Sunday, September 8, 2013

Notes on Quick-Drying Hydrangea Flowers

This post is a follow-up on the wreath of dried flowers that I made last month.

For anyone curious about drying flowers and maintaining them in a decorative arrangement, feel free to learn from my abecedarian experience. (Also, feel free to look up the word abecedarian, a fun little gem from Merriam-Webster.) As you may remember, I wired freshly cut hydrangea flowers to a wreath frame without first removing the leaves or going through the drying process. Feeling like a prize idiot, I then resorted to quick-drying the wreath, leaves and all, with a desiccant in a dark closet.

In my research I found that desiccants frequently used to dry flowers include silica gel crystals, a mixture of Borax and cornmeal, various cat litters, and calcium chloride. Being in a bit of a hurry, I chose the product that seemed to me the simplest to acquire and put to use. DampRid is a calcium chloride based product that is relatively cheap and required no mixing on my part. I didn't have to fill an entire box or bag with the stuff and I didn't have to risk crushing the flowers with the desiccant itself. Product reviews suggested that the DampRid hangers, which are meant for keeping closets fresh and dry, yielded faster results than the higher-capacity buckets from the same manufacturer. Also, it was convenient to have them hanging right up next to the wreath, which I clipped to trouser-hangers and hung upside-down from the closet rod.

I was pleasantly surprised that the quick-drying method worked. Otherwise, the wreath would have turned wilty and disgusting after a few days. That would have sucked.

Quick-Dry Timeline

Day 1: I cut the flowers, wired them to the wreath frame and hung the whole thing in a closet in the late evening.

Day 2: I bought the DampRid hangers and put 2 of them in the closet with the wreath.

Day 10: Nine days after harvesting the flowers, they were dry. The leaves had curled in the drying process and some of them weren't yet completely crispy. Good enough for me, though. The wreath went on the door. This is the day I took the pictures featured in the previous post.

Day 19: The front door is adequately shielded from the weather by the porch roof. Wet-hot days and late summer thunderstorms have not managed to damage the dried flowers. However, morning sunlight has bleached the subtle pinks and greens to ivory and the sunburned portions appear brown. If you want your flowers to retain their color, be sure to place them somewhere they will be protected from the sun's rays throughout the entire day. The following pictures are from Day 19.

So, I guess this means you don't have to wait until fall to harvest your hydrangeas for dried arrangements. I wonder how long the flowers would have held their colors if they had been protected from the sun. Krylon makes a clear UV-resistant aerosol spray that comes in glossy and matte. Perhaps it would be worth a try ...

Do you have a flower-drying experience to share? I'd love to hear about it!