More than just a fun thing to do, dried flowers can look beautiful in the home and if there are flowers which mean something to you, preserving them is a beautiful way of keeping a tangible reminder of the memory. My mother-in-law dried out the roses from my wedding bouquet and now years later I still enjoy seeing them in my bedroom, cut low and arranged in one of the vases we used on our wedding day.
Possibly the most important tip I have come across for whatever method you are using and whatever it is you are keeping, is that your flowers or leaves or whatever you will be using really need to be in the best condition possible when you start. If they don’t look that great to begin with, you shouldn’t think that won’t effect the quality of what you will end up with.
Almost all flowers are best dried hanging upside down in the air. Your ideal hanging place is not cold but not particularly warm either – if it is too warm the petals will dry out too quickly and shrivel up. You also need to make sure that wherever they are hanging has a good flow of air around the flowers, so not too cramped.
Take off any leaves and group together your flowers into a bunch and tie around their stems with string to hold them together. It is best not to have lots of flowers together in one hanging bunch. The air needs to circulate around each head and if they are all squished in together then the ones in the centre of the bunch are not going to dry out so successfully. Then attach the string to whatever you will be hanging them from. It is quite a good idea to attach the flower string to a clothes hanger and then suspend the hanger from wherever you will be leaving them.
Constance Spry’s exception to this method of drying flowers is for Sweet Williams. She says that to dry these out you should stand the cut stems in 2.5cm of water, and as you leave them the water will evaporate and they will dry out.
Different flowers will take different lengths of time to dry out, but two to three weeks is a good guide. Once dried they will be brittle and get more so as they age, so you will have to be a little careful with them. Other than that, you can just go for it and arrange them however you want. Some oasis from a florist or garden centre might come in handy for keeping them in place in a vase or container. Also stones or sand to weight the vase down and stop it falling over.
Constance Spry – my drying oracle – advices that silver, glass or ornate china vases are not best suited to the look of dried flowers. She steered her students and readers to arrange their dried flowers in all-manner of characterful wooden and metal containers; including some that you might not be able to put fresh flowers into as there would be a water issue. She’s a big fan of baskets, too. It’s advice which may date back quite a bit but is definitely not out-dated. The look that you will achieve is going to be rustic, organic, not too ‘done’ – which all feels very now, to me.
Having said that, my wedding roses are in a glass vase and I don’t care a jot.
A drying process is also used to make pot pourri. This time you peel the petals away from the flower head, and then spread them out on in a single layer on a baking tray or similar. They will have dried in a couple of days if you leave them somewhere fairly warm and dry. They will also have shrunk in volume, something I hadn’t properly considered when thinking how many petals I might need to use and then ended up with an eggcup of pot pourri.
To bring out and maintain the petals’ smells you will need to use a fixative such as powdered orris root and essential oils. It’s best to use essential oils that are related to the pressed elements – so rose oil for rose petals etc etc. If you play around with essential oil blends you can create something really wonderful and definitely unique. For each cup measure of pressed flowers, you should use a tablespoon of orris root and about 7 drops of essential oils. Mix it all together and then store sealed up in a jar or paper bag for at least a month to bring out the scents. Give it a shake every so often.
Pot pourri nowadays tends to be used a decoration and its scenting abilities are a bit secondary, probably because bought pot pourris won’t smell for long anyway. Yours that you have made should retain its smell a little longer and you can freshen it up with a few more drops of essential oils if you need to. Pot pourri used to be primarily a room freshener. People would keep it sealed up in jars until they wanted to release its beautiful scents; when they would open the jar and put it somewhere warm to really bring out the scent even more. Nicer than a plug-in.