What can you do with dead flowers? More than you think

dried flower bouquet
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Fresh-cut flowers can last. They are a special treat that you can keep long after the bouquet fades. If you have a dead flower bouquet and just can’t bring yourself to put it in the compost, then it’s time to get crafty.

Make a dry bouquet

An easy way to preserve cut flowers is to dry them. Remove the bouquet from the vase and strip the foliage and thorns from the stems. Trim the stems to your preferred length, at least 6 inches long. It is fine to simply rubber band the bouquet together for drying, but the stems receive better air circulation and dry more quickly if each flower is hung individually. Use unflavored, plain dental floss to hang them upside down in a dark location with good airflow. They will dry in two to four weeks.

Use your dried flowers to make a decorative dry arrangement. A quick spray with unscented hairspray will protect them against petal drop. Or, use them to make potpourri, beads, jewelry, and other crafts.

Make potpourri

Use entire fresh or dried flower heads, flower petals, or a blend of both to create a beautiful and fragrant potpourri. It is important that the potpourri blend be completely dry so that it does not mold. Remove flower heads from the stems, and separate the petals if you wish, and spread them on a baking sheet. Quick dry them in a 200° oven for up to two hours or as needed. Place the dried flower parts in an airtight container and add two or three drops of essential oils to increase the intensity of the aroma. Rose oil, lemon oil, honeysuckle oil, and lavender oil are popular fragrances for potpourri. Store in an airtight container where the flowers will absorb the essential oils for six weeks before using. Then display the potpourri in an open jar or decorative bowl.

Make flower petal beads

The tradition of making rose petal beads goes back centuries. You can use this method to create beads for a beautiful necklace, earrings, or bracelet from rose petals and other types of thick flower petals. You will need the petals of eight to 12 roses, distilled water, a frying pan (black cast iron is traditional, but any non-stick frying pan will do), a blender, thin wire nails or quilting pins, and a sheet of foam or corkboard.

Put the petals and a half-cup of distilled water into the frying pan. Simmer below the boiling point until the petals become soft. Add water as needed so the pan does not dry out. When the petals are thoroughly softened, like cooked greens, turn them off and let them cool.

Place the cooled rose petals in the blender with just enough water so that it blends to a smooth texture. You should no longer see identifiable rose petal fibers in the mixture. If the mix is very wet, like spaghetti sauce, place it back in the frying pan and heat it to evaporate excess moisture. Another way to dry the mix is to spread it on parchment paper on a baking sheet, and place it in a warm oven for a few hours. The ideal working texture for the next step is that of smooth clay.

When the texture of the rose dough is workable, begin shaping it into beads. They will shrink as they dry and cure. The drier the mix, the less shrinkage, and the stronger the beads will be. Put a pin or nail through the center of each bead and push them into the foam or cork board. Every two hours as the beads begin to dry, gently slide them inward or outward on the pins so they do not stick. Remove the beads from the pins after a day.

Let the beads dry out for a few days before making them into jewelry. Store them in the open air for several months as they continue to dry. When they are fully dry, they will tolerate incidental moisture like rain, but will disintegrate if you wear them in the shower.

placing pressed flowers in a frame
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Pressed flower art

Make custom artwork by simply choosing colorful flowers, pressing them for a week, then arranging them in a frame on a simple white background. First choose the flowers you’d like to press, then remove stems and foliage. Lay them on a paper towel, cover with a second paper towel, and tuck them into a hardback book. Place more books on top to add extra weight. The idea is to make the flowers as flat as possible.

After a week or two, remove the towels with the pressed flowers from the book. Coat the sheet of white cardstock with decoupage glue. Then gently arrange the pressed flowers on the glue-coated surface and press them in place.

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