There are a number of different methods of drying flowers and foliage, and one of them is method with silica gel. The use of silica gel in preserving flowers takes a little more patience, but the results are exhilarating. Some flowers are not really suitable for air drying, but you could dry them using a drying agent. The types of flowers that require silica gel for best preservation are listed below:
Ajuga, Anemones, Azaleas, Daisies, Dogwood, Freesia, Grape Hyacinths, Lily of the Valle, Marigolds, Mimosa, Orchids, Pansies, Passion flowers, Peonies, Primroses, Queen Anne's lace, Roses, Snapdragons, Stokesias, Zinnias.
Daffodils, Crocuses, Irises and Tulips are tricky because they are rather
freshly and contain too much water, but you could experiment by drying
them carefully. All of these flowers have fleshy stems and very delicate
petals and the trick is to dehydrate the blooms rapidly enough to preserve
both their vibrant, natural colors and their intricate shapes. Silica gel
has been used commercially for many years.
There are two types of silica gel:
- One has a built-in color indicator, bright blue crystals of cobalt chloride which act as moisture indicators. As the silica gel begins to absorb moisture from the flowers embedded in it, the cobalt chloride crystals will indicate this by turning light blue and then pink. When the silica gel has absorbed up to 40 % of its own weight in moisture, it will no longer be effective in removing moisture from flowers. At this point, the cobalt chloride crystals will indicate this state of super saturation by turning white. The silica gel must then be reactivated before it can be successfully used again.
- The other type of crystal is white.
Both types are made up of large crystals which must be ground down. The silica gel that is manufactured expressly for use in preserving flowers is a sandy-type agent, almost powdery in texture. Silica gel can be bought from most hardware stores, garden centers, chemists, hobby or craft stores. They sell silica gel under various brand names and packages (Flower-Dri, Hazel Pearson etc.), and the best is to shop around to find good brand and suitable price.
To remove the moisture from silica gel and turn the crystals back to blue, put the silica gel in an old but clean and dry shallow, oven-proof dish (such as a lasagna casserole) and putting the dish in the oven at 250°F - for half an hour or until the cobalt chloride crystals return to their original bright blue color. At this point, the silica gel is ready to be used again or to be stored in airtight containers for cooling until needed. As silica gel will absorb moisture from the air as well as from flowers buried in it, it is best to keep it covered at all times.
Silica gel is not toxic, but remember never use silica gel containers or dishes for preparing food after you use them for drying flowers or for drying silica gel, because they often absorbs pesticides from plants as they dry.
To dry flowers and foliage with silica gel it is necessary to pick them when they have just opened and in perfect shape. All plants going into the desiccant must be perfect, any flaws will be accentuated and look ugly.
It is imperative that the flowers be absolutely dry. If dew or some
other moisture is on the petals at the time you cover the flower with silica
gel, the silica gel will stick to the petals. In trying to remove the silica
gel once the flower is dried, you may
Silica gel requires no hit while drying, unlike other methods.
It is very important to use airtight containers for drying with silica gel because it will readily absorb moisture from the air.
Unless the flowers are to be used for gluing, the flower steams should
be trimmed to 1" to about 1 1/2" (2,5cm to 3,8 cm).
Since the flowers you will be drying will have retained varying amounts of water while growing, it is impossible to come up with a, specific formula of drying periods. Much depends, however, upon the type of flower you are drying, the size of the bloom, how much moisture it contains, and other variables.
Putting a Styrofoam layer in the bottom of the container (before you pour the layer of silica gel) is very handy for holding the wires of dried flowers, especially if you have large container and more flowers in same container.
Pour into an adequately large airtight container an inch (2,5 cm) of dry silica gel on the bottom. If the container will hold six flowers with a 3-inch space between each, place a teaspoon of silica gel where each of the six flowers will be placed to dry. These little mounds of silica gel will support the flowers so that they will not dry flat. Place one flower, face down, over each mound. Using a tablespoon, spoon the silica gel against the side of the container, away from the flowers, so that it slides down the side of the container and under each petal of each flower without causing undue weight on the flower. Continue pouring the gel against the container's sides until the flowers are totally covered.
