Christmas in Dried Flowers

It’s that time of year when all of our fresh garden flowers are gone and we turn to those that we dried or preserved for the long winter season. For my post on the rebirth of dried flowers which were very popular in the 70’s and 80’s, go to Dried Flowers Back From the Dead.

And what better time to use them, but for Christmas with fresh vibrant colors for the season?

Wreath of summer-dried flowers on fresh boxwood by Hester Schmidl. Photo by Gretchen Schmidl

Most any kind of fresh flower can be dried, either by air drying or silica gel (preserving powder that comes in little packets). Easy to do, but with my busy season of growing flowers, I didn’t get to do as many as I would like.

My array of drieds from the summer
A Williamsburg type wreath I made of dried flowers and scallop shells
Dried perennial thistle and Chinese lanterns make this wreath hanging in Colonial Williamsburg stand out against the white clapboard. Photo by Amy Sparwasser

Winterthur Dried Flower Tree

The ultimate dried flower creation of the Yuletide season is the Winterthur dried flower tree in Wilmington, Delaware, which is created annually from dried flowers. Starting as soon as the daffodils bloom in the spring, the gardeners dry throughout the year with whatever is growing or used in the mansion. A combination of air drying and silica gel is used to capture the vibrant colors used on the tree.

Dried flower tree at Winterthur. Photo by Amy Sparwasser

A stunning display that’s done every year, The Dried Flower Team, consisting of the floral designers and some of the garden guides, dry the flowers by two methods.  Flowers that can be hang-dried like larkspur, yarrow, allium, safflower, and statice are bundled in small bunches. Those are the ones you see immediately upon entering the Drying Room. Other delicate flowers like peonies or roses are dried in silica gel powder.

Roses are covered with a dessicant, called silica gel and left until dried, about 2 weeks
Inspired by the dried flower tree at Winterthur, I created a wreath with a green base and dried flowers
I made my own mini dried flower tree. Check out my directions on How to Make a Dried Flower Tree

Meredith Graves, the head of the floral arranging team at Winterthur describes in this great video how it all comes together. Every flower is placed into a fumigating tent for 3 weeks to make sure no unwelcome critters or disease is attached to the flowers. The tree itself can be either a fresh specimen or a faux tree, depending on availability and it is decorated with help from a team of volunteers.

I originally posted on this at Winterthur’s Dried Flower Tree.

Closeup of dried flowers used in the tree

Cotehele’s Dried Flower Garland – UK

The other standout dried flower creation is created every November across the pond at Cotehele.

Photo by Carole Drake

Cotehele, a National Trust Tudor house with Medieval roots in Cornwall, started the tradition in 1956 and it continues to this day. Watch this video on the famous 60′ long dried flower garland made every Yuletide and hung for the Holidays. One of the oldest and best preserved Tudor homes in England today, it is a property that has been on my ‘want to visit’ list for ages and I hope to visit there next year. For the following photos,  I have used photos from Carole Drake , a garden photographer and writer, who was gracious enough to give me permission to use them.

The different varieties of flower vary year to year, but white always predominates.

60′ long dried flower garland made from over 30,000 dried flowers and grasses inserted into a pittosporum base hanging in the Great Hall at Christmas. Photo by Carole Drake

The base of the garland is constructed from fresh green pittosporum tied into densely packed bunches which can take 3 people a week to create. The cutting and drying of the flowers goes on until the end of September.

The pittopsorum garland is temporarily supported on scaffolding as it grows in length, as more pittosporum is attached to the 60 feet rope at its centre. Photo by Carole Drake

Once fully dried, the flowers are then threaded, one stem at a time, into the dense greenery which holds the stems in place. It takes up to 35,000 stems to make the 60-foot garland and the work is done over a two week period by industrious volunteers and staff working all day every day. A masterpiece when completed, it takes a community to grow, fashion, and hang the giant garland  – a magical achievement!

Boxes of dried flowers prepared and counted, ready to be attached to the pittosporum base of the Christmas garland in the Great Hall. Photo by Carole Drake

Flowers For Drying

Everlasting Daisy

Acroclinium ‘Double Mix’
Tall stems and classic yellow-centered daisies.


Limonium sinuatum
An easy-to-grow half-hardy annual. Sow directly into borders in warmer weather. Blue, yellow, white, purple, and pink and easy to grow.

Everlasting Pierrot

Helipterum roseum ‘Pierrot’
Paper-white flowers with striking black centers. Sow indoors and plant out in May.

Hare’s tail Grass

Lagurus ovatus
Half-hardy annual grass with soft, fluffy ‘tails’. May be hardy in mild areas.


Helichrysum bracteatum
Probably the best everlasting flower of all with shiny papery petals. Comes in a wide range of colors.

Pink Pokers

Limonium suworowii
Another type of statice with long, pink swirly pipe-cleaner flowers. Low-maintenance plant that does well in seaside gardens. Also, easy to grow.

Strawflowers, hydrangea, celosia, goldenrod, salvias, globe amaranth, and marigolds are in an arrangement that will last for months


How To Dry Flowers

Dried flowers can look stunning in arrangements, and they last a lot longer then fresh flowers.

1. Pick the flowers when they are dry, ensuring the sun is up and the blooms are fully open.

2. Remove all leaves so that they don’t hold in moisture.

3. Hang flowers in bunches of 20 upside down, well spaced, in a warm dark place.

4. It is important to dry them in the dark as this will ensure they keep their color.

5. The drying process normally takes about two weeks. The flowers will usually last for 12 months.

5 Replies to “Christmas in Dried Flowers”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: