As Autumn encroaches on our gardens it becomes increasing clear that our summer flowers are making room for the colorful foliage of fall. For those who love growing and gardening it becomes a time of reflection of our growing successes and failures for the season. I really don’t like saying good-bye to all the summer blooms and in reality I don’t have to. With a little thought to my plant selections in the spring I have found that if I include a good sampling of the everlastings, I can harvest a garden of dried flowers to bring into my home to enjoy all winter long.
Everlasting plants are really any plant that retains its form and color when dried. This can include a vast number of different varieties. Many flowers if handled properly at harvest time and dried appropriately can be considered everlastings. I prefer to keep things simple and choose plants that dry successfully just by air or water drying. You can however also dry flowers using a drying medium, or desiccant, such as sand, borax or silica gel.
Many flowers of the genus Helichrysum are true everlastings. As a zone 5 gardener most of these are grown as annuals. Curry plant is a bushy subshrub with linear, aromatic, silver-gray leaves. Licorice plant is mound forming or trailing with heart-shaped gray-woolly leaves and very useful in containers.
Anaphalis, or Pearly everlasting, are an upright everlasting flower that form corymbs of papery everlasting white flower heads. They have light-grey woolly leaves and are suitable for the dry garden.
Gomphrena amaranth goes by the name Globe amaranth. A bushy annual with oval oblong flower heads in pink, purple or white. Grown as an annual in full sun, this plant blooms from summer through to fall.
Limonium sinuatum, or Statice, is an erect, densely hairy perennial usually grown as an annual. Lance shaped, deeply lobed and wavy leaves with stiff stems bearing clusters of pink, white, blue, orange, yellow or rose pink flowers. These are long flowering plants suitable for the sunny border.
Helichrysum bracteatum, Strawflower, is one of my favorites. An erect annual with broadly lance-shaped grey-green leaves. From summer through fall it bears terminal, solitary, papery flower heads in bright white, yellow, pink or red. Some varieties produce double flower heads.
Hydrangea are wonderful mid-sized shrubs that produce huge cluster heads of small blooms in white, pink, rose or blue. Picked in the fall on woody stems they should be placed in a bit of water which is allowed to evaporate, leaving you a perfectly dried flower.
Nigella is easily grown form seed planted directly into the garden in spring. Known as Love-in-a mist, this is an erect branching annual with summer flowers in pink, blue, yellow, or white. These develop into decorative inflated seed capsules which are easily dried for indoors. These plants will usually self seed for next year.
Lunaria, or Honesty plant, is quite interesting. Their blue to white flowers develop into translucent seed pods which are great for air drying. Sometimes people call this fun plant Money plant or Silver dollars.
You could also include amaranthus, bachelor button, globe thistle, yarrow baby’s breath and bells of Ireland in your list of everlasting flowers. These gathered with ripened grass seed heads can all be used to create dried-flowered arrangements for indoors to help extend your summer garden right through the winter months.