When placing several flowers in the same container for drying at the same time, be sure to separate them well, so that moisture does not seep from one flower to another. When the flowers are completely covered with silica gel, seal the airtight container with the lid and set it aside. Mark the date on the container to help you remember when to check for dryness.
To dry flowers that have many petals, such as marigolds and roses, place them in the silica gel face up. The plant material must be completely covered with the powder, but before you spoon on the powder, take a paint brush and gently coat the inside petals with the silica gel so that no area escapes. Using a tablespoon, spoon the silica gel against the side of the container, so that it slides down the side of the container and around each of the' flowers, bracing them so they do not fall over and letting the crystals seep between each layer of petals. When flowers are completely covered with silica gel, place the airtight lid on the container, mark the date on it, and set it aside.
When drying several flowers in the same container, it is also a good idea to make sure that they are the same type of flower, because on that way they will all be dry at the same time. But if, for instance, you don't have a same-type of flower in the same drying container, they will not be dry in the same period of time. The additional handling of the flowers while testing for dryness could cause breakage of the petals.
To test flowers for dryness, simply run your finger through the silica gel near the outer edge of the container, or even better use a utensil such as Popsicle stick, where you are sure of not "bumping" the flowers, or tilt the container.As the silica gel filters away from the flowers and the petal tips are exposed, gently feel them. They should feel crisp and papery dry. If they are still soft, recover them and let them stand a while longer. When you are sure the flowers are dry, gently pour the silica gel from the container until enough of the flowers are uncovered to allow you to pick them up by the stem.
When you remove the dried plant material, make sure none of the powder is clinging to the petals. Using a dry, clean paint brush gently brush the powder off the petals back into the container.
To store the dried flowers until you have enough of them to begin an arrangement or project, place them face up in an airtight container of dry builder's sand. You can dry sand in your owen too, just use the same method like for drying silica gel.
The container with dry sand should have about 2 inches of sand in it, just enough to cushion the flowers and hold them in an upright position.
Before reusing the silica gel, take time to heat it to make sure it is thoroughly dry. The warmed gel will also hasten the drying time of the flowers you are about to work with.
If you want to obtain a maximum number of dry flowers in a minimum amount of time, use drying method with preheated silica gel, because flowers dry faster in preheated silica gel.
Preheat the silica gel by placing it in an oven-proof dish and heating it, uncovered, at 250°F. in a conventional oven for ten to fifteen minutes.Remove silica gel from the oven and place one inch of the warm silica gel in the bottom of an airtight container.
All other instructions are same like for the drying with regular silica
gel method except by doing that you will have a maximum number of dried
flowers in a minimum amount of time.
by Nora Blose, Dawn Cusick (Editor)
||Preserve the color, shape, flavor, and even fragrance of more than
60 of your favorite herbs by
instantly drying them in your microwave under the expert guidance of the HERB DRYING
HANDBOOK. Lavishly illustrated with full-color photographs and drawings of individual plants, herb gardens, and craft projects.
by Bertha Reppert, Deborah Balmuth
||The founder of the Rosemary House, a Pennsylvania herb and spice shop,
provides readers will all the necessary information for transforming an
herb hobby into a successful herb business, and shares her secrets for
developing and designing herbal products and packaging them effectively.
Illustrations; resource list.
Practical advice on budgets, locations, business plans, bookkeeping, staffing, inventory, and pricing.Case histories of 50 thriving herb businesses. Additional topics include developing products, packaging, special events and workshops, and methods for expanding.
by Margaret Burch
foliage--air drying, silica gel drying, glycerine preserving, and pressing--and indicates the
appropriate method to use for different types of plants. Photos and illustrations.