I have recently starting drying both wildflowers and cultivated flowers to sell on my Etsy and eBay site. I love gardening but have very little experience with ornamental gardening and flower gardening. I much prefer vegetable and herb gardening (mostly because I like cooking and eating). When we moved into our home last summer we had so many flower beds that were only partially or not at all maintained. We did what we could last year to improve the flower beds and this Spring we bought a load of mulch to help reduce weeds and bring the beds back to life. Some flower beds have received more attention than others but hopefully over the next few years we will get them all back to their former glory. I have also slowly begun filling in the beds with herbs that are multi-purpose. Herbs are beautiful in flower beds and most can also be used in cooking or teas. I have also begun the long task of identifying all the bushes, shrubs, flowers, and ground covers in our beds. In addition we have tons of wildflowers growing on our property some of which I am familiar with but many others are unknown to me. Pictured below are some of the wildflowers on our property which I have managed to identify.
Oxeye Daisy Yellow Tansy White Yarrow
Thistle Goldenrod Daisy Fleabane
The flowers and herbs below are some of the ones we cultivate on our property. Some like the black-eyed susan and Echinacea (coneflower) we find wild as well. Other flowers and herbs I have added to my collection this year but may need to wait a year or two before harvesting.
I currently have white astilbe which dries beautifully and have planted several more colors to add to my collection. Last summer when we moved in our hydrangeas looked great but did not flower this year (our zone is iffy for most hydrangeas). I also planted lavender which I absolutely love but most varieties do not overwinter well in my zone. I purchased a hardy variety but still made sure to plant it on the south side of our house. I also planted sage, tarragon, thyme, lemon thyme, mugwort (Artemesia), catnip, more Echinacea, bee balm, zinnias, bachelor's buttons, sunflowers, Nigella (love in the mist), and pumpkins on a stick (eggplant family but the fruit looks like tiny pumpkins). Some of these are perennials and should return each year (assuming they survive our harsh Wisconsin winters) but others are annuals and need to be re-seeded each year. Some like the Violas (Johnny Jump Ups) are annuals but release so many seeds that will germinate the following year you generally never need to plant them again.
One warning about planting new flowers and herbs is that many can be invasive. Do your research before planting and make sure the plants you choose are native or at least not invasive. If they are or have the tendency to be invasive you may want to plant them in pot or container. For example, most members of the mint family can easily get out of control. I grow my mint and catnip in pots to keep them from spreading. However, if you allow them to go to seed they may spread around the pot. I also grow mugwort in a pot as it also has invasive tendencies. Finally, if you have plants that will not overwinter well you may wish to plant them in pots as well as they can be brought in during the winter so you do not need to start from scratch the following year. I am trying this with one of the less hardy varieties of lavender that I bought.
Black-eyed Susan Bee Balm Zinnia
Viola Peppermint Echinacea
How to Dry and Preserve Flowers and Herbs
If you would like to enjoy flowers and herbs all year long, the next step is to preserve them. The easiest method is to air dry them while hanging upside-down. There are several other methods which I have not explored yet including using a desiccant, pressing, and even the microwave. Here I will cover air drying only. Some flowers preserve very well with air drying however other flowers require one of the other methods if you wish to preserve the structure of the flower. In general, the more delicate flowers like daisies, black-eyed susan, echinacea, and violas will not air dry and keep their structure. The petals will crumple up as they dry. This still however makes beautiful flower potpourri.
Flowers that I have air dried well include hydrangeas, astilbe, and bachelor's buttons (all three not pictured), goldenrod, yarrow, tansy, and most herbs (some exceptions include parsley which freezes better). The best plan is to see what information you can find on drying your particular flower and then experiment with various drying methods. I listed the steps for the air drying method I use below.
Step 1: Harvest when the flowers have just begun to open. If you harvest too early the flowers will remain closed. If you harvest too late the flowers may be less brightly colored and the petals may fall off. This can take some experimenting to get right. Or you may wish your flowers to include a range of maturity in which case harvest at a variety of times.
So, it has been a really long time since the last blog post. The reason for this is that spring and summer is the busiest time of year on a farm especially since this was our first spring on the property. We had a ton of stuff that we wanted to get done and we’re still slowly working down that list.
To start we had ordered 6 bare root fruit trees, 25 red wine grapes, and 75 baby trees (spruce, fir, and white birch) all of which were delivered in April. Bare root plants need to go in as soon as possible so my husband dug a lot of holes in a short period of time! We planted 4 apple trees, a cold-hard peach tree, and a sour cherry tree and hope to add 4-6 more fruit and nut trees each year until our orchard is complete. Our biggest concern is our zone; we are in zone 4 which limits our selection of fruit trees that will grow well here. If anyone knows of a sweet cherry tree that grows in zone 4 please let me know!
The 25 red wine grapes that we bought are suited to our harsh Wisconsin winters. We chose the Marquette variety as these are cold hardy and although they are a new variety developed by the University of Minnesota, appear to make a nice dry red wine which we prefer. In subsequent years, we hope to add more grapes including a white variety (likely Itasca) well suited for our climate.
Before we could plant the grapes however we needed to get the sod in our field tilled under. We also wanted to put in a large vegetable garden this spring and summer so we also needed the sod tilled under for that as well. We do not have a roto-tiller attachment for our little 955 John Deere tractor however a neighbor with a much larger tractor agreed to roto-till our plot in exchange for haying our field this summer for his horses. He has also provided lots of horse manure for compost!
My family and I recently moved from the New York City area to small town Wisconsin. Our move, this website and blog, and our Etsy store is the result of our desire over the past several years to simplify our lives, increase our quality of life, reconnect with nature, and enjoy a more self-sufficient life. I grew up as a country kid in central PA working on my grandfather's fruit farm and as a corn "de-tassler". My background is in biology where my love of nature originated. I used to work as a research scientist and professor and have now transitioned to a part-time stay-at-home mom, self-employed tutor, and small business owner. Thank you for taking the time to check out my site.