Dahlias on TV
A little while ago I saw Philippa Stewart on BBC Gardeners’ World – she’s a Dahlia grower that has also discovered drying them. I was aware they could be dried but I’d never been inspired to try these myself until now.
The pics above and below are of some fabulous vermilion Dahlias I bought for work a couple of years ago. They were absolutely gorgeous but didn’t sell very quickly, probably because the colour was a bit hard to fit in to a scheme.
I hadn’t had Dahlias in the garden for a while, but I was recently inspired to try something a bit blousy when reading Arthur Parkinson’s books. When I bought some new planters they seemed the perfect fit. Our garden in Sussex on the South Coast of England is mild enough to leave them in place all year round.
Dahlias like it hot and sunny in the summer with plenty of food and water, but mild and dry in the winter. If you can’t provide a gentle winter environment for them, they have to be lifted.
I’m afraid I can’t name any of my varieties as I bought them as a mix of purple tubers, but they’ve done very well on my south facing patio alongside Abutilons, Tithonias and Castor Oil plant.
This year I only dried a few Dahlias as an experiment, as I was rather late to the party. I didn’t hang these until mid Sept, by which time the weather had turned wet.
In the pictures below, the largest pale pink flower is the same variety as in the picture directly above. The darkest one is the purple one above. The mid pinks are the cactus shaped ones above. The whitish flower below was taken from elsewhere in the garden and dried to a slightly disappointing shade.
How to dry Dahlias
I’ve written quite a lot on this website about making your own dried flowers.
To dry a whole flower stem
You will need:
- Elastic bands
- Paper clips
- Wire overhead hanging frame or a washing line somewhere warm and dry with good air circulation. A shed in summer or a line over a radiator in a spare room would do the trick.
- Pick the flowers in the morning if possible, when they’re at their best and newly open.
- Tie each stem with an elastic band. This will retain grip if the stems shrink a little.
- Hook a piece of wire or a paperclip over the elastic band and onto your hanging area, leaving plenty of space between the flowers for good air circulation.
- Leave for about 3 weeks depending on location and flower size – check for crispness before taking down.
- Cut as much stem as you can get with each flower, you can always trim them down later.
- Don’t try and dry in bunches as they won’t get enough air circulation – do one stem at a time.
- Better to leave for a bit longer if you’re not sure in case they go moldy.
To dry petals
Dahlia petals are edible although if you’ve bought some from a florist or garden centre, you need to be aware that they may have been sprayed before sale. So if you’re growing your own you could even sprinkle them on a salad! They make great DIY confetti in a wide range of colours, and can be quite large for a dramatic effect.
If you have any flowers left over from the above method, or some turned out not quite so pretty, you can just strip the petals from those. But if you want just petals from the start, this method is much quicker:
You will need
- kitchen roll
- a tray
- a warm shed in the summer, a radiator or airing cupboard
- Strip the petals from the flower centre
- Lay out the paper on the tray
- Spread the petals in a single layer on the tray and place it somewhere warm with good air circluation, e.g. over a radiator.
- Leave for a few days and check for crispness before taking them off.
Petal confetti storage tips
I haven’t tried storing dahlia petals for confetti yet so can’t comment on how long they’ll last. But here are some general points I’ve learnt over the years.
If you’re making confetti for a wedding at a later date, here are a few things to think about:
- Make sure the petals are 100% dry before storing in an airtight box. If they’re slightly damp they’ll go moldy.
- Be prepared for the colour to fade a little over time – different varieties will change in different ways.
- Check the petals carefully for insects to avoid damage during storage.
- Store away from direct sunlight and extremes in temperature.
I think I might be paying a bit of extra attention to dahlias in my garden next year!