floor. Okay, I didn’t know that would happen. Farmer Jim carefully swept up the seed for me to keep.
That year I dried gomphrena the same way except I used a portable clothes drying rack to hang the flowers from. I may have hung some from the chandelier in the dining room as well and from wine bottles in the wine rack. Obviously I need to find a proper way to hang the flowers but it all worked out.
So fast forward to this spring. I decided to plant a raised bed with flowers suitable for drying. I am growing Celosia which has plume like flowers in reds, pinks and creamy yellows. It loves a spot in full sun and grows to about 2′ high. Pinch your plants at about 12″ high to promote secondary branches to grow as that will mean more flowers.
Statice in an apricot colour and a mixed variety has been given room in the raised bed. Statice comes in so many colours that it’s hard to grow just one. I planted an apricot statice last year and got both apricot and pink colours from the seeds. It grew to about 3′ tall and is best harvested before the blooms fully open. It’s been my most popular dried flower so far.
Amaranth is a fun plant to grow and there are many varieties to choose from. This year I’m growing Amaranth Love Lies Bleeding and Hot Biscuits. Talk about adding drama to your garden. Love lies bleeding does just that with its 3′ long tassels that beg to be touched. They dry beautifully and add drama to any arrangement.
On the other hand Amaranth Hot Biscuits is a rust colour and produces upright flowers. I like using Hot Biscuits amaranth in fall bouquets. It adds that vertical element to a bouquet.
Globe amaranth or Gomphrena is a plant that works well in a sunny border as it only grows to about 15″ high and comes in red, white, pink and rose shades. Its tiny globe shaped flowers are the perfect filler flower for bouquets. The flowers fade a bit when drying but they are so darn cute. The stems are quite fragile once dried so care in handling has to be taken.
I grew Bunny Tail grass in a five gallon container the first year. I had this fear it would spread everywhere but that didn’t happen. Its very easy to grow from seed and looks like a weed grass in its early stages of growth. The seed heads that form on this cute grass are adorably soft. They are perfect for late summer bouquets. You can also dry seed heads from perennial grasses.
With every bouquet you need greenery. When it comes to drying greenery I tend to use silver foliage plants like Dusty Miller, Curry plant ( Helichrysum italicum) and Lavender. Each of these can be hung to dry quite easily. The larger the leaf the longer they take to dry.
So how do you get started? I grow all of my plants from seed and you may want to try that too. It’s difficult to find some of these plants at garden centres. When harvesting your flowers for drying, pick long stems in the morning after the dew has dried. Bundle about ten stems together, five if they are large, and wrap an elastic band around the bottom of the stems to hold them together. Attach them to a clothes rack or line of some sort to dry. I often use clothespins for this, yes those old fashioned clothespins come in handy once again. Let the flowers dry for a few weeks before using. I store my dried flowers in large wide mouthed vases.
Don’t be afraid to try other flowers. I’ve accidentally found that pink Astilbe dries easily and keeps its colour. Hydrangea and lavender are also easy to dry and use in bouquets. Sure, you can dry most flowers using silica gel but I am keeping things simple.
What do I do with my dried flowers? I use them on holiday wreaths and make mini bouquets or larger ones. For me its a way of extending the joy of gardening once the season is over. It gets me through the late fall and winter months when I can be creative with flowers from the comfort of my home.