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Garden Care: Annuals

Drying and Pressing Annuals

There are several different drying techniques for annuals. The easiest is hang drying. After picking, all leaves should be removed, and flowers should be grouped in bunches of six to eight stems. Wind an elastic band tightly around the stems.

Picture of yellow poppies, Iceland poppy.
Iceland poppies are fragile, but it is possible to
preserve their beauty through drying and pressing.

Hang bundles upside-down out of the light in a well-ventilated, dry area. Leave enough space between bundles to allow for good air circulation and protect the bundles by enclosing them in large paper bags. The flowers will dry in two to three weeks. They can then be laid in covered boxes or left hanging.

Some flowers are too thick and others too delicate to successfully hang dry. Instead they can be dried with a desiccant -- a material that will draw moisture into itself. Floral desiccant is sold commercially. Or you can make it yourself by mixing equal parts of fine, dry sand and borax powder.

To use, pour an inch or more of desiccant in the bottom of a box, then lay the flowers on top. Very carefully spoon more desiccant up and around each flower head. Once all of the flowers are mounded over, an additional inch or two of desiccant should be gently poured on top.

Use a large, shallow box for long spikes of bloom such as larkspur. For single, dense blooms, like roses and marigolds, remove the flower stem first and replace it with a stiff wire stem. Lay the flowers flat on the surface of the desiccant, then mound more dessicant around and over them.

Drying will take several weeks, depending on the density of the flowers. When they're dry, carefully unbury them, gently brush away any adhering desiccant with a soft artist's brush, and store them in covered boxes in a dry place until ready to use.

A third drying method is to press flowers and leaves between layers of absorbent blotting paper or paper towels. The drawback to this method is that everything comes out flat. But for use in pictures, notepaper, or as a frame around a motto or wedding announcement, flowers dried this way can be very effective.

This technique works best with small flowers that are not very thick, such as pansies, petunias, and baby's breath. It is also suited for parts of flowers, such as single petals of sweet peas, poppies, and cosmos.

To dry, start with a piece of heavy cardboard at the base; then lay a sheet of drying paper on top. Carefully arrange flowers and leaves, making sure that there is space between them. Lay one or two more layers of drying paper on top. Arrange another layer of leaves and flowers.

Keep alternating until there are a half dozen layers of plant materials. Top these with more drying paper and a final piece of cardboard. Finally, place a heavy weight on top of the stack. Moisture will be squeezed out of the flowers into the paper.

Check after a week to see how drying is progressing. If any mold has formed, remove and replace the drying paper. After several weeks, the plant materials will be ready to use or store.

If preserving or cutting flowers for indoor decorations, you will want to make sure you have an abundance of flowers in your annuals garden. Go to the next page to read up on why pinching back your flowers will help you get a continuous supply of blooms in your garden.

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