While summerare often delightfully spontaneous, inspired by the flower of the moment, those for winter decoration are most successful if they are planned in advance.
For today’s centrally heated houses the flower arranger needs to know of those materials which will last the winter through, which will remain decorative no matter how hot or dry the atmosphere may become. Freshcannot last long under such conditions (although there are some fresh plant materials which can be used, as we shall see) and the most reliable subjects for winter decoration are dried and preserved . Since these are so varied we group them all under the omnibus heading of `perpetuelles’.
To many people the term dried and preserved flowers still conjures up a vision of a massed muddle of faded, musty, possibly dusty everlastings. But long-lasting flowers need be nothing like this. They too can be beautiful, distinctive, ornamental, enchanting, groomed and contemporary. They can be arranged in a great variety of styles so that they suit any interior and any type of furnishing.
Furthermore, the term ‘flower’ taken in this context becomes stretched to its limits with fascinating results. For apart from flowers, of which many are very colourful indeed, there are fruits, plant skeletons,heads, fungi and others forms of plant materials in a wonderful variety, their beauty often depending more on form and texture than on colour.
Grow, buy or collect them
Long-lasting flowers are not exclusively for those who have gardens, although there are many which are. It is well worth studying a catalogue for suitable subjects for the list seems to grow longer every year. Some seedsmen offer special collections of flowers for drying. There are also many plants in almost every garden, perennials, bulbs, shrubs and trees which are a source of many splendid perpetuelles. These might otherwise go unnoticed and unused, but once an arranger begins to learn about perpetuelles he or she will appreciate those that are all around. Often they are in great abundance.
Those who have no gardens will find that some flowers can be bought while others can be collected from the countryside. A walk round a country town during the summerseason is often rewarding, especially if it is market day. Look out for the true everlastings, helichrysums or strawdaisies, and statice, or limonium to give it its botanical name. Sometimes these can be bought in florists’ shops. In early autumn you can buy physalis or Chinese lanterns and honesty.
Everlasting flowers are usually sold freshly gathered and in fairly fat bunches. If they are to be dried successfully they must be untied, thestripped of foliage and then retied in smaller bunches of just five or six . The reason for this is that small bunches allow the air to circulate more freely among and between the stems. If the foliage is not removed it is likely to become mouldy and in any case even if it should dry properly it will not be decorative.
If you want to get the most from your ‘buy’, the statice can first be used in fresh flower arrangements in water, and later either left in, without water, to dry or taken out and bunched.