Dried Flowers for Wild Garden Style Floristry

WORDS: Kathryn Cronin PHOTOS: Ricky Bache
Using dried flowers is an notable aspect of wild garden style floristry. The last time I grew flowers for drying in any quantities was back in the last century. I have made myself laugh with that factually correct statement.

Everything comes and goes and so it appears now is the time for a revival of all things dried and floral. Some associate dried flowers with Laura Ashley and 1980s kitsch but I have always really loved the shape and texture dried flowers add to any design.

It was after visiting Cotehele a couple of years ago that I decided I would grow some of the contents of that inspiring dried floral garland that has been decorating the hall there for hundreds of years. I adore that tradition. No nod to fashion trends there then I thought, just heritage and continuity that if we take insufficient care over, we are in danger of losing.

Two and half trees of pittosporum are used as the base of this breathtakingly beautiful garland. I’ll need to wait a few years until my wee pittosporum shrubs are a bit bigger for that. In the meantime I have started by growing 2 of my favourite dried flower ingredients, limonium suworowii and helichrysum.

Both have grown well in my cutting garden with a bit of feeding and a decent amount of light although neither are in full sun. In all honesty the issue is going to be finding places to dry them as already I can see these dried flowers are going to be, as my other half so eloquently puts it, “space occupying”. That said, it will be no time at all before I’ll start to use it to create my own smaller wreath versions of the Cotehele garland. Although my wreaths will be smaller, they will be wild none the less. Limonium that dries in twists and turns provides fabulous movement and with the pops of colour provided by the dried helichrysum, I am looking forward to hanging one on my front door already.

Beware of cutting your helichrysum when the flowers are fully open. Cut them when they have reached a good size but are still closed. Believe you me, they will open out more than you can imagine when you hang them up for drying and if they are too open they will just open too much.

There are a number of floral designers who use dried plant materials in their designs including their bouquets. Sarah Winward, Amy Osaba, Zita Elze and Tammy of WildBunch all use elements that have been dried alongside the living fresh florals. Dried plant material provides an ethereal quality to the design. Dried flowers bring that elusive “something” to an arrangement. A couple of obvious ones that I use all the time are honesty and nigella seed heads but there are many many more.

Wild garden style floristry is all about combining the artistry of design with the inspiration that comes from nature. Always there is life and death and so it is with wild garden style florals. I have started to use dried snowberry branches in many of my pieces as they have a wonderful curved flow to their twigs that are both beautiful and practical. In a strange way that I am unable to reason, dried florals seem to bring a life to the fresh florals in a way that foliage alone is unable to do.

There is another reason to grow dried flowers for cutting. When all is grey and cold and dull, when there there is precious little else in the sleeping winter hedgerows, their colour lifts the spirit. For that reason alone, I will be growing more of them again next year.

It was after visiting Cotehele a couple of years ago that I decided I would grow some of the contents of that inspiring dried floral garland

I encourage you to grow some flowers for drying. It provides an excellent opportunity to have crop for selling in winter albeit one that will require some storage from growing in the summertime.

Read more from Fierceblooms, this flower grower and Cheshire florist on the floristry blog.

Also on the site, there are loads more articles about my canalside cutting garden and a page detailing my fierce flower classes and tutelage.

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