Plant materials that can be successfully dried or preserved are called dried flowers or everlasting plant materials. Silk or other manufactured flowers are also everlasting materials. Everlasting flowers or “everlastings” are very long lasting, but do not really last forever. However, the term everlasting emphasizes the fact that these preserved or manufactured materials will continue to add color and texture to a setting for an extended time
Dried or everlasting flowers bring the outdoors in with memories of the summer garden and its beauty and color. These plant materials have many of the same attractive qualities as their fresh counterparts and can be designed in many of the same ways. Everlastings have the added benefit of looking attractive while storing them in plain view.
PRESERVING PLANT MATERIALS
Few people take full advantage of the wealth of materials from the garden and nature that can brighten and enliven an interior. Many beautiful flowers, pods, leaves, and grasses may be gathered from the spring, summer, and fall gardens and roadsides to dry or preserve for enjoyment as wreaths or arrangements indoors. The methods of preserving plant materials range from very simple to more involved and are chosen according to the type of plant material.
WHEN AND HOW TO HARVEST
Flowers, pods, and grasses may be harvested in any season. For the best results and longest lasting qualities, flowers and other materials should be picked at the peak of color and shape. Look for the brightest colors for each type because some fading will occur.
The consequences of gathering plant materials after their peak is the condition known as shattering, which is a breaking apart or falling out of petals, seeds, or other plant parts. Grasses and cattails have very noticeable consequences if harvested too late. Ornamental grasses, including pampas grass and maiden grass, should be harvested just before peak or just before the grass plumes “fluff out.” If picked when the grass plumes are already fuzzy looking, the grasses will totally “fuzz” a room when brought into a warm interior. Cattails should be harvested in summer when they have turned dark brown. The “old” cattail will shatter if harvested in fall.
The time of day for harvesting is also important. Plant materials should be picked when it is dry. Do not harvest when there is dew or any moisture on the plant. The middle of the day is an optimum time to avoid dew from
the morning and any collecting moisture at nightfall. Do not harvest when the plant is wilted.
Most plant materials can be harvested by cutting them with a knife, scissors, or florist shears. Cones can be picked from the tree or the ground.
Harvest flowers and leaves at different stages and sizes. Flowers can be chosen as buds, partially open flowers, and fully open flowers.
Different methods of drying and preserving can be used depending upon the type of plant materials. Experience and trial and error testing will help determine promising drying methods for new materials. A floral designer should always dry or preserve more materials than actually needed to account for some losses.
Some plant materials require no extra care in drying, other than har- vesting them at the proper time to avoid shattering. Examples include many types of pods, seed heads (purple coneflower, teasel), and other materials, such as corn tassels and brown dock. A weed to one person may be a great dried flower to the next person.
The hanging method, also called the hang dry method, is a method of collecting plant materials having a low moisture content and bunching them to hang upside down to dry. Some flowers and leaves dry with very little change in appearance; others will appear slightly wrinkled or puckered.
Flowers with a higher moisture content can also be dried but may have a more puckered or wrinkled appearance.
This method works well for both annuals and perennials, such as baby’s breath, blue salvia, plume or cockscomb celosia, goldenrod, clover-like globe amaranth or gomphrena, grasses, larkspur, lavender, love-in-a-mist pods, and strawflowers.
The hanging method is easy to do and requires only a few supplies, such as rubber bands, hooks or clothes hangers, and twist-ties to tie the bunches onto the hanger. An airy, warm, dry area away from direct sunlight is an ideal place to help the drying process.