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The Everlasting Garden: Easy Tips for Drying Flowers handmade and vintage goods

Leaves are already turning red and gold, reminding us fall is quickly approaching. This year, why not save some of your garden’s splendor to liven up those dark winter months?

Beautiful and natural dried flowers are a lovely and inexpensive alternative to fresh bouquets: Lavender and roses especially give off a natural perfume and last a surprisingly long time. Dried flowers also make wonderful gift toppers for your holiday packages. If you don’t garden, visit your local farmer’s market or even a pretty nearby field for a bounty of beautiful fresh flowers and grasses. Try these three easy techniques to dry a variety of common garden flowers and then have fun with easy arrangement ideas to display your treasures.

Firstly, remember to harvest flowers when they’re at their peak.  Plants past their prime do not make good candidates for drying or preserving and could rot or infect the rest of your supply. Harvest flowers in the early morning or a cool evening when they’re nice and perky and haven’t been tired out by the sun.

Technique 1: Air Drying
This is the simplest method and produces lovely bouquets suitable for arrangements. Simply gather cut flowers, strip most of the bottom foliage, and bind small to medium sized bunches together with a rubber band. The band will contract as the flowers begin to dry and shrink. Hang upside down in a well ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Be sure to leave room between drying bunches for air to freely circulate. You can hang the flowers from wire coat hangers, clothes lines, ropes: just about anything will work. The drying process will take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks, depending on humidity levels in your region. When flowers are completely dry you should store them flat, wrapped in tissue paper in cardboard boxes or ventilated plastic storage containers. Expect flowers to shrink by 50% or more and to fade and darken in color. It’s fun to see the lovely vintage hues you can create by drying lighter colors. Choose a dark, fairly cool location for long term storage. The best flowers for this method include: roses, larkspur, strawflowers, grasses, herbs, lavender, tansy and yarrow.

Technique 2: Drying Flowers with Silica Gel
If you want a more accurate rendition of your prize flowers you might want to experiment with silica gel.  A sandy-like substance, it’s a preserving medium appropriate for sturdier plants such as roses, zinnias and some dahlias: Fragile blooms with thin petals probably won’t survive this method. You can find silica gel at any larger craft store that carries floral products. The trick is to prepare a large container with enough granules to completely bury your flower. After a few days — up to week in some cases — you should gently remove the bloom and carefully dust off any powdery residue to reveal a lovely dried flower. Like the air dry method above, colors will tend to change with this technique as well — count on at least a few shades darker than the original hue. Also, silica may be "recycled" and used over and over. The best flowers for this method include: roses, zinnias, dahlias, daisies and peonies.

Technique 3: From Fresh to Dried in a Vase
Some flowers are great candidates for the simplest drying method of all. Hydrangea is a great example for this method. Harvest fully developed hydrangea heads in late summer or early fall — you’ll know they’re ready when they feel papery to the touch. Arrange the stalks in a vase with water and simply let the water evaporate. In most cases, your flowers will remain upright and look perky even though they’re starting to dry. After a few weeks you can work with them or simply leave as a beautiful decoration. The best choices for this method include baby’s breath, pearly everlasting, bachelor’s button, and hydrangea.

Keep these simple tips in mind to prolong the life of your dried flowers. Make sure to display away from direct sunlight and high humidity — both elements will fade and/or break down flowers quickly. Of course, always display your arrangement well away from any flame source. Most dried flowers are best suited for indoor use — wind and sun can ruin a pretty display quickly.

Here are a few more tips for different flower arrangements!

To make a simple swag: Lay out your favorite dried grasses and flowers vertically. Working in roughly a diamond shape, begin to gather them until you have a pleasing amount. Use raffia or ribbon to tie them off.  Display and enjoy.

To make a simple gift topper: Create tiny bouquets of sturdy botanicals. Gather a few sticks and/or cones. Wrap gift and glue flower "arrangement" to top.

To create an easy arrangement: Allow hydrangea, baby’s breath and or grasses to dry naturally in a vase.

Get busy with your garden and see what path nature takes!

Looking for more natural How-Tos? Check out How-To Make Natural Dye with the Etsy Labs!