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Dried and Gone to Heaven


Fresh flowers with an afterlife, dried flowers are gaining new respect for their versatility as well as staying power. They impart their own particular look to a room and are being used in a wide range of interior designs from the most modern to the most traditional.

Dried flowers hit the design scene a couple of years ago and have continued to grow in popularity, says RoxAnn Johnson, an Orange-based interior designer who owns Faux Foliage & Florals, which creates dried floral and plant arrangements.

"People like dried flowers for many reasons," Johnson says. "While fresh flowers are wonderful, they don't last long and are seasonal. A dried arrangement can brighten up a house in the middle of winter when there isn't much in the garden."

Dried flowers are also popular because they are natural. "Unlike silks, when you dispose of dried flowers, they naturally decompose, which is important in this age of environmental awareness," she says.

Drying flowers and foliage requires experimentation and patience. There are three basic and relatively simple approaches--air drying, glycerin absorption and silica gel crystals--each of which works best for particular types of plants. There are few hard and fast rules, and the results--like flowers--always vary somewhat.

Many gardeners love drying flowers because they can preserve some of their favorites. Doris Loeffler of Villa Park has enjoyed growing flowers for 21 years. For the past couple of years, she has dried flowers and used them to decorate items for her craft business.

"It's really exciting to cut beautiful flowers and then wait to see how they will dry," she says. "It's also a lot of fun to see flowers you grew in your garden on display indefinitely in your home."

Loeffler's favorite flower for drying is statice, which remains bright and vivid in color. Other good dryable flowers include roses (especially two-toned varieties), larkspur, Queen Anne's lace, lavender, coreopsis, Gaillardia red plum, sunflowers, wax flower, strawflower, heather, baby's breath, mustard, yarrow, German statice, as well as herbs such as marjoram, oregano, mint, poppy pods and tansy.

For variety, you can also add dried plant materials such as eucalyptus, air fern and various moss, like plush velvet, sheet fern and mood moss.

Dried fruits and vegetables can even make good arrangement accompaniments. "Apricots, onions, apples and pomegranates look great with dried flowers," says Valencia-based Chuck Durica, who is Southwest regional sales manager for Pioneer Imports, Wildflowers Across America, an importer and distributor of dried and silk flowers.

Before cutting flowers from your garden and drying them for use in your home, you should know that once the moisture evaporates, they will change in appearance, says florist Pati Gosnell, who owns Regal Flowers in Orange and teaches a dried flower arranging class.

Rose heads, for instance, shrink considerably and they change color. Deep red roses become a dark grape color, white and pink turn pale yellow and yellow becomes mustard.

In the past, dried flowers were used primarily for country decors, but they are actually a lot more versatile than that, says Johnson. "Dried flowers give a friendly atmosphere to any home. They fit in modern and Southwestern decors, and are especially attractive in Victorian, country and traditional interiors," Johnson says.

Dried flowers can be used to soften certain atmospheres. For instance, a masculine bedroom with a lot of wood and dark colors can be softened with the placement of a few dried bouquets.

Before choosing flowers for drying, consider your home's decor, suggests Johnson. For instance, roses with baby's breath do well in traditional and Victorian homes, while sunflowers are great for the country look, and statice works well in Southwestern decors. For contemporary interiors, an arrangement of larkspur and dried artichokes can be stunning.

When decorating the home with dried flowers, there are a lot of things you can do. To dress up an entryway, dining room or living room, take a shallow terra-cotta pot, put in a crushed Styrofoam base and make an arrangement of roses that are various heights, Gosnell says. You may also want to add heather or German statice. Cover the base with dried fern or Spanish moss.

To make a flower basket, simply place a piece of crushed Styrofoam inside the basket and add a variety of dried flowers you have on hand. "For a country look, try using heather and mustard and adding a raffia bow," Gosnell says.

Another attractive arrangement that's easy to assemble is a cut-flower basket. For this, use a large oval basket and simply lay the various flowers inside as if you just cut them from the garden. "Larkspur, roses, German statice and statice, baby's breath, heather and eucalyptus look wonderful together in such an arrangement," Gosnell says. If you have a fireplace, a cut-flower basket looks especially nice on the hearth.

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