DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — Drying Blooms

The hydrangeas are putting on a beautiful show this summer. The large white-flowering perennial thrives in cool, moist weather, which we have been enjoying for the most part this summer.

Due to our cold winters, we can’t grow the “Endless Summer” hydrangeas, which come in green and blue shades. Instead, we have to make due with the white varieties, which do hold up well here if you give them winter protection. And they can be stunning.

Some gardeners wonder if the large, round white-ball blooms can be saved for winter by drying. The answer is yes. You also can dry other flowers with success. And we will list them later.

The easiest way to dry flowers is to pick them at the height of bloom, at midday, before they have begun to fade. Do not pick right after a rainfall.

Air drying is the simple way. Right after picking, hang flowers upside down on a line out of direct sunlight. Attics, closets, sheds, garages and pantries work. Attics and closets work best and should be first choices.

Divide flowers into small bunches to avoid crowding and crushing. The stems of the flowers can be tied together with twine, wire or rubber bands.

Dry the flowers for a couple of weeks or more if necessary. Check for mold, and if present, allow more room for the blooms to dry out.

After they’ve dried, wrap blooms in bunches and hang in a dry, dark place so colors will not fade badly.

Dried hydrangeas are wonderful winter flowers. The white blooms will take on an ivory hue and work well for Christmas decorating. They look well alone, too.

There are more complex methods to dry hydrangeas. They include glycerine, sand drying, use of homemade agents and silica gel.

These products and information on flower-drying are available at many garden centers, nurseries, florists and hobby shops.

Other flowers that dry well include astilbe, delphiniums (whites, blue and violets work the best), English lavender, gayfeather (liatris), yarrow, baby’s breath, Chinese peonies, celosia and cockscomb.

The secret to gathering many of these flowers listed above is to pick them before they have completely opened. Both pollination and age make the bloom more prone to shattering and fading.

As with hydrangeas, drying these flowers requires a dark room, so the flowers retain as much color as possible. Even indirect light can cause them to fade. Once dry, you can arrange in a vase. To keep them looking as fresh as possible, keep away from direct sunlight.

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