Storing

As each batch of material driesand you will recognise this stage more by the rustling sound it makes when you touch it than by any marked change in appearance-carefully cut the binding, if any, and gently shake the stems. Store where the heads will be least likely to be disturbed or get crushed. If you have the space, the ideal method is to push the stems into blocks of dry holding material, the heads upright and not touching each other. If not, choose the method that best suits your storage facilities: standing upright in containers, spread on crumpled tissue paper on racks or shelves, or packed carefully in boxes between layers of tissue. In anv event keep dried material away from direct sunlight and in a dry room. The author found that the crispy, crackly quality of dried material attracted one of her cats, who enlisted a bucket of hydrangea heads as instant playthings, while another kitten found racks of hillocky tissue paper irresistible as a sleeping place.

Because of its brittle nature, you must handle dried material with special care at all times. If it does lose its shape, you can restore it by holding it for a few seconds over the jet of steam from a kettle. Twist the stem round so that each part of the head is exposed to the steam and then gently reshape the material.

Look carefully at all your dried material as you store it and try to visualise it in other ways. Some of the largest sprays offer rich potential for small designs and pictures once you are able to separate each individual seedpod or flower head in your imagination. A long spike of lupin seedpods, for example, is not immediately recognisable as one of the most attractive of assets. Yet it is composed of numerous silvery, furry pods, each on its own short stalk, which can be used in miniature arrangements or in pictures.

The long tapering spikes of golden rod are made up of many small flower sprays. You will probably want to strip off some of the lower ones when arranging the long stems, so save these for small-scale work.

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