Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dried Flowers an Easy Way to Capture Nature's Beauty

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Dried Flowers an Easy Way to Capture Nature's Beauty

Article excerpt

Make your garden's bloom season last for years by drying favorite flowers.

"It's very fulfilling to make something out of nature without spending a lot of money," said Jan Sillik, a member of the Garden Club of Jacksonville. "It's really easy and fun to do."

Sillik runs a program for the garden club called "Fun With Flowers," which teaches people different things they can do with flowers, including drying and pressing.

Dried and pressed flowers last four to five years.

Drying flowers can be done various ways. The most common methods are air-drying, using silica gel (a cat box litterlike substance that absorbs the moisture) or using a microwave, said Janese Warriner, a member of the Garden Club of Jacksonville who has taught workshops.

No matter what drying process is used, the first step is knowing what time of day to pick the flowers. Make sure to pick the flowers after the dew dries but early enough in the morning that flowers are at their peak before being drained by midday sun. All flowers must be picked before they are in full bloom because they open more during the drying process.

How long does it take to dry different types of flowers? That's a simple question with a not-so-simple answer. All flowers dry at different rates.

"It's a trial-and-error process," Warriner said. "But, the quicker they dry, the more color they preserve."

If you're not the type to jump into a new hobby without a firm set of guidelines, try to benefit from others' flower-drying efforts. Call a garden club to ask members what suggestions they have, check out a book, quiz craft store personnel or sign up for a workshop.

Here's some general information about the three most common methods for drying flowers.

MICROWAVE METHOD

Using a microwave provides results in seconds. Dry the flowers in batches of three or four. Make sure each batch contains the same type of flower. Place flowers in a microwave container and cover them with silica gel. Put a glass of water in the microwave next to the container of flowers.

Though times vary depending on the size of the microwave, start by setting the timer for 10 to 15 seconds. Warriner said to expect to fail several times -- that means flowers will crack and lose their shape as they are drying -- before determining the correct number of seconds. Keep notes about which types of flowers dried best at which intervals in the microwave.

SILICA-GEL METHOD

The silica gel method takes usually takes about seven days. Remember, times vary. Get ready for some more trial and error. When using silica gel, you can dry different types of flowers at the same time. Get a plastic container with a lid. Any size will do. Bury each flower with its bud upright in the silica gel. Put the lid on the container so that no moisture seeps in causing the flower to wilt. Because the flowers should be buried upright in the gel, stems must be cut off. Thin wire can be used to re-attach stems to the dried flowers.

Silica gel is available at hobby and craft stores. A 1 1/2-pound bag costs about $8.

AIR-DRYING METHOD

If you want to air-dry flowers, you don't need special supplies. Just pick them, strip the leaves and hang bunches of three to five stems of flowers upside down in an empty closet, spare room or attic. Be sure to tie the stems together with a rubberband or cut pieces of pantyhose because the flowers shrink as they dry.

"I use to hang hundreds at a time in my attic," Warriner said. "But in Florida it can be tricky. You've really got to keep the humidity down and light low when you air-dry."

Because the humidity has to be low to dry flowers, make sure the space you use to hang them is air-conditioned. …

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