Saving Summer's Bloom
If you find it hard to say goodbye to summer flowers, here are 2 quick and easy ways to extend your enjoyment of their beauty and save some money as well.
One of the best ways to preserve your flowers is simply to dry them. You may be surprised to discover how many blossoms can be dried and then combined into striking and long-lasting floral arrangements. Try your hand at making a colorful dried wreath.
Seed collecting is another way to extend the life or your favorite flowers from season to season. Not long ago, seed saving was a vital component of farm life, and exchanging seeds with neighbors and friends was a part of rural culture. Today, with so many seeds available, it may seem less necessary. But if you garden you know seeds can be expensive, so why not save your money?
HAVE LONG LASTING FLOWERS
Dried arrangements have become very popular, especially for holiday centerpieces. But if you've priced them lately, you know they're expensive and justifiably so, because a lot goes into producing them. Over the years I've found that many of the flowers used in these arrangements are plants I can grow in my garden. It's amazing how many flower varieties you can dry: almost anything that will keep its form and color, from roses to hydrangeas.
How to Air-Dry Plants
There are many ways to preserve flowers, but one of my favorites is also the simplest. Gather flowers through the growing season when they are looking their best, then strip the leaves after picking. Bundle the same variety of flowers together into small groups with rubber bands tightly enough that as the stems dry the band continues to constrict around them. Dry large flowers individually.
Hang the bundled flowers upside down in a warm, well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight. Once dried, spray the flowers with hairspray or an aerosol floral sealer to help prevent shedding and shattering. This is especially effective on ornamental grasses.
If necessary, use thin floral wires (found in crafts stores) to strengthen the stems of the flowers. Now they're ready to be arranged.
SEED SAVING MADE EASY
The first and easiest method of seed collection is to let Mother Nature do the work. In my garden several flowers such as larkspur, nicotiana, cleome, bachelor's button and globe amaranth are "hearty volunteers," meaning they easily reseed themselves. To encourage reseeding, all you need to do is leave some of the flowers so they will form seed heads. Once mature, shake them over the area to be reseeded, or just leave them alone and they'll fall to the ground. In the spring, identify the seedlings so you don't pull them up as weeds, and avoid smothering them with a heavy layer of mulch. Also resist using any pre-emergent herbicides in the area.
How to Collect and Dry Seeds If you prefer to collect and replant the seeds yourself, just tag the most vigorous and colorful flowers with a piece of bright yarn and allow them to set seed heads. The point at which the pods are ready for harvesting is when they are dry and brittle, but before they break open.
On a dry, sunny day, after the dew has evaporated, collect the seeds by shaking them onto a piece of paper. It's important to make sure the seeds are thoroughly dry before you store them in labeled, airtight plastic bags or mason jars. Once sealed, store them indoors in a cool, dry place until you're ready to plant them next spring.
This article originally appeared as my "Your Garden" column in the Sept. 01, 2003 issue of Woman's Day magazine. To read more of my garden and home advice included in the magazine visit www.womansday.com and become a subscriber.