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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label drying. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label drying. Show all posts

      Sunday, November 14, 2010


      Rosa 'Crown Princess Margareta' in my container garden, a David Austin climbing rose in her first year.

      On my roof garden, I demand roses that need no spraying, that can tolerate neglect, and will winter-over with no wrapping or other extraordinary measures. I want roses that match my romantic ideal, many-petaled and fragrant. The David Austin's English roses that I've tried meet these criteria.

      I want the same characteristics in cut roses, so when I volunteered to help with the centerpieces at the District Rose Convention of the American Rose Society I approached David Austin Rose LTD. for 36 of their finest peach and cream cut roses. Instead they sent me 48 and told me to keep the extras. They were gorgeous and fragrant. What's a girl to do?'Patience' in cream, 'Juliet' in pale peach.
      They were shipped overnight from the grower in California, packed to perfection in cellophane, newspaper, frozen packets of coolant and moist foam around the cut stems. The roses were timed to arrive in the open bud stage two days before the event, needing to be recut underwater and to stand in deep tepid water to rehydrate .

      Confession #1

      Rather than use my regular bucket for this conditioning, I felt I deserved a treat, so stood them in my livingroom in vases, until we made the actual centerpieces.I knew I'd need short stems in the centerpieces so I cut some to condition and kept them in my office to admire.Two that I had broken by accident, I plunked individually in tiny copper pots, and used three other stems in glass candle holders. I had fragrant roses all over my home, albeit most on borrowed time. The impromptu greens are snippets from a large house plant.Diane Grinnell and I made the centerpieces in the corner of the banquet room, away from prying eyes. When completed, the table centerpieces were greatly admired by the enthusiastic members of the Rose Society. Members couldn't believe how different the roses looked from the typical cheap grocery store roses.Confession #2
      The Japanese maple foliage was 'pruned' from the tree on my roof. Regular readers know that I save my pruning tasks for when I need branches for some design project. Other elements:real pumpkin cleaned of seeds and pulp, a piece of moist floral foam stuffed in a baggie holding a little extra water, a few more stems purchased that day at the Greenmarket at Union Sq. All stems cut short and stuff in the foam.
      Confession #3
      Regular readers also know that I hang flowers to dry deep in the basement of my building, behind a locked door with a sign that says no admittance, staff only. There it's hot and dark, and roses will dry in three days.
      I also dry flowers by burying them in silica gel, a sandy desiccant that holds the shape of the dried rose. Back at home, this is what I did with a few of the roses I could keep for myself; there's still a tiny whiff of fragrance.Readers with deep pockets who want fabulous roses for a special occasion (or because they deserve it), contact David Austin Limited online or by phone at 800-328-8893, or check the back of the DA catalog, USA 2010 edition. If fragrance is important, make sure your selection mentions fragrance.
      Below, risking life and limb for her blog partner, Ellen Z. climbs to hang a bunch of David Austin cut roses from the ceiling sprinkler of our hotel room at the Garden Writer's Symposium in Dallas. I hoped they'd have time to dry fully before they had to be stowed in my bag for the plane. Alas, despite the warmth at ceiling height, they were fit only for potpourri by the time they arrived home in The Big Apple.

      Thursday, September 30, 2010


      ESP with just a few of her purchases at River Garden Flower Farm stand, North end of the Union Sq. Greenmarket, New York City. Photo courtesy B.B. Platt.

      Not just drawn to the fruits and vegetables, I'm pulled as if by magnets to the flowers of the farmers market.
      Not so long ago I was the proud owner and chief weeder of working farm. In addition to the rows of flowers & herbs I raised for drying in my barn, I grew
      fresh cuts, partly so I could bring them by armloads into my home.
      © Alan & Lind Detrick, all rights reserved)

      Now living in New York City I go to any greenmarket for my lilacs, peonies, sunflowers et al. In fall when Other Ellen is busy preserving her fruit harvest, making wines and jams, I'm preserving flowers for the fall and winter seasons. At the River Garden stand on the last Sat. in August I had a choice of cockscomb in jewel box colors, globe amaranth, blue salvia, mixed grasses, ageratum, amaranthus, and double sunflowers. All I need is a place to hang them that is WARM DARK & DRY. For everything you've ever wanted to know about drying flowers see my first book Flower Crafts.

