I have been interested in the craft of drying flowers for years. Even though I have vowed to give up this hobby because it is so time consuming and involves having a lot of “stuff” around, I cannot seem to give up completely this intriguing pastime. I have, however, found particular “shortcuts” and one of them is to dry peony blooms during peony season.
I call this a “shortcut” because peony blooms are easy to cut for drying, they are easily dried, and they are large enough so that only a half-dozen or so will make a nice-size dried flower arrangement.
Harvest peony blooms for drying when they are just beginning to open. I prefer the dark-red double ones – I have two old-fashioned varieties, “Felix Crouse” and “Karl Rosenfield,” both of which have double, dark-red-carmine blooms. The colour holds well when they are dried, turning a very dark burgundy. White peonies, when dried, will take on an ivory cast while pale-pink ones tend to fade and I find the colour to be rather unattractive and “muddy.”
When cutting the peonies, I take as long of a stem as I can. I tie the stems of three blooms together with some twine and hang them in the darkness of my garden shed, which has good air circulation. Hang the blooms upside down so that when the petals go limp they will not become bent backwards.
Peony blooms take several weeks to completely dry, at which time I pack them away in a flat box and put the box up high in the garage – where it is dry, dark and warm during the summer. I often throw a few of those little packets of desiccant that come in new shoes into the box to absorb any moisture. There the dried peony blooms will remain until I want to make an arrangement, at which time I take them out of the box, cut the stems to a suitable length and create my arrangement.
I use an attractive container with some oasis in it. I use either potpourri or some Spanish moss to cover the oasis, although I have also used fresh cedar for this purpose – the cedar gradually dries in the arrangement, but stays in place. It becomes rather brittle so if the arrangement is going to be handled or moved frequently, I don’t use cedar. I usually create a one-sided arrangement and five to seven blooms will usually be enough. If you wish to add filler, dried baby’s breath, dried grasses or dried annual or perennial statice work well. If you want to try your hand at creating a dried flower arrangement, a good place to start is by drying a few peonies – it is a relatively easy way to get introduced to this interesting hobby. – Albert Parsons writes from