By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
In the middle of winter, do you often yearn for the flowers of summer? I do, but have found a way to enjoy flowers from my garden all year round. I grow everlastings, varieties that are ideal both as fresh-cut flowers and for air drying for decorations.
Everlasting varieties are available through garden centers and seed catalogs although the latter, I've found, usually have a larger selection. For best results, read the seed packet before planting, and follow directions carefully. A few of these varieties can be started indoors as transplants, but for most, sow seeds outdoors after the danger of frost is past.
Here are some of my favorite everlasting varieties:
STRAWFLOWERS--Most gardeners fall in love with the vibrant colors and shapes of strawflowers. This annual enjoys full sun, is easy to grow, and is perfect for dried bouquets and floral wreaths. It comes in many colors ranging from soft pink to deep rose, pale yellow to gold, lavender, and silvery white to cream.
BABY'S BREATH--This prolific perennial, also known as gypsophila, offers delicate bursts of tiny white flowers. It is a popular addition to both dried and fresh bouquets and was once available only to commercial florists. Plants like full sun and can grow to heights of two to three feet tall.
CHINESE LANTERNS--This fast-growing perennial is easy to grow from seed
though should be given a bed of its own as it tends to take over the garden
and may overshadow slower growing perennial plants. It's popular with gardeners
for its orange-red, lantern-shaped flowers and requires a site with partial
to full sun for best results. Bloom time is late July and August.
STATICE--This is another well-liked dried flower variety, which produces
tiny, papery-textured flowers in shades of white, peach, lavender, and
rose on long, stiff stems. It's native to salt meadows but will do well
in any well-drained soil, provided it gets enough water and sun. Statice
prefers cooler temperatures and may grow from one to three feet tall, depending
on the variety.
MONEY PLANT--This biennial is known by many names including honesty, satin flower, or silver dollar plant. Although it does produce tiny, fragrant flowers in the spring, it's grown largely for its flat, silvery, two-inch seed pods ("the money"). At maturity, plants are one and one-half to three feet tall. It likes light shade.
ACROCLINIUM--The flowers of this annual resemble asters or daisies but are generally smaller and more delicate. It grows best in well-drained, average-to-dry soil that gets full sun. Expect blooms about eight weeks after planting.
All of these dried flower varieties will hold their color and shape well if cut at the peak of maturity, handled gently, and hung upside down in a dry, shady place to air dry. Do not cut flowers on a wet or damp day. Depending on the variety, flowers will take from two to six weeks to dry.
If desired, spray with hair spray or a clear acrylic to help prevent shedding or damage due to humidity. To prevent fading, keep all dried flower arrangements out of direct sunlight.
When planning this year's garden, include some of these everlasting varieties. Plant them, nurture them, then sit back and enjoy their beauty this summer as fresh cut flowers and next winter in dried floral arrangements.