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Gardening & More: Use desiccants to preserve flowers for dried arrangements

HANDFULS OF BEAUTY — Local horticulturist David Clark, who holds classes at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, will teach a series of three hands-on workshops, to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of Blessed Sacrament Church in Buffalo. In the first workshop, he will share more tips on preserving flowers and foliage. Attendees will also make potpourri.
SPRINGVILLE — You may have pressed flowers in a book or hung flowers to dry before, but there are other ways to preserve flowers, too. Horticulturist David Clark shared some tips about preserving flowers using drying powders.

Preserving flowers is one of the topics that he will cover, during a series of three hands-on workshops held as part of Buffalo’s Blessed Sacrament Church’s 125th anniversary. These workshops will be held in the Catholic Academy of West Buffalo Gymnasium, located at 1069 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo. Free parking is available, in the school’s lot, behind the building.

All of the sessions will be held on Wednesdays, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. The dates and topics are: Feb. 27, “Preserving Flowers and Foliage and Making Potpourri;” March 6: “Hand-tying Flowers” and March 20: “Creating Garden Magic,” which offers tips on garden ecology.

Tickets are being sold as a package, for all three sessions. The cost is $60 for non-parishioners and $40 for parishioners. Reservations must be made, in advance, by contacting Michael Pitek at 816-0144 or at michael@thepitekgroup.com.

When you use desiccants to dry flowers, the plant will hold the same shape as it did, when it was fresh. The color of the dried flower will be deeper and the petals will be papery and delicate.

You can start with flowers that are showing their age. This is a great way to preserve flowers from a prom corsage, Valentine’s arrangement or other sentimental gift, after the blooms are past their prime. Clark showed me this method, using roses that were two weeks old.

Do not use flowers that are already beginning to fall apart; they will continue to fall apart, as they dry.

There are a couple of different desiccants that you can use.

One is silica gel, which may be purchased in craft stores. Do not be confused by the name; silica gel is not a gel. It looks like white sand, with colored granules sprinkled in.

The granules change color, as they absorb moisture, letting you know when the silica gel has absorbed all the moisture it can hold. When it becomes saturated, you can place the silica gel in the oven to dry it out, so you can use it again. Cool the gel for at least 24 hours, before you use it, so you do not cook your flowers.

You can also make your own desiccant mixture. Mix equal parts corn meal and borax powder (which can be found with the laundry detergents). The chemicals borax contains can burn the flower, if you leave the plant in the mixture for long. The silica gel is faster and safer than this method.

Both desiccants must be stored in air-tight containers, to keep out moisture.

To begin, snip off your flower, leaving about 2 inches of stem.

Choose a container like a plastic storage bowl that is deep enough so your flower will fit inside, standing up. Pour just enough silica gel or corn meal mixture into the bottom of the bowl to support the flower.

Stand your flower in the mixture. Pour the mixture around the sides of the flower, then begin pouring the mixture over the top of the plant. Your flower must be completely covered.

Silica gel can irritate lungs, so avoid breathing the dust, as you pour the silica gel.

This gel also tends to get all over the place. To make cleanup easier, spread a towel over your workspace.

When you have completely covered the flower, snap on an air-tight lid. Leave the flower in the silica gel for five – seven days.

Write the start date and expected end date on top of the container.

Try using silica gel or your own homemade desiccant mixture, to dry flowers.

Connie Oswald Stofko is the publisher of Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, which is the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.
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