Drying Roses
... the easy way.

Drying roses takes a little experimenting. Roses are not the easiest flowers to dry and you do need to be careful, because some just do not dry well. Some will lose petals very quickly and others lose color.

Pick your roses in late morning after the morning dew has dried and remove the thorns for easier handling. Lighter colors are better as very dark reds, for example, turn almost black.

Drying roses of a similar size together to standardize drying times is a good idea; and experiment, experiment, experiment! It may take a few tries to get it absolutely right, so be patient. Drying roses well, is an art and a science!

The Five Rose Drying Methods.

yellow mini rose with blackspot

Process #1: Hanging Upside Down

(That's the roses, not you!) After picking and selecting your roses, tie the stems together and hang them from a coat hanger in a warm, and some say hot, dry area such as a water heater cupboard. Try and keep them in the dark for a week while they hang, untill they are dry to the touch. A fan will speed up the drying process but is not absolutely essential.

Considerable shrinking takes place so this method of drying roses produces rather wrinkled petals and leaves. It's actually gravity that helps the petals keep their shape which is why they are hung upside down.

Once dry, spray with clear hair spray to preserve the color and stop the petals dropping. This process of drying roses lends itself best to the larger Tea Roses.

Process #2: Using Silica Gel

The original process for drying roses used sand but today you can buy silica gel at most garden supply stores, florists or craft stores. The amazing thing about silica gel is that it never wears out and you can use it over and over again. It usually contains blue crystals that tell you how much moisture the gel has accumulated.

Take a container such as a circular biscuit tin, about 3 or 4 inches deep, with a lid, and cover the bottom with 1/2 inch of slica gel. The roses, 2/3 open should be laid in horizontally and covered gently with more gel.

Keep layering until the tin is full and roses are not touching each other but completely covered. Put on the lid and leave for a week. You can speed up the process by placing the tin in the sun.

Remove the lid and gently brush away the silica as you remove the roses. Brush the silica out from between the petals with a soft artists brush.

Two tips here: always use 2/3 open roses of similar sizes and remove the sepals from beneath the bloom. Drying-roses this way means they don't look as 'dry' as with process #1. You could strengthen them after drying by covering with clear white glue or to make them a little less brittle, spray with clear plastic or dip in warm melted paraffin wax.

The open doubles and Old Garden Roses (OGR's) are best with this method. The gel can be reclaimed by placing it in a pan in the oven for a short time.

Process #3: Using a Microwave

white mini rose against stucco wall

If you are drying-roses using this process you will need a microwave safe bowl such as Corningware, big enough to hold your specimens.

Bury the rose in the silica gel that has been placed in the bowl and microwave at the lowest possible setting for two minutes. Put a glass of water in with the bowl for increased humidity and to help stop petals getting brittle. You will definitely have to experiment with time here, as Microwaves vary so much in power. After Microwaving, remove the bowl and let it sit for a good four hours.

Slowly remove the rose, brushing the silica gel away with a soft artists brush. Hang them upside down in a warm dark room for a few more days. There will be a slight color change depending on the variety and 'brown' means far too long in the microwave!

Petals do not usually wrinkle with this method but use your best exhibition quality roses. Yellow roses usually keep their color, white turns a little ivory tinge and reds get darker.

Once hung up they can be sprayed with clear acrylic or clear hair spray for protection, especially from UV light. Your dried roses can be stored by wiring stems together or placing them in dry oasis foam.

Process #4: Using Glycerin

Buy Glycerin from art supply stores and mix 50/50 with water. Insert the cut end of the rose stem in the solution. The glycerin draws the water from the rose, but the glycerin itself is not re-usable. This process seemed to be the least effective of the five.

Process #5: Chill and Wax

First chill your roses after cutting, by placing them in the fridge (not the freezer!). They are then carefully dipped in melted paraffin wax. The paraffin wax needs to have been melted in a metal bowl over boiling water.

Use tongs and dip carefully and slowly. Once covered in wax, the roses are chilled a second time in the fridge and the excess wax scraped away, especially from the tips and ends. Although this method is quite awkward and time consuming it is said to work well, especially with David Austin roses, for some reason.

So now you have captured the beauty and scent of your summer roses and you are ready to make a wreath or a dried flower arrangement. Perhaps hang your dried roses in a sunny window, make a photo frame box, glue dried petals or buds to letters or menus, or use dried petals in a potpourri. 

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