Using Silver-leaved Plants In Dried Arrangements

These superlatively beautiful plants give unique pleasure wherever they are seen, whether as a tall group in the back of a garden border, in front as an edging, massed on exhibition at a flower-show, in the market or the florist’s shop, in a window-box, or growing wild in the fields. These lovers of the sun and open ground create a glistening eye-catching effect, and are real charmers in their varying shapes, and many of them thrive out of doors throughout the year. So long as sunlight and good drainage and, in individual cases, winter protection, are provided, their silver-white foliage and fascinating budding flowers (with the exception of the yellow daisy types!) are a joy quite unsurpassed. The flower assembler – whether of fresh or dried arrangements – will find them indispensable. Their cultural needs and sources of supply are most successfully set out by Mrs Desmond Underwood of Colchester, whose book Grey and Silver Plants is well worth studying. As with other dried material harvesting, much depends upon the season for outdoor picking. Silver plants should be harvested early, just as they are reaching their prime and before any flopping, wilting, browning or curling occur. If they are grown in green-house or conservatory, the opportunities for picking are more extended; if growing in the wild, they should be ready in midsummer; they may be available in the florists, subject to market supplies; and they flourish the whole year through in window-boxes, or in urns and tubs on the patio.

Using Silver-leaved Plants In Dried Arrangements

In the picture above is a big, complex arrangement in shades of white, off-white, cream and grey, with touches of pale green, set in a painted wood container of classic form. The centrepiece is a creamy-green dried hydrangea, and other hydrangea heads are recessed around it. Four clematis heads are set around the centrepiece: the fluffy bluey-grey pair appearing to the left above it and to the right below it, in a slanting line, were dried; the crisp spidery brown pair – above to the right and below to the left – were varnished. A third varnished clematis head is set low down, left of centre. Drooping in the mid-front are sprays of larch, covered with pale grey lichen. Small starry helichrysum flowers, with creamy petals and yellow daisy-like centres, are scattered through the arrangement. Spraying out from the centre is a mass of spear-shaped green eucalyptus leaves, bleached fern, hedgerow grasses, nipplewort and beautiful ballota with its small greeny-grey clusters clinging to a velvety stem.

The drying and preserving of these silver-leaved plants is still open to experiment. Much will depend upon the particular season, and there will be a good measure of trial and error – but no-one, surely, could resist growing and picking for drying such gems as pearly little ana-, phalis, the artemisias, ballota, the blue grasses of the Festuca species, the delicate santolinas, the decorative senecios, Stachys lanata (Lamb’s Lug), and the rather tall and stately, soft to the touch, verbascum.

There are several ways of preserving the silver-foliaged tribe:

1. by hanging the cut plant in its entirety – stems, leaves, flower-heads (in bud) – upside down;

2. by drying the same way, but spread out flat;

3. by pressing the cut plant, again in its entirety, between sheets of blotting-paper.

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