Drying flowers is a wonderful way to preserve special gift bouquets, create a beautiful long-lasting arrangement or bring the splendor of nature indoors. And drying flowers at home is an inexpensive and effective way to add a special touch to any decor.

getting started
There are several sources from which you can gather flowers to be dried. Perhaps you've received a bouquet that is too gorgeous to throw out or your garden yielded a particularly lovely harvest this year or your florist has an exotic species you'd love to use in a wreath. Save flowers from any of these sources and incorporate them into dried designs.

basic materials
There are three ways to dry flowers: hanging, pressing or using desiccants.
• To hang or air-dry flowers, you'll need floral wire, rubber bands and string.
• To press flowers, you'll need a stack of heavy books or a flower press and wax paper or blotting   paper.
• To dry flowers using a desiccant, you'll need silica gel, borax or sand.

planning & design
When preserving flowers, it is essential to begin drying them as they reach their peak color—usually right before they bloom (the flower will continue to ripen as it dries). While it may be difficult to tuck away a fresh flower just as it is reaching the zenith of its beauty, doing so allows you to enjoy it for years.

basic technique
hanging: Strip the leaves from bottom of stem, tie the flowers in small bunches and hang them with the blooms down in a dark, warm, dry place with circulating air. Check periodically. They are ready when they rustle to the touch.
pressing: Line pages of a heavy book with wax or blotting paper. Carefully place fresh flowers onto pages. Close the book, place it under a stack of books and keep in a warm, dry area. The longer the flowers are pressed, the longer they will retain their color and the stronger they will be.
treating with chemicals: Using an airtight container with lid, gently bury flowers in a desiccant (silica gel, borax or sand), secure the lid and store in a dry room for two or three days. Flowers are ready to be removed when they are crisp to the touch. Tip: when using silica gel, dry only like flowers together, as drying times vary from species to species.

variations
Certain species of flowers such as statice, yarrow, bottle brush, craspedia, sunflowers, strawflowers, cornflowers and bright pink roses retain their color well after being dried. Keep a supply of these flowers on hand to add a splash of color to your arrangements.

safety issues
If you are gathering flowers in the wild, you will want to take care not to pick scarce or protected plants. Check with your state's Department of Environmental Resources to get an updated list. In addition, check wildflower guide books for photos of poisonous plants and always ask permission before cutting plants from someone else's property.

glossary
borax: available in drugstores and hardware stores, has the lightest granular formation of all   desiccants, making it well suited to drying fragile flowers
desiccant: a granular substance that absorbs moisture
silica gel: considered to be the most effective of desiccants, it can be purchased in most craft stores   and flower shops. It can be reused for many years; simply follow the manufacturer's instructions on   the package

about the author
Rebecca Churilla resides in West Chester, Pennsylvania. As well as designing crafts, she enjoys rescuing and restoring old furniture.