Gardeners know it takes time and effort to cultivate a plant palette that blooms throughout the seasons. Each flower brings so much joy and satisfaction, but the blooms never last as long as you would like. My first urge is to take pictures. But there is another way to preserve this ephemeral beauty: drying flowers.
If you’ve walked through the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Visitor Center, you likely looked up to see Herbarium, one of the works featured in Flourish: The Garden at 50. Artist Rebecca Louise Law used dried flowers, hung on copper wire, and arranged them in alphabetical order from A to Z to create the installation.
Herbarium by Rebecca Louise Law
The flowers were collected from our display gardens and dried by a team of Garden volunteers. I was struck by how many different kinds of plants are in the display and how they are so well-preserved. I know that some flowers dry better than others, and there are conditions and techniques that can set you up for success, so I set out to learn more.
Nancy Giardina, one of the Garden volunteers who made this incredible display possible, was kind enough to share some tips. I hope they help you preserve some of the beauty you find in your garden or at farmers’ markets this summer.
Celosia or cockscomb, both big and small
Eryngo (Sea Holly)
Filipendula rubra (Queen of the Prairie)
Gentiana andrewsii (Bottle gentian)
Gomphrena globosa (Globe amaranth)
Northern sea oats
Ornamental oregano 'Kent Beauty'
Rose 'The Fairy'
Learn more by visiting the Lenhardt Library, where Chicago Botanic Garden members can check out books.
Here are just some of the books about how to dry flowers:
Dried Flowers for All Seasons: Creating the Fresh-Flower Look Year-Round
(2001), by Jan and Michael Gertley
Everlastings: Natural Displays With Dried Flowers
(2010), by Terence Moore
Fresh Ideas in Dried Flowers
(2005), by Terry L. Rye
Preserving Flowers: Dried & Pressed Floral Designs for Every Season
(2008), by Diane Flowers
The Ultimate Book Of Fresh & Dried Flowers: A Complete Guide To Floral Arranging
(2012), by Fiona Barnett and Terence Moore