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Dry Flowers For Fun Decorations
By Kelli McPhail
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Keeping fresh flowers proves difficult, but drying flowers can be a creative and fun way to preserve flowers for decoration.
Dried flowers work well in bouquets, pressed flower pictures, potpourri, wreaths and as a wall decoration.
Norman Winter, a Mississippi State University Extension Service horticulturalist, said flowers like strawflower, baby's breath and cockscomb air dry easily.
"To air dry flowers, cut them when the dew is gone and remove the leaves," Winter said. "Tie several stems together with string or pipe cleaner and hang them in a cool, dry, dark and well-ventilated place."
Most of the flowers can be used just as they are after drying, but strawflowers and a few others need wire stems for support if they are used in bouquets.
"To wire, use a 20 gauge wire and push it upward through the center of the stem," Winter said. "Push the wire out the top of the flower, bend a small hook in the end of the wire and pull it back into the flower, hooking the center. The small hook should be well hidden in the flower's center to prevent it showing after the flower dries."
Drying other flowers requires a drying agent such as sand, fresh cat litter or a white cornmeal-and-borax mix.
"Pick flowers in the middle of the day, cut the stems and place them in the drying agent" Winter said. "The main function of these materials is to hold the petals in place while they dry naturally. Properly ventilate the flowers for rapid drying."
Another drying agent, silica gel, appears white in color and sometimes contains blue crystals that act as an indicator of the amount of moisture absorbed. As the moisture is absorbed from the flowers, the crystals gradually turn pink.
"Flowers drying in silica gel must be placed in air-tight containers such as candy tins, plastic containers or coffee cans," Winter said.
A microwave oven can speed up this process. Pour 1-inch of silica gel into a microwave safe container and arrange the plant material on top of the gel. Cover them with more gel and put the open container in the microwave.
Start the oven on high with the timer set on one minute. Remove the container after the minute and cover it, leaving the lid slightly open. Let it cool for a half-hour and brush off the silica gel. If the plant material is not dry to the touch, put it back in the gel and heat it for another 30 seconds"
Flowers like buttercups, daffodils, daisies, marigolds, pansies and Queen Anne's lace are great for pressing, used in flower pictures, on note paper and place cards.
"To press flowers, place them between layers of an absorbent material like newspaper, old telephone directories or catalogs," Winter said. "Absorbent facial tissues placed on the pages help the flowers dry faster. Stack them several layers deep without overlapping and place boards beneath and on top of the stack. Put them in a warm, dry place and let them dry for two to four weeks."