Beauty preserved: Dried flowers


Lee Bestall
1st July 2023

I know winter is probably the last thing on your mind, let alone Christmas, but now is the perfect time to start collecting material for dried floral arrangements that will look breathtaking from summer all the way through winter. It’s all too easy to forget to collect flowers for drying at this time of year, as summer sweeps us off our feet. Come autumn and winter, either the flowers or seedheads will be gone, or the wind and rain will have left them looking worse for wear. The key to really good dried flowers is collecting and drying them somewhere sheltered while they’re still in their prime.


Once you start to look and experiment, you’ll get a feel for what kinds of flowers and seed-heads dry out well. If you’ve got a mix of plants in the garden, there’s a good chance you’ll have a handful of things that will provide material for long-lasting dried arrangements. 

The fire-work seedheads of allums make for dazzling winter displays. Once their purple flowers have faded but the stems and heads are still green, this is the time to cut them. Bring them under cover and hang them upside-down until they’ve lost all their green and become bone dry. Their star-like qualities make them positively festive, especially if decorated with a little gold paint or glitter. The best ones to grow for keeping their seed-heads are Allium christophii, cultivars ‘Purple Sensation’ and ‘Purple Rain’, and the frankly bonkers Allium schubertii, but there are loads to choose from. These can all be bought as bulbs for planting in autumn.

Hydrangea flower heads can be cut while still in full swing, but are best left until late August or September when they will have started to dry naturally, faded to muted warm tones. Cut them on a warm dry day, with stems at least 30cm long, then place in a glass or vase of water. Leave somewhere cool away from direct sunlight, until the water has all evaporated and the flowers have fully dried naturally.

The fuzzy seedheads of clematis, and their wiry tangle of stems, add another dimension to dried arrangements. Dried heather seed-heads have the warmest russet tones. Most grass flowers dry well, but gold oat grass (Stipa gigantea) sadly doesn’t hold up. Now is the time to cut lavender flowers, for their soothing scent.

Many common self-seeders have beautiful seed-heads that hold up perfectly. Poppies, love-in-a-mist (Nigella), columbine (Aquilegia), honesty (Lunaria), and even foxgloved (Digitalis) are looking out for. Hang them upside-down over a newspaper for a week, to catch their seed. This not only saves the seed making a mess indoors, but gives you plenty of seed to scatter around.

Beyond working with what you’ve got, you can explore the world of cut flowers grown specifically for drying. Strawflowers (Helichrysum) and sea lavender (Limonium sinuatum) give the best results, and you can sow them this autumn. 

Capture these warm hazy days in dried form, to bring summer warmth to the coldest winter months.

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Lee Bestall

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