Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Strawflowers (Self-Sowing Annual #4)

Strawflower (helichrysum bracteatum) is an Australian native plant that grows 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide with 2- to 5-inch-long green, leathery leaves. The papery, 2 1/2-inch-wide, pompom-like flowers come in a variety of bright colors, including orange, red, pink, white and yellow. The flowers get their common name from the fact that they possess a straw-like texture.

These flowers are very sturdy and can add great pops of color to your garden. They are super easy to grow from seed and don't require much care other than some watering during dry spells.

Caring for Strawflowers


Strawflowers require a warm, full-sun location. They grow well in garden beds and containers, providing the soil is well draining. Plant container-grown strawflowers in a soil mix that has 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam and sand. Water strawflowers when the top 2 inches of soil dries. Feed the plants during the growing season with a 1/2-strength solution of a well-balanced fertilizer.

Harvesting Strawflower Seeds for Direct Sowing



Strawflowers, like dandelions, have very small, light seeds, each on their own parachute to keep them in the air. Collect strawflower seeds in the fall when the flowers have died back and browned. Plant the seeds the following spring indoors or outdoors directly in the garden, when the temperatures have reached 65 to 75 degrees F. Expect seeds to germinate in one to two weeks.



Drying Strawflowers

Strawflowers are the best to dry! They are so easy and sturdy, perfect for arrangements and crafts. They are also great for making potpourri!


There are many different ways to dry Strawflowers so I am going to just stick with the three easiest and most common.

Hanging:
  • Leave the stems on but remove the leaves. Take 5 to 7 flowers together and align the bottom of the stems evenly. Tie the bunch 2″ from the bottom of the stems with a string or bind together with a rubber band. Have the stems at different lengths so the blossoms aren’t crowded together at the top and rest at different lengths.
  • Hang the bunches upside down in a warm, dark place and leave them for anywhere from two to four weeks.
  • You can also place the bunch in a paper bag and tie the top closed around the stems, this will help keep the environment dark as well as keep dust from accumulating on the blossoms. Make a few holes on the sides of the bag for better air circulation. Do one bundle per bag (about 5 to 7 per bundle).


Dehydrator:
  • Use the instructions that came with your dehydrator.
  • You want to place them in a single layer, petals not touching each other and normally set on low.
  • It’s preferable to dehydrate them by themselves so they don’t absorb the odors from other food items in the dehydrator (and vice versa). If you plan on making potpourri, feel free to include some slices of citrus fruit peel and apple slices on the trays to include in the mix.



Oven:
  • Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet with a rack and place in a slow oven (180° F).
  • Heat for several hours, keeping the oven door open the entire time (to let moisture escape).
  • Remove tray from oven and allow to sit overnight to complete the process and ensure there is no more moisture.




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