      Don't Tell
      My favorite is a secret spot in my building that is locked and dark most of the time, and about 110 degrees. Fleshy flowers like cockscomb will dry in four days in that setting, smaller flowers even faster.Flowers shrink somewhat and lose the vividness of color as they dry but I know this and account for it by purchasing enough flowers to make a full arrangement and flowers that have a strong color to start with.
      Here are a few of the arrangements I made: Grasses, feather celosia with tansy picked wild from the back of Dave & Linda's house in MA. Grasses in a Japanese bamboo container hanging on my living room wall. Cockscomb, tansy and grasses in the bathroom.
      Sorghum under a photo by Jen Platt Hopkins.
      At the Santa Fe Farmers Market I was enchanted by these chains of double marigolds. Double click on the image to read the lovely sign.

      Tuesday, June 16, 2009


      On my rooftop garden I aim to have plantings of major interest from March through December: that means interest to ME, who designs, plants and tends the garden for my condo building. In winter only the desperate smokers face the gale-force winds and frigid cold of the 18thfloor. Here’s what’s making me happy today.

      One bush of blue hydrangea is coming to peak form, a Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’ that blooms on both new and old wood. The H.m.‘Nikko Blue’ that were planted before my tenure rarely flower but I hate to rip them out because the foliage is still nice. The hydrangea is backed up by some modest yellow potentilla, enhanced by the bright blue.Also starting to bloom is the lacecap hydrangea ‘Lady in Red’ whose new leaves and stems are a reddish color as advertised and whose foliage will turn deep maroon in fall.

      The lavender ‘Hidcote’
      is really showing off
      and I picked a few
      stems for pressing,
      but the ‘Provence’
      lavender (Lavandula x
      intermedia 'Provence')
      is just getting started.

      The brilliant chartreuse
      foliage of the Sumac
      ‘Tiger Eyes’ (Rhus
      typhina) makes it one
      of my favorite plants
      now and until late fall,
      especially in front of
      the deep mahogony
      of the cut leaf Japanese maple. In a container this sumac is beautifully controlled.

      Just going off stage is the climbing rose ‘New Dawn’ that blooms here but once a year, even when I deadhead assiduously. It earns its keep by the month-long show it flashes in late May. Other roses like 'Crown Princess Margareta', 'Oso Easy Paprika', and
      'Graham Thomas'
      have finished their
      first big bloom and
      are setting new buds
      for later display.
      (Below, the climber
      'New Dawn' trying
      to escape.)And in the herb garden,
      not much color but in
      teresting sweet flavor
      from my one specimen
      of Stevia rebaudiana
      that is making its debut
      this year. Stevia powder
      is all the rage as a
      natural sweetener, and
      I wanted to see what
      this semi-tropical herb
      would do here in NYC.
      In the fall I’ll bring it in
      to winter over on my

      Below, Wreath design Ellen
      Spector Platt , photo© Alan & Linda Detrick

      If you like to dry
      hydrangea for indoor
      decorations DON’T
      NOW. Wait until they’re
      very mature. That
      means that every stem
      you cut will have been
      on the bush for 1-2
      months, feel papery
      to the touch, and have
      started to change color
      slightly, i.e. the whites
      get tinges of pink
      or wine color, the blues
      get tinges of green or
      maroon. If you cut too
      early, the petals will
      shrivel as they dry. Cut
      when the flowers are
      mature, then you can
      arrange them immed-
      iately without even
      hanging to dry. And don't try to dry the flower heads that have but a few petals like the lacecap varieties. You'll thank me for this tip!
      (Design Ellen Spector Platt, photo© Alan & Linda Detrick)

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