Beauty Everlasting: Drying Flowers . . .

August 10th, 2013 § Comments Off on Beauty Everlasting: Drying Flowers . . . § permalink

Heather (Calluna vulgaris 'Silver Knight') michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comArms Full of Heather, Gathered from the Ledges (Calluna vulgaris ‘Silver Knight’), for Drying in Bundles

In a cool climate like New England, with a short growing season and so much to do, summers often feel as if they are passing by too quickly. It seems like we’re all scrambling to stretch out the warm months and the joys of outdoor living for as long as possible. We want to hold on to the sweetness of these long, luxurious summer days. Like many gardeners, my August weekends are filled with harvesting, cooking, baking, freezing, canning, dehydrating and otherwise preserving the fruits of my spring and summertime labors. There’s a feeling of overwhelming abundance. Over the past few days, I’ve been busy braiding and tying garlic and onions, sun drying mushrooms and tomatoes, cutting and bundling herbs, and gathering armloads of flowers for drying.

Preserving flowers is one of the nicest ways to carry a bit of summertime into the cold, dark months of winter. And it’s such an easy process, that the only thing holding many gardeners back is simply the reminder, and time to do it. Right now, while deadheading and tidying up borders is on my mind, garden shears are often close at hand. Instead of tossing those seed pods and withering remnants into the compost heap, why not gather them up and bring them indoors to preserve for autumn and winter arrangements. And while you’re at it, remember to pick an extra bouquet or two of fresh flowers and herbs to hang from the rafters.

Tanacetum achilleifolium and Penstemon digitalis - michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com Tanacetum achilleifolium and Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’

Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)

Hang Drying Flowers - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Tried and True Method: Tying and Air-Drying Works Well for Many Flowers. Be Sure to Find a Dry, Warm, Dimly Lit Space with Good Air Circulation. Attics, Closets, Dimly-Lit Spare Rooms and Pantries are All Very Good Spots for Drying Flowers and Herbs.

The simplest method for preserving flowers and herbs is to air-dry them. Harvest once a week or so throughout the growing season —always on dry, sunny days— and hang them upside down in bundles, as shown above. Gather more than you think you need, as most flowers shrink down to about half their original volume as they dehydrate. Remove excess foliage from stems (except in the case of aromatics, such as Lavender and Artemisia), and create small bundles of flowers, allowing for good air flow between the blossoms. Tie the stems with a bit of garden twine and hang them upside down, in a dimly lit, warm, dry space with good air circulation. Good spots for drying flowers and herbs include attics, pantries, spare bedrooms and closets. Dry basements will work too, but keep in mind that moisture and mold are the enemy of dried flowers and herbs. You may wish to cover the tops of delicate flowers, or aromatic cuttings with tied, brown paper bags to prevent damage and keep them free of dust. Bundles may be stored in this manner until they are ready to be used in arrangements (allow at least two to three weeks for flowers to completely dry).

Baptisia australis seed pods for dried arrangements - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Dried & Blackened Seedpods of Baptisia australis are Lovely Solo in a Vase or Make Wonderful Additions to Dried Arrangements

Some good herbs and flowers to try air-drying include; Straw Flower (Helichrysum bracteatum), Statice (Limonium sinuatum), Globe Amaranth (Gomphorena globosa), Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena), Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), Cockscombs (Celosia cristata), Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila), Goldenrod (Solidago), Globe Thistle (Echinops), Sea Holly (Eryngium), Heather (Calluna), Heath (Erica), Queen Anne’s Lace (Dacus carota), Yarrow (Achillea), Lavender (Lavendula), Tansy (Tanacetum), and Worm Wood (Artemisia). When experimenting with dried flowers, look for plants with rugged stems, stiff or papery petals and/or tiny, tightly-bunched flower heads. Many annual, perennial and woody garden plants —both edible and inedible— make excellent dried specimens. Look out for plants with interesting seed pods or berries, which add beautiful texture to a vase. Plants like Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis), with gorgeous black seed pods, and Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis villosa), with its fuzzy remnants, are striking examples. And don’t forget to scour the forest, fields and shoreline for pinecones, wild grasses, driftwood, vines, seedpods, berries and other botanical remnants in the early days of autumn. All of these, and many more natural elements, make great additions to seasonal arrangements.

