Preparing wedding flowers: DRYING BY HANGING

This method is not as sinister as it sounds! Some seed heads, grasses and flowers dry tied in bunches and hung upside down.

When you are planning a dried collection for a wedding flower display, keep an eagle eye on your flower border. When the seed heads have formed cut them before they are spotted or spoilt by damp. If flowers are to be preserved they must be in perfect condition. By the time they start to drop or wilt it is too late to use them.

In the autumn go to the country and you will find the hedgerows full of seed heads. Again pick only the perfect ones and only the amount with which you can cope: otherwise you stuff your car with material which inevitably sheds seeds everywhere, and this is not popular!

When you are ready to dry your material gather about six stems and tic them so that the heads are not bunched together. The air must circulate freely. Tie a piece of string from a nail in one wall to a nail in the opposite wall. Hang the bunches from the string well spaced out from one another. They will drop a number of seeds, so spread a dust-sheet under the hanging area. The first time I tried this method it failed because the room, in a very old house, was not absolutely dry. The next time I kept a night storage heater on at a medium setting and the bunches dried in about three weeks. A garage or shed is only suitable if quite dry. If you are fortunate enough to have a very warm place like a kitchen or laundry with sufficient space, the material will dry much more quickly: and the quicker the better. Do remember that long stems and large seed heads are heavy when you start to dry them, so the string must be firmly tied and made taut.

When you are quite sure that the material is dry — it should be papery and dry to the touch — give it a last shake, untie the bunches, and then store it in long boxes in layers of tissue paper. It is fragile when dried so careful storing is important. Churches need long stems of dried material and if suitable boxes are difficult to come by there are some plants like honesty and achillea which can safely be put to stand in a corner of the building in empty jugs or buckets.

The following can be successfully preserved by the hanging method: Acanthus: white and mauve flowers; pick when flowers are in good condition; useful for large groups of wedding flowers as they give height.

Achillea (yarrow): yellow flower heads; also dry by upright method.

Alchemilla major (mollis) (lady’s mantle): lime green flowers. Both flowers and the tiny leaves will dry.

Allium cepa (onion): dry large round seed heads.

Althaea (hollyhock): Seed heads.

Bulrush: Brown spikes; pick when the brown spikes are half developed.

Carrot leaves: pale green.

Clarkia-. Pink and purple flowers.

Clematis vitalba (old man’s beard): pick before the heads are too fluffy. Strip off leaves. If preserved in glycerine leave the leaves on as they go an interesting brown.

Conium macidatum (hemlock): orangey brown.

Cynara scolymus (globe artichoke): large purple heads; heads change to cream after drying.

Delphinium: pink, mauve, blue and white flowers. Dry both seed heads and flowers. To preserve the flowers pick when some buds are still unopened.

Delphinium ajacis (larkspur): pink, mauve and white flowers.

Digitalis (foxglove): preserve seed heads.

Dipsacus fullonum (teasel): useful seed heads.

Dock: lime green to dark red; also dries well in glycerine.

Echinops ritro (globe thistle): grey blue colour. Very prickly stems so wear gloves to prepare! Grasses.

Helichrysum bracteatum (everlasting flower): mixed. Push a stub of wire up the stem to the base of the flower head before drying: otherwise it flops.

Lunaria annua (honesty): purple and white flowers. Cut when the seed heads are bone dry, shake well and remove outer covering leaving translucent silvery seed pods.

Lupinus (lupin): mixed colours. Dry seed heads. Pick straight and bending stems.

Molucella laevis (bells of Ireland): lime green flowers. Dry to pale parchment colour. Also dry well in glycerine.

Papaver (poppy): pink and reds. Collect all seed heads, from tiny wild ones to large cultivated varieties.

Pbysalis franchettii (Chinese lanterns or Cape gooseberry): dry the seed heads. Cut when some of the calyces have not yet ripened.

Solidago (golden rod): golden flower spikes; can dry upright.

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