In a Vase, on Monday – Cut and Dry

It’s a special day in the gardening blogoverse – Cathy, who writes Rambling in the Garden from her home and garden in the West Midlands of England (which, if my Wiki map-reading skills are accurate, is in about the middle of that country…with Birmingham as its largest city), is celebrating the eighth anniversary of her weekly theme – In a Vase on Monday. Many congrats Cathy! I’ve learned loads about flowers new to me by reading both your posts plus those of other weekly contributors.

Every garden is different, of course, not least because of geography, and what grows well in England (or Florida, or California, or Bavaria…) may be totally unsuitable for my Canadian garden (although Bavarian gardens do grow many similar things!). I’ve learned, by trial and error but most often by reading and seeing the beautiful cut flower arrangements of others who participate, a tiny bit about flower arranging. None of that helped me, however, when I tried to put something together to answer the call of Cathy’s eighth anniversary challenge: a vase of dried…not necessarily flowers, but dried cuttings from the garden.

I’ve discovered that Eucalyptus, despite web pages saying how easy it is to dry, doesn’t actually look that great after hanging upside down in a dark closet for a number of weeks. The individual leaves get curly, the twig tips get curly; all in all the branches are just… ugh. It’s me, I know. I’ve done something wrong…

I’ve also discovered that the on-line instructions to dry straw-flowers are very accurate when they say ‘cut when they have just started to open…’ Most of my cut straw-flowers, after again hanging upside down in a dark closet, continued to open, often to the point of going to seed. In the dark. In a closet. While hanging upside down.

I did have success with Nigella (thank you Eliza) after cutting the flower stalks at the right time, and hanging them upside down on the back porch (in full light). These remain my favourite flower seed heads of all time.

Without further ado, here is my contribution to this week’s challenge. (But first let me just say how tricky it is to arrange dried flower stems in a vase – the stalks are stiff and knobby from leaf nodes – making them tricky to move around in the container. I need a lot more practice at this!)

A small milk jug of dried Nigella stems makes a simple but effective statement, I think.


  1. I especially like the way the colors of the bouquet echo the colors of the vase. That’s nicely done. The only thing I’ve dried was a large collection of basket-flowers. Their pink turned a bit blue, but they kept their color, and I had them for at least three years, until I tossed them when I moved. I wonder if the other members of the Centaureae would dry as well?

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    1. Thank you! The colour thing with the vase was intentional (thank goodness something worked!) I’m not familiar with basket flowers – but it looks like they may survive here. I like their thistle-like appearance and that they keep their colour when dried!


  2. Ha! Eucalyptus was another horticultural commodity that was grown in the hills around the cut flower crops in Montara and elsewhere in San Mateo County. Only a few species were grown for it though, and some do not dry well at all. Also, the foliage was grown in exposed situations, to promote foliar density. I know that some types of eucalyptus are not very pretty after drying.

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      1. Oh, wow, I do not know. I grew up around at least two species of them, but do not know their names. I remember that one was Eucalyptus cinerea, but that may actually be Eucalyptus pulverulenta. (My contemporaries and I learned it as Eucalyptus cinerea, but it is now known as Eucalyptus pulverulenta, which I knew as a striking silvery tree that makes looser foliage that is no good for drying.) Eucalyptus polyanthemos was grown for foliage in the 1980s, but is too loosely foliated for small floral arrangements that average people display around the home. (Floral design was grand and tacky in the 1980s, along with other styles.) Eucalyptus gunii is one that I believe a colleague from school grew in Monterey County. They were all pollarded or coppiced to produce juvenile foliage. The adult growth is not so conducive to drying.

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  3. Those nigella seed heads are especially pretty Chris, and what a joy to have so many of them – I am still trying to get them to establish and self-seed. I find with the helichrysum that it is best to pick them just as they begin to open, like you say, and then keep them in water for some time. I will check in this book and see what the author says – or you might win it, of course!! I wonder if eucalyptus leaves would respond to the glycerin treatment – leaves like beech respond well to sitting the stems in a glycerine solution, so perhaps google to see if it would work for eucalyptus too

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  4. LOL..the unpaid interships can be expensive! I love both arrangements and thought the Nigella seedheads were Siberian Iris, oh, well. Oddly, I read over the summer I can grow Nigella in winter in South Florida – I planted some and it came up! Time will tell. My favorite dried flower you could grow and I can’t poppy seed heads! Fingers crossed for Nigella here.

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  5. Your nigella turned out well! Dried flowers are tricky to arrange, aren’t they? (I arrange them in my hand, turning and adding as I go, then trim the ends to fit the vase and plop them in. It helps minimize breakage.)
    I like how the green in your vase picks up the color in the eucalyptus, and that fall foliage in the background plays off the orange. Beautiful!

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