How Much Food To Give A 5 Month Old Kitten The Flower Drying Game – Part 1: Air, Sand, and Sources

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The Flower Drying Game – Part 1: Air, Sand, and Sources

Most average gardeners quietly and sadly resign themselves to a long winter empty of the precious flowers that, just weeks before, had graced their lives with color and fragrance. Yes, it is sad to leave the outdoor garden behind.

Indoor plants alleviate some of the sadness, but somehow it’s not the same. I mean, African violets and Christmas cacti are nice, but I long for my lupines and roses and delphiniums and pansies and all the other wonderfully cheerful flower faces that used to look back from the border. Surely there must be a way to wear my winter favorites! The real trick, as you’ll soon see, is to plan ahead.

Enter my best friend of over 45 years, Linda. . .to my rescue (why am I not surprised?!). “Fear not,” she says “I’ll bring some of the summer delights and dry them so they can be our company this winter!”

“What a wonderful idea!” I say “But isn’t there some special trick or magic required? Shouldn’t we be taking a class or something?” “well no” she says “Just watch. You’ll see!”

So, for the price of a few moments of summer effort (which this remarkable person calls fun), our home often hosts a number of the most attractive small arrangements of dried flowers in baskets and vases, adding joy to joy.

You see, there really wasn’t any magic involved. All it took was a desire, a good New England decision, a few wire hangers, and some twist ties like the ones that come with most household trash bags. Combine these factors and inexpensive materials with space in your attic or closet, and selections from the list of “best bets to get started” I’ll include below, and you’ve reached the prestigious “expert” stage.

What you say? “Time to tell us about this now that the whole world is covered in snow!” “No”, I say! This is the perfect time. Winter is for planning. If I had told you about this in May or June, you would have been so busy that you would never have gotten around to it. Isn’t this the time for resolutions? So make one that says: “This is the last winter I will spend without summer flowers in my house!”

The instructions are pure simplicity. On a dry, sunny day, cut your fresh flowers, leaving fairly long stems. Group them into small bunches of no more than 6 or 7 stems and wrap the ends tightly with a twist. Attach several of these small bunches to a wire clothes hanger so they hang down and hang it in an attic or closet to dry. The drying process lasts from ten days to three or four weeks. Most will retain their color, but some will have a pale tan. Don’t worry, even softer, more faded colors work well with dried flower arrangements.

The rest is up to you and your imagination and creativity. Pictures in a book are very helpful. Remember that dried flowers are fragile and some delicate parts will break if handled with force.

Dry arrangements add so much to a home! They light up a room and certainly light up the spirits. The icing on the cake: they make thoughtful and much-appreciated gifts, especially to the shut-ins.

That’s it to air dry. Here’s the list of “best bets” I promised you:

Artemisia; Astilbe; baby’s breath; balm; All; Lattice; Chive seed heads; Cornflower seed heads; Globe Amaranth; Balloon thistle; golden rod; Gomphrena; Heather; Helichrysum; Hydrangea (especially “Pee-Gee”); lavender; Lunaria (seed structures, not flowers); Ornamental grasses; Pearly Everlastings; willows; Sage; Sea lavender; Static; Veronica; millefeuilles

The list could go on, but I think you get the picture. Keep your eyes open and don’t be shy.

Now we tackle a more complicated process: drying some of the most delicate and intricate flowers in the sand. Large flowers like roses, carnations, daisies, delphiniums and many others not only lose their shape, but most fade to brown if simply hung to dry.

Sand drying By far the least complicated method is air drying, but that limits us to a relatively short list of possibilities. Carefully surrounding the most delicate and intricate flowers with sand (or silica gel) expands the list considerably and opens the door to much more elaborate and lovely floral displays that can last for months.

First, a word or two of caution. Most dried flowers in sand are extremely fragile, breaking at the slightest mishap. A playful kitten or curious child will quickly turn a beautiful flower into a handful of fragments that resemble breakfast flakes. The entire process briefly described below must be carried out slowly, very deliberately and with the lightest touch. The last requirement is patience. A flower removed from its bed of sand too soon, before it dries out completely, will quickly curl up…so don’t worry too much.

sand Probably the most difficult first step is finding the right sand. If you’re willing to spend a little more, most larger craft stores stock or can order sand that’s more suitable for this purpose, usually in five-pound cans. You’ll need about fifteen or twenty pounds to get started. Since sand made specifically for this purpose is completely reusable, it should last a while, especially if it is kept reasonably clean. Silica gel can be too complicated (and too expensive) for the beginner, the experimenter, or anyone on a budget. It dries the flowers very quickly, but it has to be programmed almost at the exact, “right” time.

Silica sand (or “glass sand”), on the other hand, is perfect, much nicer to handle, and considerably less expensive. It is almost pure white and looks like fine granulated sugar. Beach sand, “sharp” masonry or construction sand, and road sand are uneven and dirty, and can leave an unpleasant, hard-to-remove residue on your dry specimens. Take your time to find the right type.

containers Sturdy shoe boxes are almost perfect for drying flowers. Round cardboard oat containers also work well, but can be a bit awkward. Both have tight caps and are stable, not easily disturbed. Plastic bags and glass jars are not suitable; no grocery or lunch bags.

where? Someone said to me the other day “Sure, you dry all kinds of flowers! But where can I get flowers this time of year?” A reasonable question and easy to answer. This is where you will find a lot of material…

    * From a caring spouse or friend who sends or brings you a nice bouquet or potted plant from a local florist or supermarket.
    * Weddings are happening all around us. In my early days as a wedding photographer I attended hundreds of weddings and many had fresh and attractive arrangements on every reception table.
    * There are almost as many funerals as weddings (hmmmm). While I don’t recommend going to a funeral just for the flowers, all too often these large arrangements, loaded with a wide variety of appropriate flowers and vegetables, end up in the trash after the service. Most funeral homes would be happy to see them “recycled”.
    * The florist or local florist. One or two single daisies or mums shouldn’t cost too much. They may even let you have some of their “receipts”. Small flaws that make a flower unsuitable for a fresh arrangement are perfectly acceptable for drying. question
    * And of course there’s your own garden, next year.

Ok…before you go to part 2, go down some proper sand and pick up a few mush or shoe boxes. Also, gather a paper cup or two and a small, soft artist brush. Finally, if you’re the type to salvage and recycle these things, a dry “Oasis” block — fluffy green blocks that florists use in arrangements — will make a handy place to temporarily hold dry, finished specimens. .

Part 2 of this 3-part series will show you how to use sand to dry and introduce you to the secret that florists have kept for decades to keep that “alive” look with dry foliage accents. Later in Part 3, we’ll get the plans and instructions for an affordable do-it-yourself flower press.

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