Many dried flower and foliage plants are easy to grown in the home garden. Strawflowers and status are particularly easy to grow and can be air dried by hanging in upside down in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. If you don’t have space to grow your own, look in florist or craft shops for attractive dried plant materials. Don’t forget, too, to balance the flowers with greenery or dried foliage.
For most city dwellers and late starters, the best option is to find a shop that carries large quantities of dried plant material. Look for sprays of flowers that are loosely bundled. Turn them upside down to judge their condition. If no loose pieces fall, the spray is in good condition. If a lot fall out, the dried flowers are not in prime condition and will deteriorate quicker. For wheat and other dried grasses, choose those with tight heads of grain. Alternatively, you can dry your own flowers.
Leaves may be pressed between the pages of a large book or between sheets of newspaper. However, you’ll get better results if you do not press the leaves under a great weight, there’s lots of ways to use real leaves.
If you want to preserve a spray of leaves, glue the joints between the leaves and stems and allow the glue to dry first. Then spread several layers of newspaper on the floor or on a table. Lay the leaves on top in a single layer; do not overlap them. Then cover them with more newspaper. You can alternate layers of paper and leaves to build a tall pile.
The pile should be loose enough to allow some air circulation, which is necessary to prevent mildew. The newspapers’ absorbency also helps prevent mildew from developing on the leaves. Coated papers such as freezer paper or waxed paper are unsuitable for pressing.
These dried leaves are fragile and should be handled with care. Since they will still be mostly flat, they are most attractive when mixed with other types of dried plant matter – flowers, honey locust pods or dried grasses.
Preserving with glycerin
In many cases, sprays of foliage can be preserved with glycerin, which is available through florists, craft shops, and livestock supply stores. In order to absorb the glycerin solution, the leaves and branches must still be drawing moisture through their stems. By this time, outdoor plants have entered dormancy so they will probably just drop their leaves. English Ivy that is grown indoors might be preserved this way, too. Best results occur when the plants aren’t dormant, but are in a stage of active growth.
Such plants may be preserved year-round by pressing. English Ivy, unlike the colourful autumn foliage of oaks and maples, is best pressed under a heavy weight. Layers of newspapers, large books or sheets of absorbent paper will do, if they are weighted down carefully by a stack of books.
A few other examples of dried plant matter that can be gathered close to home whether you’re a city dweller or have a place in the country:
- Honey locust pods – these brown pods resemble large, flat bean pods. They’re brittle and crush fairly easy, but they add texture and colour to an arrangement. They’re an excellent contrast to sprays of German statice.
- Lily pods – Most gardeners remove the spent flowers from lilies before they can develop into pods. However, those that are allowed to follow their natural course develop interesting pods that pop open into intriguing shapes. A careful look around the Neighbourhood might reveal a few pods still standing in patches of late-blooming lilies.
- Dried grasses – Inspect dried grass heads carefully when harvesting late in the year. They’re prone to shattering when brought indoors to heated rooms. If the heads are in good condition when they’re picked, you can spray them lightly with polyurethane lacquer spray, available through craft shops. This adds a glossy coating that highlights and protects dried material.
- Woody material – when the leaves drop, all sorts of interesting twigs are revealed. Twigs and branches may be picked any time until early spring. They will dry in a couple of weeks if left in a warm place. Also look for pine cones for seasonal arrangements.
- Evergreens – Now is a good time to get rid of an ageing evergreen bush or shrub. The needled branches may be made into wreaths or sprays and will stay fresh-looking for a long time outdoors. Even indoors, they will keep for a week or more.
If you didn’t want to use actual plants, you could also use paper flowers.