Storing Dried Flowers

Storing flowers is a most important phase in the dried arranger’s calendar, when the preparation of file material is almost complete and when the final and culminating stage comes into sight – and a reminder too that “Nature is ever returned double to us, she is the preserver and treasurer of beauty.” What more can one ask for, except the gift to display her treasures ? What more can Nature supply, except still further enticement to explore her realm?

This then is the moment when the results of months of growing and harvesting and preserving stand ready for the final display – a moment too for the worker to survey, to reflect, to wonder, and indeed to be thankful – in truth, the season. Of Harvest Thanksgiving. They are all there: the leaves, the ferns, the grasses, the flower-heads, the seed-pods, the branches, the berries, the cones, the mosses and lichens – all this natural beauty is preserved for the arranger to pick and choose from, and he pauses – reculer pour mieux sauter – awaiting the moment of inspiration to achieve assembly.

Assembly: maybe for some particular occasion – an especially pleasing container just asking to be filled – a spur-of-the-moment gift – ”just something” to enliven a dark corner when fresh flowers are scarce – or perchance for the sheer delight of arranging a little assembly of one’s own favourite things: all here, collected together in one’s own Aladdin’s Cave.

The main object of the store is to keep the season’s harvest (including, too, any treasured leftStoring Dried Flowers-overs of bygone seasons) in as near perfect a condition as possible. The arranger must safeguard against any hint of distortion, or loss of colour or shape, or developing brittleness, and against any inclination to shrivel and curl. This store is beyond price to the arranger for it not only represents the results of seasons of planning, growing, harvesting and preserving, but is also the treasury of the very materials which ultimately determine the difference between failure and success.

Principal Features of the Store

Ideally the store should be a place set aside for this specific purpose: an outhouse, a granary, a disused garage, a storeroom, an attic, or a good part of the worker’s studio.

CLEANLINESS

This is essential for the safe-keeping of the treasured collection. A large dustbin should always be at hand for unwanted trimmings, decayed leaves, mis-shapen seed-vessels, faded flowers, and so on, and for sweepings from table or floor. This should be emptied regularly. A generous use of light polythene sheeting and bags is the best means of controlling dust, and large sheets of paper or flat boxes will help the dried flower worker to prevent the spread of endless seeds during storage.

GUARDING AGAINST HUMIDITY

Damp is the storer’s greatest enemy. In less than no time it can cause mildew, canker, wilting and discolouration – and final disintegration. It must be avoided at all costs, and some form of heating, however meagre and occasional, should be on hand when necessary.

AIR

An airy atmosphere is important. An enclosed attic or closed garage needs regular opening up to encourage the circulation of air.

HEAT

Heat is only necessary in so much as it may be required to maintain dryness. This purpose apart, it can be harmful.

LIGHT

Neither too much light nor too little should be the aim. Complete darkness is not good, and direct sunshine pouring in, unshaded, would be fatal.

GUARDING AGAINST RATS, MICE, FLIES, INSECTS

These must all be guarded against. Greenfly can multiply rapidly if not checked by handpicking or spraying.

THE DANGER OF MILDEW

Mildew must be carefully watched for, especially on pressed leaves and on some seed-heads. If an item becomes infected, one can try to check the mildew by applying a coat of varnish, but more often than not, it must be thrown out.

Storage

For the actual storage of individual items, a supply of long, wide, florists’ boxes, with lids, is by far the best. These are strong and light, and nearly always have air-holes already. They can be labelled and stacked for easy access. Wide, flat dress-boxes can be used, if sufficiently strong and of good enough quality, but they are inclined to absorb moisture and become damp, and should not be used with the lids on. For upright storage, wine merchants’ cartons (the deep kind) are essential. They are light and easy to stack when not in use.

When preserving leaves, a plentiful supply of sheets of blotting paper (in varying colours to denote the grouping of the contents) should be available. These sheets, with their dried contents, can be stacked carefully on top of one another – open ends towards the worker – in a safe corner, ready for use. They can be labelled, if required, by using Sellotape-X in differing colours, and descriptive lettering – this saves much lengthy searching for the right leaves during assembly, and avoids constant harmful disturbance of the fragile collection.

Rolls of clear cellophane or polythene should be stocked in the store:

1. for spreading lightly over material lying flat in boxes;

2. for covering lightly material in the upright drying position – fluffy grasses definitely excluded; and

3. for use in packing arrangements.

  • Cellophane or polythene bags should also be available, in which to keep and transport delicate items, and for a wide variety of purposes, such as storing damp mosses.
  • Large sheets of brown paper are useful when drying items laid flat on the floor or on trestle tables – they can help to control the spread of seeds during ripening and drying.
  • Large sheets of newspaper – in ample quantities – are necessary when varnishing. These should be replenished frequently, and the sticky portions thrown away.
  • Soft-textured string or gardener’s twine will be needed for tying heavier bundles which are hung to dry upside down; strong soft silk, soft nylon thread, fine twine or split raffia for the more delicate bunches; Twist-its for the most fragile harvestings; and fine plastic-covered wire for tying bundles which are to stand upright.
  • Stemfix foam will be useful in the store, since delicate blooms which have been preserved by the chemical process can be set to “air” in it. Stored in this way, they retain their individual shape and the fragile petals are not distorted.

Conservation

Never ever hand over the discarding of a fresh arrangement (admittedly past its best) to anyone who may not have an “eye” for retaining the =shrivelled bits and pieces. Put them in their separate places in the store for further use as and when needed.

“The Painter’s Palette”

Assuming these recommendations are followed successfully, there should be no reason why most of the precious stock should not be kept in good order for several seasons – leaves, grasses and ferns will last for many years. It is important to keep in store a few bits and pieces to act as spare parts for replacing and replenishing at any time. This is an integral part of the venture, and given the necessary space and conditions, should not be too difficult to achieve.

Such a store of colourful materials, all ready and prepared for use, is like a painter’s palette, and a constant joy and inspiration to the artist – whether he is working with paints or with dried plant material.

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