Thermopsis villosa - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Carolina Lupine (Thermopsis villosa/ T. caroliniana) Produces Fuzzy Pods After Her Gorgeous, Yellow Blossoms Fade

Although many blossoms can be tied and dried hanging upside down, some flowers —such as Hydrangea, Larkspur (Delphinium) and Allium— preserve best when left standing up. I like to place these blooms in vases with just a small amount of water; allowing the flowers to dry as they absorb the moisture in the vessel. If you wish to preserve shape of flat-topped blossoms —Queen Anne’s Lace and Yarrow, for example— support the heavy flower heads by slipping the stems through wire screen and allow them to dry standing up.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo' - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com Hydrangea paniculata ‘Bobo’ is a New Addition to My Garden. I Can’t Wait to See How the Flowers Dry.

Drying agents —including borax, cornmeal, sand, alum and silica gel— can be used to aid in dehydrating and preserving more delicate, difficult flowers. Peonies, Dahlias, Tulips and Roses turn out particularly well when dried in sand or silica gel. Some gardeners like to use microwave ovens to dry blossoms; filling paper cups or bowls halfway with silica gel, embedding flower heads, covering with more gel, and zapping them for a minute or two. I haven’t tried this method myself but have seen good results. Flower petals and small bundles of flowers —particularly rose and peony blossoms— may also be dried flat and later displayed on platter arrangements or used in potpourri. Combining petals with preserved herbs and oils is a nice, traditional way to add the subtle scent of nature to closed rooms during long winter months.

dried peony petals two - michaela medina - thegardenerseden.com Whole, Dried Peony Blossoms Sit Atop a Pile of Pretty Pink and Peach Petals

Ornamental grasses and ferns can also make beautiful additions to dried arrangements. With the exception of a few early ‘bloomers’, I harvest and dry most ornamental grasses in late summer and early autumn. After the inflorescences are completely open, I gather up large, arching grasses, rushes and sedges —Miscanthus, Panicum, Scirpus, etc— and arrange them in floor vases and urns. Shorter grasses can be tied and air-dried upside down with flowers and herbs. I also gather extra grasses and store them out of the way —in empty florists buckets— for use in wreaths and winter arrangements. Many ferns can be successfully dried as well. Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) and Painted ferns (Athyrium nipponicum), dry particularly well when pressed, and combine beautifully with autumn leaves and flowers; both dried and freshly harvested.

I’ll be writing more about preserving summer’s bounty in the coming weeks. In meantime, feel free to share the names of your favorite dried flowers and/or preservation methods in comments here on the blog, or on this site’s Facebook page, here.

Wool Rush (Scirpus cyperinus) - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com With its Fuzzy, Cinnamon-Hued Inflorescences and Strong, Stately Stems, North American, Native Wool Rush or Woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus) is a Beautiful Addition to Late Summer and Autumn Perennial Borders and Floral Arrangements

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Oh Dear, Oh, Deer in the Garden: Dealing with a Big, Brown-Eyed Problem

July 8th, 2013 § Comments Off on Oh Dear, Oh, Deer in the Garden: Dealing with a Big, Brown-Eyed Problem § permalink

White Tailed Deer - michaela medina harlow- thegardenerseden.com Peek-a-Boo: Playing Hide & Seek with a Young, White Tailed Buck in My Neighborhood

Handsome fella, isn’t he? Of course he is. There’s no denying the beauty of this graceful, tawny, brown-eyed creature. He’s just gorgeous… Until he gets into your garden. Then, much like Dr. Jekyll, beautiful Bambi turns into Mr. Hyde. A single white tailed deer can wipe out an entire vegetable garden and denude a lush landscape, overnight. In fact, when it comes to gardening challenges, I can’t think of a more difficult or devastating problem.

Short of completely enclosing a property with a 8-10′ high fence, all deer management strategies should be considered exactly that: strategies, not fail-proof solutions. Before designing and planting a dream garden in deer country, fence construction is an absolute must. However, where fencing isn’t an option, I have discovered a few ways a gardener can make the landscape a bit less enticing to those long-legged, midnight mowers. Here are a few that I’ve found effective over the years . . .

1) Plant aromatic plants and/or species that are toxic to or repel deer and rodents at the perimeter of the garden. Daffodils and Ranunculus are both examples of plants toxic to deer. When they encounter wide drifts of these plants, they will likely move on to more edible pastures. Deer also dislike many commonly cultivated herbs; particularly Lavender, Sage, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme and Yarrow. Surrounding a potager with herbs may repel deer before they find the tasty beans and lettuce at the center of your kitchen garden.

