Sustainable dried flowers
Jacqueline Franklin of Hope and Glory Flower Company raises some red flags about fashionable dried flower products, and explains why drying and preserving flowers should be a natural process with minimal impact on the environment.
With the return to fashion of dried flowers have come worrying new trends in artificial conditioning, from the bleaching of foliage to the dying or spraying of flowers in all colours of the rainbow. Such practices often go hand in hand with the indiscriminate importation of materials from overseas.
A cocktail of chemicals is used to manufacture such artificially ‘enhanced’ dried products, including Hydrogen Peroxide. The environmental impact and risk to human health from these chemicals is shocking, both at the point of production and at the point of purchase and use. Significant residues can remain in treated materials, even to a level where they emit a discernible chemical smell.
But it does not have to be this way. Seasonally grown, naturally dried and preserved flowers can be a much more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to fresh flowers in the winter months. Indeed, in some situations, they can have key benefits over fresh flowers all year round. Most obviously, fresh cut flowers typically have a vase life of 7 – 10 days, whereas many dried equivalents will last anything from 1 to 3 years given the right conditions.
Nor does it have to be a case of either/or. Dried flowers can be a versatile addition to fresh arrangements, and are ideal for use in wedding and farewell florals which have to hold up out of water for some time. They are also brilliant as long-lasting décor around the home, and have the advantage that they can be (almost!) endlessly repurposed – made into another arrangement, a dried wreath, a bath bomb, or any number of other craft items. The petals of roses, delphiniums and larkspur are particularly good when dried for use as confetti.
Drying surplus crops also gives growers a way to cut down on wastage, and an alternative to simply composting unsold flowers. Initially the drying process need not have any environmental footprint, as it requires no inputs of water or heat: it can take place at ambient temperatures in a room with good air circulation, and out of direct sunlight. Prolonged storage will usually require some kind of heat source, but this could just be the normal means of heating your home.
A short list of flowers you might want to try drying from your own garden: dahlias, hydrangea, lavender, yarrow, gypsophila, statice/limonium, and amaranth. Be prepared for colors to soften and become more muted as the flowers dry – but this makes them very on point for current trends in interior decoration and wedding floristry! Why not give it a go, and get creative?
Text and images Jacqueline Franklin