Here are some expert tips on how to preserve and arrange your blooms so they remain vibrant the whole year-round.
Because methods of preserving different types of flowers and foliage vary, read the instructions carefully before deciding the best method for your particular flowers. Keep in mind that due to the delicate nature of petals and stems, you need a light touch and a steady hand.
Pick your plant material in dry weather and at midday if possible. Harvest flowers just as the buds are beginning to open. Avoid blemished flowers, fruits and leaves, as their flaws will become more pronounced when dry.
Remove lower leaves from flower stems, then tie stems together in loose bunches. Hang bunches upside down and apart (to allow air circulation) in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area until completely dry (one to three weeks).
Plant material may change in size, shape and colour and become fragile. This method is used for achilles, hydrangea, larkspur, roses, statice, strawflower, yarrow and herbs. To dry seed heads from such plants a coneflowers, love-in-a-mist and poppies, stems can be set, right side up, in dry containers.
Liquid glycerine is readily available in most drugstores but is relatively expensive. Cut stems on an angle and set upright in a container of warm water for an hour. In another container, mix one part glycerine with three parts hot water. Transfer stems from water into mixture and leave for six to 14 days. The glycerine is drawn up the stems through the water.
Plant material remains pliable but colours become dull. This method is not recommended for most flowers but is used for delicate sprays, such as baby's breath, or for bells of Ireland, evergreens, ferns, ivy or oak leaves.
Silica gel sand
Silca gel sand is a relatively expensive but reusable dessicant and is available at florists' supply stores or at some garden centres. The florist-grade sand has built-in moisture indicators. A large airtight cookie tin is an ideal container for the sand.
Remove stems and place flower heads face up on the sand. Carefully sprinkle flowers with sand, filling areas between and around each petal, until completely covered. Seal tin and store until flowers are dry (two to 10 days). Tilt container, spilling sand and exposing flowers. Working with one flower at a time, gently cup with fingers; lift out and dust with a soft paintbrush.
Flowers retain their shape and colour but may become fragile and papery; stem wires must be used for bouquets. This method is used for chrysanthemums, cornflowers, narcissi, peonies, Queen Anne's lace, roses and tulips.
Freeze-drying is a commercial process that is relatively new and costly. Plant material is freeze-dried by machine for up to two weeks.
Flowers retain their size, shape and colour but become fragile, and stem wires must be used for bouquets. This method is used to dry flowers, whole fruits and vegetables as well as other plant materials.
• Dried flowers, fruits, leaves, seed heads and Spanish moss (our arrangement comprises air-dried roses and ti tree; silica gel-dried carnations, chrysanthemums, daffodils, paper-white narcissi and tulips; glycerine-preserved asparagus ferns and leatherleaf ferns; and freeze-dried strawberries)
• Floral foam
• 18- to 20-gauge florist's wire, and stem-wrap tape
• Wire cutters or needle-nosed pliers
• Glue gun
1. Trim floral foam to fit snugly into basket and extend approximately 1.5 cm (5/8 in) above basket rim. Loop end of wire around rim at one side; pull wire over foam to opposite side; loop wire around rim and cut. Repeat with another length of wire, forming an X over foam and securing foam in basket. Cover foam with a thin layer of moss.
2. For each stem wire: Apply generous dab of glue to tip of wire; carefully holding dried flower head, seed head or fruit, press wire up into base of object until wire is firmly embedded. Let dry. Wrap entire length of wire with tape.
3. After assembling your materials, plan the shape and style of your arrangement. As a general rule, most arrangements form an irregular dome shape, with the highest point approximately twice the height of the container. An abundant but airy, natural-looking arrangement is almost mistake-proof. Begin the "top" of the arrangement at the centre, pushing each stem deep into the foam. Add greenery first, then flowers and fruits, cutting each stem to the appropriate length as you go, Work outward in expanding circles, changing stem angles gradually, from perpendicular at the centre to horizontal around the edge.
4. To ensure the arrangement's long life, be sure it is displayed or stored away from high humidity and out of direct sunlight.