I don't just use fresh flowers for creating displays in the house. I seem to have an ever-growing collection of dried flowers and seed heads - giant, starry Allium christophii heads, sculptural opium poppies and the balloon-shaped heads of Nigella (love-in-a-mist). The good thing about them is that you can just chuck them on the compost heap if you tire of them or they get really dusty and grab yourself some fresh ones. Alliums come back every year and are best left to dry on the plant and then harvested before they get too weather-beaten. Poppies self-seed so you can have fresh seed heads each year and once you've grown the prolific self-sower love-in-a-mist, you'll be hard-pressed to get rid of it from the garden. Don't worry, it's easy to weed out or move seedlings if they pop up in the wrong place.
Alliums look fabulous just on their own in a single-stem vase or vintage glass bottle. You can even suspend them from the ceiling at Christmas-time, spraying them silver or gold if you're feeling adventurous. You'll find information on drying seed heads here.
I also grow a range of flowers that are suitable for drying. My favourites are Helichrysum or 'everlasting flowers'. They come in a wide range of colours and retain their colour and shape perfectly. You can use them as fresh flowers, dry them with the stems for display in a vase or use them for decorating dried flower wreaths or for adding a splash of colour to your Christmas wreath. I'm a fan of having wreaths on the wall throughout the year.
The best flowers for drying are those that retain their colour once dried. Varieties with thin petals and single flowers will dry quickly and successfully. Examples are larkspur, feverfew, sea lavender (Statice) and winged everlasting (Amobium alatum). Grasses like bunny's tails (Lagurus ovatus) also dry beautifully.
How to dry flowers:
Bundle together small bunches (about 8-10 stems) and tie them at the bottom of the stems using a piece of garden twine about 20 - 30 cm long.
Make a loop at the other end of your twine and use it to hang the flowers upside-down somewhere warm and dry in the dark. I use what used to be an airing cupboard but you could use a garage or something similar.
Leave until all parts of the flower are completely dry (usually about 1-2 weeks depending on the flowers used).
It's fair to say that life under lock-down had its ups and downs. I didn't have the time or the inclination to write anything new for my website but now that both of my children are back at school, it's time to brush off the to-do list and actually do some of the things on it. Updating the website is first on the list, so that means catching up on what we've been up to over the summer.
Homeschooling was definitely a challenge at times (usually when it came to anything maths-related). We felt lucky that our Science topic was, rather fittingly, 'Plants'. The highlight was creating a Japanese-style garden model which our 9 year old took to like a duck to water, following perhaps in her father's garden designer footsteps. Art projects included looking at and imitating Angie Lewin's horticultural prints and making our own picture from pressed flowers. It was almost like the work was being set especially for us!
I found that by the time that the summer holidays rolled around, we were already bored and it was a bit of a herculean task to keep both children occupied and happy. We met up with friends outside for socially-distanced activities, were able to resume going swimming at a private pool and had a week away in a secluded cottage in the middle of a Norfolk forest - bliss!
I really appreciated how lucky we are that my husband could continue his work designing and building gardens and I was able to sell my pressed flower art online. Face to face workshops that I would normally host at home have been postponed for the time-being and I've had to cancel some craft shows that I had signed up for. However, maybe it has given me the time to focus on just one aspect of flowers - growing, pressing and creating with them. As soon as things are more settled, I'll be welcoming people back for the flower workshops.
Our allotment as been a real boon, a place to escape for an hour or so in the evening and the garden is looking the best it ever has as we've had so much time at home. I grew some new varieties of Dahlia at home and at the allotment. For sheer elegance, I think my favourite one is Eveline which has a delicate lilac blush a the centre. Other highlights have been the Comos 'Fizzy Rose Picotee' and Zinnia 'Zinderella' Peach.
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