When you find that one really beautiful bloom in the garden you have a few choices. Just stand there and truly appreciate the wonder of its beauty or cut it and continue to enjoy its beauty out of the garden. OR you can freeze that beauty forever by drying it. One might think that the drying would make it look different, but not always so. There are many varieties that, when dried, will appear as if they were frozen in time. That bloom then can be used and enjoyed for many more months in any number of ways from a small decorative arrangement to a forever Christmas ornament.
So, let’s start drying.
First you need to have a drying medium. I prefer commercially available Silica gel (found in almost all hobby shops) that has an indicator (blue crystals) that will turn pink if the gel has attracted moisture and will need to be heated before use to rid itself of the moisture (and then will turn back to blue to let you know it is now dry enough to use.)
Then you need the Rose. I pick late in the morning after the dew is gone (Don’t need to add water to the drying process) and I tend to dry roses that are less than 3 inches across and have between 5 and 40 petals. The rose has to be free from insect damage or disease as these flaws will be even more noticeable after drying. Very heavy petaled varieties have a greater chance of not drying completely and then will not hold form after removal from the gel. I also have found certain colors work best for me. My greatest successes have been with 'Tiffany Lynn', 'Foolish Pleasure', 'Soroptomist International', 'Autumn Splendor', 'Altissimo' to name a few.
In prior years, we were always told to place a wire through the bloom to serve the source to create a stem, to use when arranging the blooms after drying. I don’t do that. I cut about an inch below the bloom and use that stem to attach a wire later. In that way I do not traumatize the bloom through rough manipulation.
I dry my roses in large plastic food storage containers. In this way I can dry a bud attached to a stem with its leaves, a large bloom with additional foliage and also other material. I will dry astilbe, lily of the valley, ferns, flowering sages, Queen Anne’s Lace. I will dry anything that might enhance my dry roses.
How long does it take for the silica gel to work? Your going to hate this, but it depends. It depends on the moisture content of the bloom. Usually 4 or 5 days for a 'Tiffany Lynn' is a benchmark to use as you start to experiment with your roses and in your area.
After dried, I keep my “supply” of roses and other dried materials in the same kind of large, air tight containers with about an inch of silica in the bottom. Drying during the season gives a bounty of blooms to use in the fall shows or for Holiday presents to your family and friends.