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Drying and Preserving Annuals and Perennials

Even though we've had a pretty hot and dry summer, many southern flower gardens are absolutely magnificent this time of year. Unfortunately, it all too quickly fades and is gone. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to dry and preserve many of the flowers we've enjoyed all summer and be able to enjoy them inside in arrangements and decorations.

One of the easiest methods of drying many of our annual and perennial flowers especially those with tough, woody flowers is very simple. Just cut the stem at a 45 degree angle with as much stem as possible and tie the bundle upside down in a dark, warm, dry, well ventilated place. My mother always hung them above the refrigerator but there are lots of other places as well. Don't wash off the flowers as you'll encourage fungus to grow on the flowers. It is best to cut the flowers when the buds are about half open. The following flowers preserve well if they're hung in this manner. Yarrow, Amaranthus, Artemesia, Celosia, Echinops, Gypsophila, Helichrysum, and Hydrangea.

Another strategy for preserving flowers with more moisture in their petals uses borax and white cornmeal. Use a ratio of 10 parts white cornmeal and 3 parts borax (which you can get at any drugstore. Or you can use � borax and � sand. This mixture can be used over and over again, year after year so don't throw it away after your flowers are dried. I like to use a small box and pour a small amount of the mixture in the bottom. Place the flowers upside down and make sure you completely cover all flower parts except the stem. In about 2 weeks, when the stems are dry to the touch, the flowers can be removed and stored in a dry, well ventilated area for future use.

The ultimate drying material is silica gel. This is the same stuff that comes in those small packets when you buy a new electronic gadget. The silica gel does an excellent job of absorbing moisture in the air. It is the perfect material to preserve your flowers and retain their brightness of color and beauty of form. The material is a little more expensive than borax and cornstarch but well worth it. Flowers are placed upside down in the silica gel just like the borax and cornstarch. The following flowers can be dried with this method: Butterfly bush, camellia, Clematis, Dahlia, Lenten Rose, Daffodil, Black-eyed Susan, Roses, Salvia, Marigold, Veronica, pansies,and zinnias.

Finally, there is one other approach you can use to preserve foliage with a glycerine and water compound. The leaves of many woody plants can be preserved if they are properly conditioned by placing the stems of the branches in a mixture of 1/3 glycerin, 2/3 water. Again, glycerin can be obtained from your druggist. The leaves must be completely mature and in perfect condition when cut. Before placing he ends of the cut branches into the mixture, the stems should be crushed with a hammer. The branches are left in this liquid about 3 weeks or until one can feel the glycerin on the outer edges of the leaves. The following leaves can be preserved in this manner: Eucalyptus, Plum, Leucothoe, Barberry, Beech, Canna, Oak, Rhododendron, Magnolia, Oregon Holly-grape, Viburnum.

Late Blooming Annuals with Steve Mitchell

You can have flowers in the Fall. Steve Mitchell shows us several
varieties that look great this time of year. Several mentioned are:
Zinnia "Profusion Cherry," Dianthus "Melody Pink," Rudbekia "Indian
Summer," Celosia "Cockscomb," Zinnia "Profusion Orange," Zinnia
Augustafolia "Crystal White," Lantana "New Gold," Parsley and Gumphrena "Bicolor Rose."

Dr. Rick Gives the Low Down on Petunias

There is no other bedding plant that even approaches the petunia for universal dependability, garden value, and long season of bloom. Petunias have been around for a long time and are The word petunia comes from the colloquial for the word tobacco, to which petunia is related. Notice the leaves and stems are covered with a fuzzy, sticky substance similar to the larger nicotiana and the agronomic tobacco.

Petunias were originally from South America, but now we are seeing varieties being developed all over the world. And, there are hundreds and hundreds of varieties, but many of which are very unsuited for southern gardens. For years, petunias just got beat up by the heat and sun here in our part of the country. By the middle of the summer, they look washed out, bedraggled and spent. However, over the past few years there have been some remarkable work done in terms of breeding. We now have Petunias for the heat.

Here's a great one. This is Purple Wave Petunia and it will absolutely knock your socks off as a sun-loving heat aficionado. Now it is really classified as more of a hanging basket or prostrate form of petunia as it tends to cascade over the edge of a pot or creep along the ground. Older varieties of petunias had to be dead-headed several times a season. Not these beauties. They're particularly low maintenance. They do not like wet feet (none of us do) If you're not familiar with Purple Wave Petunias.

Pruning Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas will overgrow their area and look unsightly. As well, and just as importantly, Hydrangeas grow on tissue produced last year. If we prune now at the end of the season, it allows new tissue to grow and that is where the blooms will grow next year. If we wait until wintertime we'll have pretty leaves, but no blooms. To prune, first take away the dead flower. Then take the stem the flower grew on all the way back to the center of the plant. After that reduce the overall plant in size to one that properly fits the area.

Dressing Up a Planting Bed

Dr. Rick shows us how to make a flower bed look like professionals have
been working in our yard.
You will need two types of mulch. Pine Bark Mulch and Pine Straw. Fill
the entire space with Pine Bark Mulch, about 2"-3" inches deep. Then in
a trench around the bed, roll the Pine Straw about 4"-5" in diameter
and place in the trench that surrounds the bed. You'll have a clean
organized look and one that holds moisture, yet allows air and needed
materials through.

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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

Planting annual beds of flowers, especially those that are bred to take the summer heat, thereby extending their glory into fall makes a lot of sense. Click here for an informative article that discusses an economical strategy along with design ideas that can provide color like - a living highlighter. To learn more click here.

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