Annuals And Biennials For Drying

A number of monocarpic plants have flowers or attractive seedpods which can be dried for winter decoration. If these are picked just before they reach their peak they will be absolutely perfect for this purpose. Dry them in small bunches in an airy situation, protected from rain or strong sun — which might bleach the colours. Those with top-heavy flowers — like helichrysums — are usually mounted on wire ‘stems’. The smaller kinds can be made into pictures, tablemats, paperweights and other trifles.

Eryngium

Most species of eryngium (sea hollies) are perennials but Eryngium giganteum is a true biennial and also one of the loveliest. Growing 3 to 4 ft. high with branching silvery stems, it has toothed, arrow-shaped leaves and large silvery-blue flower heads backed by silver-veined, glaucous calyces. Once suited it colonizes freely and comes up every year.

Eryngium

Gomphrena

Gomphrenas or globe amaranths can be used as border edgings, pot plants, for bedding or the showy clover-like heads can be dried for winter decoration. They grow about 18 in. tall and have globular heads of white, yellow, red or violet flowers. Treat as half-hardy annuals (the seed germinates in twelve days) and plant out 12 in. apart. Gomphrena globosa is the best (and most variable) species.

Gypsophila

Gypsophila elegans or chalk plant is a popular market flower with slender 12 to 18-in. Silvery stems, small lance-shaped leaves and masses of little white (occasionally pink or rose) simple flowers. These can be used fresh or dried for winter use. In gardens, the plants look pretty trailing down over steps or rocks. Treat as hardy annuals.

Gypsophila paniculata

Helichrysum

Helichrysum bracteatum is the everlasting flower or immortelle, a hardy annual from Australia with lance-shaped leaves and large, papery-scaled flowers up to 2 in. across. These can be white, yellow, orange, purple, rose or red on 2f-ft. Stems. They are half-hardy annuals, suitable for most soils if the situation is sunny.

Helipterum

These are pretty Australian composites, frequently catalogued under rhodanthe or acroclinium. Helipterum (Rhodanthe) manglesii makes a bushy 12 to 15-in, plant with many nodding, pink and white, papery-petalled flowers, something like daisies. Treat as half-hardy or hardy annuals — the latter giving later flowers. The very similar H. (Acroclinium) roseum can be sown outside in April and has white, pink or deep rose flowers with either gold or brown centres.

Limonium

Limonium sinuatum is one of the sea lavenders and is often listed as statice. It is a biennial best treated as a half-hardy annual; the seedlings come through in eight days and the plants should be set out 12 in. apart when there is no more risk of frost. They have branching, flattened, rough, 1 to 2-ft. Stems with spikes of blue, mauve, lavender, rose, salmon-pink or white flowers. These dry beautifully and are always very popular. The candlewick statice, L. suworowii, has long drooping spikes packed with small rose flowers and lance-shaped basal leaves. It makes a good pot plant.

Lunaria

Lunaria annua, a biennial in spite of its name, is the honesty, a good plant for odd corners, even in semi-shaded situations. Seed sown outside in April or May blooms the following spring, the flowers varying from white to deep purple or sometimes bicoloured. There is also a splendid variegated-leaved form called variegatum which comes true from seed. In autumn the seedpods should be rubbed between the fingers and thumb to remove the seeds and outer coverings, thus leaving the pearly, moon-like inner portions which are delightful for winter decoration.

Molucella

Molucella laevis or bells of Ireland is grown for its calyces (the flowers are insignificant). These are borne on 30 to 36-in, spikes and are pale green and shell shaped with delicate white traceries. They dry to a biscuit shade. The plant is a half-hardy annual which does well in light soil.

Nicandra

Nicandra physaloides, the shoo-fly plant (it is supposed to repel insects), is a vigorous half-hardy annual from Peru with 3 to 4-ft. Branching stems, smooth oval leaves and bell-shaped blue and white flowers. These give place to swollen seedpods something like those of the cape gooseberry (physalis). It needs moist soil.

Nigella

Nigella damascena or love-in-the-mist is attractive both in flower and fruit. The latter are used in dried arrangements. The flowers are 11 in. across, saucer shaped and usually blue — Miss Jekyll is a particularly rich shade — but there are white and pale forms, also doubles. The seed-pods are pale green, barred with brown and surrounded (as are the flowers) with the spiky haloes of the leafy involucres. Sow the seed in moist soil where the plants are to flower in early spring, or autumn in mild locations and thin to 9 in. apart.

Papaver

Poppy heads are always in demand for Christmas decorations; kinds like Papa ver somniferum (opium poppy) being the most popular. Treat these as hardy annuals.

Zea

The varieties of maize (Zea mays), known as Indian or squaw corn, with multi-coloured seeds of mahogany, gold, slate Nigella Persian Jewels Mixed blue, red and brown (all in the same pod) are delightful when dried for winter decoration. Treat as half-hardy annuals.

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