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How to Preserve Flowers, Foliage

August 28, 1993

AIR DRYING: BEST FOR FLOWERS The easiest and least expensive method. Don't be discouraged if your dried flowers don't resemble the vividly colored ones you may have seen in store-bought arrangements. These may have been freeze-dried, a method that requires costly equipment and professional expertise. Your air-dried flowers will fade gently and have a fragile, antique elegance. Handle carefully. Getting Started * When to pick flowers: Early morning or late afternoon. * Drying small bunches: Remove lower leaves. Secure flowers into small bunches by wrapping rubber band around stems. * Drying individual flowers: Large flowers or those with dense foliage should be dried individually. Remove lower leaves. Drying Process * Hanging small bunches: Hang upside down on a clothes drying rack in a warm, dry place. Good air circulation is essential. Without it, the flowers will mildew. To preserve color, do not hang in direct sunlight. A spare room is best, but a shed or garage will do. * Don't overcrowd: Leaving space between bunches so flowers don't overlap allows moisture to evaporate. * Top-heavy or difficult to hang plants: Sunflowers, maize or artichokes, for instance, can be dried right-side up. Place a piece of chicken wire over the top of a box deep enough to contain the stem. Push stems through chicken wire so flower heads rest on top of mesh right side up. * Delicate materials: Moss and lichen can be dried on top of crumpled sheets of newspaper. * When they're ready: Plants are dry when they become papery and stems have shrunk. Take care not to remove them too soon, or they will mildew. * Exception: Some plants dry best in a small amount of water. These include hydrangea, gypsophila (baby's breath), proteas, statice, mimosa and achillea. Stand them upright in the drying area in a vase containing a half-inch of water. By the time the water is absorbed, the flowers will most likely be dry. Best Flowers for Air-Drying Achillea Baby's breath German statice Globe thistle Hydrangea Lamb's ears Larkspur Love-in-a-mist Mimosa Money plant (or lunaria) Poppy Protea Roses Yarrow Strawflower Statice Delphinium Lavender Queen Anne's lace

PRESERVING WITH GLYCERIN: BEST FOR FOLIAGE * Plant absorbs solution of glycerin and water though stem. Eventually, the water evaporates from the plant, leaving only the glycerin in plant tissues. Ivy, catkins, laurel, magnolia, ferns, eucalyptus and other leaves and foliage respond well to this treatment. The process requires experimentation, because results vary among plants. Getting Started * When to pick foliage: Gather mature, fresh-cut branches or stems while the sap is still rising, usually in summer. * Damaged or new leaves: Remove them because they don't respond well to glycerin. * Aiding absorption: Crush or cut the ends of woody stems at an acute angle. Drying Process * Preparing the glycerin: Mix two parts hot water to one part glycerin (available at pharmacies). Pour a few inches of mixture into a tall vase. Place plants in vase. Plants will absorb mixture and become preserved. Add more mixture to vase as it is absorbed. * Plants change color: As plants absorb glycerin, there will be a slight color change. * When they're ready: When all portions of plant have changed, it is properly dried. Foliage will remain supple. Plants with natural brown tint, such as oak, will take on a lustrous bronze. Others may turn yellow or murky brown. Try adding a few drops of food coloring to the glycerin solution to achieve desired color. Experiment freely. Best Foliage for Glycerin Boxwood Camellia leaves Catkins Cotoneaster Eucalyptus Ferns Ivy Magnolia leaves Oak leaves

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