Make Bouquets While the Sun Shines

Now is the time to get out into the garden and cut some flowering herbs for dried arrangements to brighten up the winter months.

| August/September 1999


For several months now, I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labor in my garden. Looking out over my herb beds, my eyes feast on color and texture. If only it would last forever!

I know it can’t last forever, which is why I bring reminders of summer’s abundance inside to dry. Arranged into colorful bouquets and hung strategically throughout my home, they brighten my spirits long after the garden is brown and frostbitten.

Throughout the summer, I do not allow my culinary herbs to blossom because I want to preserve the flavor in the leaves. But as summer draws to a close, I stop pinching back my dill, basil, sage, mints, and oregano; I allow Mother Nature to take over and let them come into full bloom.

In determining what to preserve, I stand back and look at my herb bed for unusual textures, such as that of the woolly lamb’s-ears (Stachys byzantina), which will give my bouquets a velvety ­silver appearance. I’m partial to the artemisias, which offer more than 200 species to choose from. One of my ­favorites is wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), with pale yellow flower heads that maintain their color even after drying. The yellow buttons of tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and the flat golden heads of ‘Coronation Gold’ yarrow (Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’) add warmth and brightness. To bring in splashes of red, I cut stalks of bergamot (Monarda ­didyma). The long, loose rose-pink spikes of clary sage (Salvia sclarea) are excellent companions for magenta-flowered wood betony (Stachys ­officinalis).

The bright red flowers of pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), pink clusters of oregano (Origanum vulgare), starry white garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), and violet English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) all work together to ­create a vibrant bouquet. Another favorite in my garden is hops (Humulus lupulus). Male and female flowers occur on separate plants; the female flowers mature into conelike strobiles. When dried, the long, vigorous vines can be used as an intriguing window valance. I add a few dried roses and German statice (Goniolimon tataricum) to create a window treatment that evokes my ­garden all year long.

The best time to pick herbs for dried arrangements is when they reach their peak—just after the flowers have fully opened—on a sunny day after the morning dew has dried. I like to ­harvest every blossom with as long a stem as possible; the individual stems can be shortened as needed later.

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


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