Everlasting and Dried Flowers and Grasses

There are periods during the winter when fresh blooms are scarce, and it is at these times that the so-called everlasting flowers can be used with success. There is considerable variety in these, and it is easily possible to create pleasing decorations, either when they are used alone, or in conjunction with a limited supply of fresh blooms.

Many flower-lovers fight shy of using everlasting flowers, simply because they remember them being used over and over again until they were ragged and dusty, with very little to suggest that they had ever been alive. Posies or vases of heads of everlastings were also once used without much variation, or enclosed in glass cases. Fortunately, there are today quite a number which are easy to grow, so that it is easily possible to have variety, and avoid the one-time necessity of having to make do with one small vase for several months, after which time the person who had to see or move them daily was usually very tired of them.

Statice sinuata

Apart from the true everlastings, there are other flowers which may be used for the same purpose, and thus a further variety is created. It may be possible to buy plants from the nursery or florists in the spring, but there is no difficulty in raising them from seed.

Dealing first with the annuals, it is best to sow these in gentle heat from mid-February onwards. The best known are the Statice (or limonium) sinuata varieties, which are available in blue, pink, yellow and white. The flower-heads of statice contain the seed, and as they grow in clusters they are difficult to separate. When dried, the seed is usually sown in small clusters. Although the seedlings may be pricked out in clusters, it is best to move them individually, but this must be done while they are small in case the little plants are damaged. Trays of sandy compost placed in a temperature of 60-65° F. will bring good results. After the plants have been gradually hardened off, they will be ready for their flowering positions towards the end of April. On a light, dry soil some watering may be necessary until the roots have taken hold. The plants should be spaced 10-12 in. apart each way, and where a number of rows are being grown a pathway after every five rows will make it convenient for cutting and cleaning the bed.

Particularly in the very early stages, the young plants of statice are rather like the weed, shepherd’s purse, so that care should be taken to prevent them being destroyed in error. It is best to grow separate colours rather than the mixture, for a mixed display is easily arranged and it is convenient to be able to gather the separate colours if required. The yellows are especially valuable, for they introduce a brightening effect into many bouquets. Do not cut the stems until the individual flowers on the head are just open, but not full blown; this prevents any possibility of flagging. The heads of statice flowers are also useful for making up into baskets and similar decorations.

Quite a different statice is the species suworowii, sometimes known as the Candlewick statice, which is both striking and effective in almost any arrangement of flowers. It produces long, densely clothed spikes of lilac-pink, and besides growing well in the open border (where it should not be exposed), it makes a splendid pot plant.

It is important to cut the spikes at the right time, for if gathered when they are too young they may droop, and if left too long they will not retain their fresh appearance. They should be stood in water for some hours before being tied in bunches, and hung upside down to dry, first wiping all moisture from the stems.

The perennial statices are better known and readily available at florists’ shops. It is not difficult to grow Statice latifolia, which is frequently used in bunches of flowers, and is specially valuable in improving the appearance of any arrangement which is inclined to be ‘heavy’. The plants can be grown in the same way as ordinary perennials, the dense heads of lavender flowers on 2-21-ft stems being gathered just as they are open. The biggish leaves are practically evergreen. It must be said that the colour of this statice does fade somewhat during the drying process.

Statice, or Lirnonium incana, is another perennial, having white flowers, which are larger, although the stems are rather shorter than those of S. latifolium. It is in good demand in the winter, and may be dyed without difficulty.

Almost as well known as Statice is the Helichrysum or strhelichrysum conglobatumaw daisy. There are a number of species, but it is the varieties of H. bracteatum which have proved particularly valuable in this country. They are not only of value as cut from the plant, but the flower-heads are used in large quantities by florists for making up baskets of everlasting flowers. In order to make up certain arrangements, the flowers are provided with artificial stalks of wire or something similar, so that they can be placed in any required position. This, of course, is done with other daisy-like everlasting flowers, and sometimes pipe-cleaners are used.

It is usual to sow the seeds of helichrysum in boxes in warmth, and to prick out the seedlings when they can be handled, subsequently hardening them off for outside planting in April when soil and weather conditions are suitable. It is also possible to sow the seed in good loamy soil during April and May, where the plants are to flower, where conditions are reasonably good, and not in cold northern or exposed areas. The colour range of helichrysums takes in white, pink, red and yellow.

