This is the time of the year when thoughts may turn to that which is sentimental or romantic. The Victorians were known for their attachment to that which is pretty and reflective of special times. They clipped locks of hair to frame with fragments of ribbon or lace and pressed blooms. These were often framed with poems or letters. They pressed flowers to put in lockets or broaches and also dried nosegays or tussie mussies and displayed them in crystal vases or in a china cabinet.
The Victorians were collectors. They loved to dry flowers to decorate their rooms and belongings. It was not unusual for them to press blooms and embellish poems, drawings and other messages with them. They also dried garden flowers as well as bouquets sent to them by friends and lovers.
Today, you do not have to be a Victorian to dry, press or preserve blooms. Many folks are sentimental and like to “save” a few of their Valentine flowers. This can be done either by hanging them or placing some in a powder called silica gel to dry. I also like to press a few either in a large telephone book or with a microwave press. Since ancient times people have pressed or dried blooms. Victorians had no such gadgets so they usually pressed blooms in heavy books or between woods in a flower press. I have done this, but have to confess that I now use a microwave press and have posies pressed and ready to frame in less than a minute. I just did some anemones, but usually wait for spring pansies, violets and buttercups, which are among my favorites to press. Remember that the blooms must be flattened and then dried so there is no moisture left in them.
I remember that my 4-H leader, who was also my 6th grade teacher, taught us to make a “winter bouquet,” as she called it. We dried goldenrod and pearly everlasting in a shoebox with borax, pressed colorful leaves in telephone books and picked grasses and pods to add to the bouquets. She also brought us some strawflowers and coxcomb to place in the center for more color. I still dry many flowers, but with the aid of silica gel can add lifelike garden flowers to my dried arrangements.
Roses, hydrangea and carnations really respond well to being dried in silica gel. Sometimes called Flower Dri, this is actually a desiccate powder that helps to hold the shape of the flower without allowing the petals to wrinkle as it pulls out the moisture. The blooms are cut short so they can be placed in an airtight cookie can in silica powder. They can be pushed into a layer of silica, and then additional powder is gently poured all around and inside of the bloom. It is important to keep the flower upright, held by the powder on the outside so it does not flatten or become squashed. You do not want to flatten the bloom. Roses work really well if they are not too open. They dry several shades darker than they are as fresh blooms. Sometimes people are disappointed that red roses come out very, very dark. Pink usually dries darker, but is bright and pretty and yellow is really nice. White comes out cream, but oranges and peach come out very fresh looking. Once they are dried, it is a good idea to spray the blooms lightly with a poly spray to keep them from reabsorbing moisture. They should be kept in a dry room.
I often dry wedding bouquets for brides so they have a lasting remembrance. The baby’s breath and static dries when hung upside down. There is no need to place it in silica. Gather the stems together with a rubber band so that they will tighten as the stems dry. Hang anywhere in a dry room. They actually look nice when drying. Some folks hang from a mantle, beams, or a line suspended.
Once the plant materials are dried, it is a good idea to make a wreath by hot gluing them to a sturdy base to keep their fragile petals from falling. They can be used in vases or arrangements for a few seasons, but are more vulnerable. Some will fade if kept in sunlight or too close to a heat source, but most last long and well. Unlike a fresh arrangement that can have but a few pristine blooms, dried flowers look better when used in mass.
The Victorians loved flowers and were the first Americans to really decorate with blooms in a very lavish manner. The filled vases, urns, and baskets all over the house with fresh flowers in season and any they might force in winter. They also loved large lavish dried bouquets that often had feathers, lace, and ribbons in them. The more ornate, the better was the thought of the Victorian. They used hydrangea and other easy to dry blooms for winter decoration.
Today, many people love the warm, sunny look of a dried bouquet all during winter, but it is extra special when a few holiday roses or carnations, especially Valentine blooms are added to a dried arrangement. Experiment with textures, pods, leaves and grasses to see what” look” you most enjoy for a winter bouquet and save your special blooms by all means.
Email questions about drying roses and other blooms to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below!
Lorraine Kiefer has gardened all of her life. She is a garden writer, floral designer and professional horticulturist. Lorraine teaches many classes at Triple Oaks nursery and Herb Garden in Franklinville, NJ. Email Lorraine@tripleoaks.com for garden help or leave your questions below! www.tripleoaks.com