Preserve the beauty of your summer garden for year-round enjoyment by drying flowers for later use. Dried flowers make lovely, carefree arrangements or can be used to make fragrant potpourri.
The best time to cut flowers for drying is mid-morning after the dew has dried but before the sun and heat wilt plants. Because flowers will continue to open somewhat as they dry, choose flowers at different stages of development from buds to fully open blooms.
Cut flowers should be near their peak, not fading or brown along the edges. Look for curved stems that will add interest to arrangements as stems will be too brittle for manipulation after drying. Handle flowers carefully during cutting to prevent bruising. While gathering flowers, place stems into a container of water immediately to prevent wilting. Flowers can be kept in a vase of lukewarm water stored in a cool, dry place for up to 24 hours before drying.
Always collect more flowers than you need to allow for shrinkage and damage during the drying process. If making potpourri, you will need 4 cups of fresh botanical material for every 1 cup of dried potpourri. Good candidates for air drying include Baby's breath, roses, herbs, bachelor's button, delphinium, statice, larkspur, lavender, yarrow, chrysanthemum, ornamental grasses, strawflower, globe amaranth, African daisy, cornflower, carnations, Queen Anne's Lace, pompon dahlias and beebalm.
Several methods can be used to dry flowers, but air drying is the simplest. Bunches of stemmed flowers can be hung upside down to dry, but petals and flower buds must be laid flat and dried on racks (see directions below). Drying time will vary depending on the size and density of the flower, as well as weather conditions. Expect drying to take longer in rainy or humid weather.