Nowadays the Helichrysum monstrosum varieties are the best and most in demand, since they produce large double flowers which are always attractive. The colours include crimson, rose, terra-cotta, salmon-pink, silvery-pink, yellow, white, orange and red. It is important to gather the flowers as soon as they are of good size and before the yellow centres are seen. If cut with the stalks they can be hung up in the same way as statice. If the heads are removed, lay them out to dry well, preferably on some small-mesh wire netting, or something similar, so that the air can circulate all around them and dry them off thoroughly. Dampness must be avoided at all times, and the gradual drying off ensures that the petals remain firm, clean and papery.

A pleasing companion for the helichrysum is acroclinium or helipterum, which has small pink or white flowers. They are most valuable whenever a rather dainty effect is desired, and can be employed to lighten an arrangement which is inclined to look heavy or massive. The acroclinium is sometimes known as the rhodanthe, and may be raised in the same way as ordinary annuals. They are cut and hung up to dry, and it is important to see that the papery petals are free from dew and rain when gathered.

An annual much used in posies is Gomphrena globosa, or the globe amaranth, of which the pretty flowers on 15-18 in. stems are ball-shaped. They are available in white, pink or purple, while in other species, yellow and rose can be had. Useful for greenhouse culture, they like a humid atmosphere and should be hung upside down to dry, thus ensuring that the flower-heads remain erect when used.

The ammobiums, while not striking when growing in the garden, possess long-lasting qualities when dried. They grow in quite poor soil and have whitish-grey flowers with yellow centres, which makes them valuable where pale-coloured arrangements are being planned.

Xeranthemzun annuurn is another everlasting daisy, growing up to 2 ft high, and is to be had in shades of pink, purple and white. These, too, associate very well with other dried subjects.

Anaphalis and catananche are two excellent perennials, of which the flowers keep well through the winter. Both must be cut just as they reach maturity. If gathered too soon or too late, they will lose their beauty. Hang the flowers head downwards, so that the drying is really complete before they are used for decoration.

There are various other flowers, leaves, seed-heads, cones, berries, cultivated grasses and flower-stems which can be dried and make first-class material for creating a floral decoration. They can be grouped alone, or several together, or used in conjunction with some fresh blooms, while twigs and small tree-branches, or even lichen, may be added to give further variety. The actual method of drying can sometimes present a problem, and often it is only as the result of practical experiment that the best way to dry off the blooms is discovered. There is no hard-and-fast rule, for some, such as eryngiums and lunaria (honesty), will keep well when cut straight from the garden. Others need to be cut at certain stages, and some finish off better than others when laid to dry in the sun. Others, and perhaps the largest number, should be cut and hung upside-down in bunches in a fairly dry place. Some like to have a long drink of water before this treatment, but with practically all it is fatal to allow them to remain in a damp atmosphere, for this leads to mildew and similar troubles.

Care is also needed in selecting flowers for drying, for all will not do so successfully, and it is largely the use of the right varieties which leads to good results.

The following will dry well and last well in good conditions for a long time if treated properly.

Achillea fili pendulina is a great favourite because its flat, yellow flower-heads remain in good condition for a long period. They are produced on tall, strong, erect stems from which the leaves may be stripped or left as desired, and their good length of stem makes them valuable for the larger decoration. They are easy to manage, since they do not require to be specially dried off and may, if cut while they are on the young side and of good colour, be used for display through the winter. Furthermore, it is not essential to stand them in water after they are cut, although it is advisable not to keep them in hot, airless rooms, which might lead to mildew and discoloration. Achilleas such as the A. millefolium varieties and A. ptarmica will also keep well, although they should be hung head downwards in an airy place immediately after being cut.

Arncuanthus caudatus, better known as Love-lies-bleeding, will give an elegant touch to any winter flower arrangement, for the pendulous blooms in either red or greenish-white provide a graceful effect and look specially pleasing in vases raised above eye-level.

The blooms of Celosia phanosa, better known as Cockscomb, will keep well if cut before they are too mature. Both Echinops and Eryngium are fine for drying. Besides their thistle-like heads, which often have a metallic-blue sheen, some varieties also have quite bluish stems or silver leaves. Cut the stem fairly long, just as the heads are wide open, for if gathered prematurely they may not remain stiff and erect.

Gypsophila is much used during the winter, while spikes of lavender, properly dried, will increase the variety and value of any arrangement.

The ordinary Golden Rod, of which there are now many dwarf kinds, as well as the well-known tall ones, is also useful. Cut the stems just as the yellow blooms open, but before they become discoloured.

Most distinctive ‘dry’ arrangements can be made when flowers of Molucella or Bells of Ireland are used. The tall green spikes dry well and provide added interest.

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