Herbaceous Plants For Dried Arrangements

With trees and shrubs the collector is mainly on the look-out for leaves, and in general only gathers a few seed-heads; the large category of herbaceous plants, both perennial and biennial, is his main seed-head source, though in some instances leaves and flowers or leaves and seed-heads are both to be found on one plant – acanthus and aquilegia, for example, or “Garnette” roses, or crocosmia. When collecting herbaceous material for drying, one depends mostly on picking from the border, and here there will inevitably be conflicting demands: the choice between cutting fresh flowers as they come into bloom, either for preserving or for fresh flower arrangement, or leaving them to form seed-heads for harvesting later.

This decision can, at times, be more than frustrating! A typical example is the delphinium: so lovely when left to give colour to the border; delightful if picked while young and dried in the hot-air cupboard, to cheer the winter months: invaluable if one foregoes picking until its seed-heads are formed and ready for harvesting. Molucella lirvis (Shell Flower) and Ballota pseudodictamnus are other examples, as are many of the charming and indispensable silver-leaved plants. It may not be practicable to relegate part of the vegetable garden – if indeed it still exists – to “cutting” plants only, but where this is possible it does help to solve the problem.Herbaceous Plants For Dried Arrangements

The collector should keep an eye open from late spring onward throughout the year. For his harvesting he should grow such herbaceous plants as appear in the following list:

  • Acanthus, for its leaves and wonderful flower-heads.
  • Achillea clypeolata, A. filipendulina, and the hybrids “Moonshine” and “Flowers of Sulphur”, and A. Ptarmica with its varieties “Perry White” and “Pearl”
  • Alsturmeria Ligtu hybrids, for useful seed-heads
  • Anaphalis triplinervis, for its tufted flowers, indispensable for “insetting” in arrangements of all sizes
  • Anemone Pulsatilla (Pasque Flower) – and many others of this genus – for its invaluable delicate leaves
  • Aquilegia, for its indispensable seed-heads – one can never have too many of these
  • Astilbe – in variety – for its plume-shaped seed-heads and good leaves
  • Astrantia (Masterwort), an unusual, attractive umbellifer – its flowers make a most diaphanous addition to an arrangement, and should always be included in a dried collection; it will dry standing up in an empty container, or could be hung upside down in loose bunches;
  • Catananche caerulea (Cupid’s Dart) – the electric-blue and silver-backed daisy-like flowers of this delicate everlasting preserve well, and look lovely in small arrangements; they require careful handling when being processed
  • Celmisia, for its silver-backed foliage
  • Centaurea Cyanus (Cornflower, Bachelor’s Button) – and many of the wild knapweeds – will be good for drying, but the unopened buds, which should be cut quite early, are perhaps more important than the flowers and make charming light outline additions to a dried assembly
  • C. dealbata, for its beautiful seed-heads which glisten in the light and are very long-lasting
  • C. macrocephala, another hardy perennial, this time with a charming yellow flower-head which can be dried and which is much sought after for such arrangements
  • Crocosmia, for its magnificent seed-heads
  • Delphinium, for flowers and seed-heads
  • Dianthus (Carnation), for the medium-sized double pinks, their hardy hybrids and Allivoodii, such as the lovely “Doris” and similar types, which are absolutely indispensable. Though some flower more profusely than others, they come in a superb variety of colours
  • Digitalis (Foxglove), for its seed-heads, both wild and cultivated
  • (Globe Thistle), for its grey-blue, round, hedgehog-like heads
  • Epimedium, for its attractive, long-stalked leaves (
  • Eryngium, especially E. alpinum and E. tripartitum
  • Fceniculum vulgare (Fennel)
  • Gentiana, in all its forms, for its flowers
  • Geranium, in variety, for its leaves
  • Helictotrichon sempervirens syn. Avena candida, for its tufts of blue-grey evergreen foliage
  • Hosta, in variety, for its leaves
  • Iris foetidissima, the fresh flower arranger’s “Goddess”, which is equally important to the dried flower collector – this native “Gladwin” not only has evergreen leaves but comparatively magnificent flowers which leave us with an autumn splendour really worth waiting for. The opportune moment to watch for is the bursting of its heavily packed, buff seed-heads, filled with spectacular red. Berries. The seed-heads and their berries must be harvested immediately and plunged into the varnish, which should be waiting to receive them. I. foetidissima variegata, though not so free-flowering, has evergreen, cream-striped leaves, attractive for pressing. I. pallida variegata and I. Pseudacorus (the Yellow Flag Iris) produce beautiful cream and green striped leaves useful for pressing, and the latter also has good seed-heads.
  • Isatis tinctoria, a crucifer of prehistoric origin – used for woad – which has impressive dark brown seed-heads
  • Lychnis chalcedonica (Maltese Cross, Jerusalem Cross), for its seed-heads
  • Monarda didyma “Cambridge Scarlet” (Oswego Tea, Bee Balm), for its long-lasting and most dependable seed-heads
  • Pceonia, in variety, for its leaves
  • Phlomis viscosa, for its unqiue seed-heads
  • Rodgersia, for its panicled seed-heads and lovely leaves
  • Salvia officinalis (the culinary Sage) and kindred varieties, for delicate and most useful seed-heads
  • Scrophularia (Figwort), for its seed-heads, so useful as light gap-fillers in dried arrangements
  • Thapsia villosa, an umbellifer with fantastically beautiful seed-heads, which comes from Northern Spain

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