2) Surround your property with prickly and fuzzy plants. Thorny trees and shrubs —such as Roses, Raspberries, Hawthorn, Quince— tend to be less attractive to grazing deer. They may nibble, but after a few sharp stabs, they usually wander off. Consider a hedge of prickles around your property line or potager edge. Fuzzy plants also tend to be less palatable to deer. Black-eyed Susans, Lambs Ears and other wooly plants are not the first choice on Bambi’s menu.

3) Keep deer favorites —particularly Hosta, Azalea, Daylilies, vegetable plants and fruit trees— toward the center part of your garden. Surround the more vulnerable plants with those mentioned above, and consider protecting these innermost areas with some form of additional defense (spray repellents, netting, electric fencing, etc).

Doe at Forest's Edge - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comWhite Tailed Doe at the Edge of My Forest

4) If deer are a serious ongoing and/or increasing problem in your area —and fencing isn’t an option— consider slowly adjusting and reducing the menu options in your backyard. Seek out plants that are less palatable to deer, and plant more of these in your garden. Although deer will eat anything when desperately hungry, they tend to snub gardens that are surrounded by hedges or layered plantings including some of the following trees/shrubs: Hinoki Cypress, Kousa Dogwood, Ginko, Green Ash, American Holly, Star Magnolia, Sourwood, White Spruce, Norway Spruce and Colorado Spruce, Red Pine, Black Locust, Sassafras, Boxwood, Inkberry, Spirea and Western Arborvitae. In addition, deer may nibble, but will usually walk on by the following perennial garden plants, bulbs and ground covers: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Monkshood (Aconitum), Alyssum, Columbine (Aquilegia), Artemisia, Asters. Astilbe, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Wild-Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis), Boltonia, Fairy Candles (Actaea simplex & A. racemosa), Peony, Foxglove (Digitalis), Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans) , Meadow Sage (Salvia), Hellebore, Loosestrife (Lysmachia), Beebalm (Monarda), Catmint (Nepeta), Russian Sage (Perovskia), Yucca, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), Meadow-Rue (Thalictrum), Foamflower (Tiarella), Speedwell (Veronica), Scabiosa, Ginger (Asarum), Bearberry (Arctostaphylos), Bugle Weed (Ajuga), Lily-of-the-Valley (Convularia majalis), Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium), Dead Nettle (Lamium), Creeping Juniper, Pachysandra, Lungwort (Pulmonaria), Squill (Scilla), Summer Snowflake (Leucojum), Winter Aconite (Eranthis), Snowdrops (Galanthus), Grape Hyacinth (Muscari), Sedum, Hens-and-Chicks (Echeveria), Myrtle (Vinca), Potentilla, Lavender-Cotton (Santolina), Cotoneaster, Bergenia, Sweet Woodruff (Galium), Ferns, Daffodils (Narcissus), Allium and Barrenwort (Epimedium). This is an abbreviated list containing the more deer-resistant plants. Many more can be found in the resources listed below.

5) Experiment with organic, commercial spray repellents or homemade hanging repellents. I find some of these are more effective than others. Plantskydd, and Bonide Repels-All —both organic— have worked for me when strategically sprayed and repeat applied after rain. There are two downsides to these products: they stink and they can be expensive to use in the long-run. Bars of soap and baggies filled with pet or human hair can be effective within a narrow range of space, and for a short time. Hanging these at the perimeter of a vegetable garden can be a bit of a deterrent, but I wouldn’t gamble my harvest on it!

6) Walk your dog, or invite neighbors to walk their pooches at the perimeter of you garden on a regular basis. Deer fear the canine scent, and regular urine marks will lead them to believe danger lies within your garden. The key here is consistency. Bottled coyote urine can also be used if no dogs are available, but again these spray-application deterrents can be both expensive and unpleasant to use.

7) Fencing. Yes, I will say it again. Although the initial cost is high, fencing is the most effective method for controlling deer. A fence must be 8-10 feet or taller, in order to protect a garden from deer. If not solid, the fence should have wire mesh or netting between the posts to keep deer from climbing through cross bars. Electric fencing —including solar-powered electric— can be an excellent barrier option for smaller plots —particularly vegetable gardens and small fruit groves— if properly installed and maintained. Some gardeners have had success with motion-detection fences. These devices usually trigger a sound/light combination or blast of water. I have not tried motion detection devices for deterring deer, and clearly, there’s a limit on where and when they can be used.

Dealing with Deer in the Garden - Resourced - michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comSome helpful guide books for gardeners challenged by deer:

Gardening in Deer Country (contains a recipe for homemade deer repellent), Deerproofing Your Yard & Garden, Outwitting Deer and Deer in My Garden.

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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