Hang flowers to dry in attic, or zap them


August 04, 1996

I'd like to try to dry some flowers from my garden. Can you tell me how to do this?

A number of methods have been developed for drying plant materials. I'll cover just two.

Harvest the flowers early in their blooming season, so you'll have a good choice of specimens. Pick twice as many blossoms as you think you'll need, as you will have some failures. Cut the blooms at midday, when they are dry, not covered with dew.

Strip the foliage from the stem before you tie the stalks together (most foliage is unsightly when dried). You may also want to snip the stem short (about 2 inches) and replace the length of it later with wire.

The simplest drying method is to tie the stems in small bunches with string and hang them, blooms down, in a dark, dry place until they're dry (about two weeks). An attic is an ideal place.

Some flowers best dried by this method include the bachelor button, marigold, celosia, dahlia, dusty miller, rudbeckia, lavender and globe thistle.

If you want faster results, use a desiccant such as silica gel and your microwave. This method produces dried flowers that retain their color and freshness well.

Pour about a half inch of silica gel into a microwaveable container. Place a layer of flowers on the material without allowing them to touch. Place flat-faced flowers, such as daisies, face-down, being careful to retain the flowers' shape. Gradually fill the container with silica gel.

Place a cup of water in the microwave along with the gel-filled container. Microwave on high from one minute to six or seven, depending on the size of the flowers and their moisture content. You may need to experiment with the timing.

Let the container stand from 10 to 36 hours after microwaving to allow complete drying.

My arborvitae tree is covered with gray-brown cocoons that are about 1 inch long. The cocoons are made of pieces of leaves. What kind of cocoons are they, and will they hurt my tree?

The cocoons you see are actually bagworms, the larval stage of certain moths. They are serious pests to trees on the Eastern Seaboard. The larvae build their bag-like cocoons from the leaves of plants upon which they feed. They carry these cocoons with them for protection.

Pick the bagworms by hand and drop them into soapy water. If your arborvitae is too large for hand-picking, or if the tree is heavily infested, spray with a registered insecticide containing acephate. Follow label directions carefully when mixing and applying the spray.

Heavily infested trees may be killed. The most frequently damaged plants are conifers -- arborvitae, cedar, juniper and pine. Bagworms may also attack, but not seriously damage, some deciduous trees. Please request our fact sheet on bagworms for more information.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on the above or other gardening questions, call the center's toll-free hot line at (800) 342-2507 and talk with a horticultural consultant or listen to tapes covering the most common garden problems.

Check list

* Identify pests before spraying a pesticide; call the Home and Garden Information Center (see phone number below) for alternative pest-control options.

* Practice grass recycling; leave clippings on the lawn.

* Add new color to your garden by planting potted annuals in spots where spring flowers have died. Good choices include marigolds, salvia and zinnias. Water the annuals well to help them establish themselves quickly, and you'll enjoy blossoms until frost.

Pub Date: 8/04/96

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