Drying rose blooms (part 1)

For a long time, practically since I started teaching my ‘Roses Then and Now’ class, I have struggled with the issue that the roses that I want to show people, the ones grown during the medieval period in Europe, only bloom for a couple of weeks, in last spring/early summer, and the picked blossoms don’t seem to travel well.  The rest of the year they are just prickly bushes, or in the winter, a bunch of prickly sticks….  Not at all engaging.

Over this past winter, I struck on the idea of drying the blooms of these once-a-year bloomers; that way I could carry the blooms around and have something to show people.   What I have found is there are basically two methods for drying the flowers:  Pressing them and drying them in silica gel.

Drying them using silica gel

Back in January, when I was originally thinking about this project, I purchased a 5 pound container of loose silica gel and several rubbermaid/snaptite containers with airtight lids to store the stuff and to dry blooms in.  However,  there were not roses blooming then so the project got set aside until warmer weather and flowers bloomed.

Forward to now (or at least the last week or two) and the roses are here!!  Once I tracked down where I had stashed the various components, I cut some blooms to try drying:

  • Apothecary Rose
  • Old Blush
  • Cherokee Rose
  • Cardinal Richelieu (a dark purple gallica rose)
  • Double Blanc de Corbet

Following the instructions that came with the silica gel, I placed about 1.5″ in the bottom of a large flat Rubbermaid container (about the size of a 9x13x2 baking pan) then trimmed the stem on the roses so it would be short enough so the bloom fit in the container.  I then gently sprinkled more silica gel of the the blooms so they were completely covered.  The cover for the container was then snapped in place and the container was placed in the corner of the dinner room where it was least likely to be disturbed.  The Double Blanc de Corbet was put int a container by itself (a round semi-disposable Ziploc 2-cup unit) and that worked pretty well.

I put the blooms in the drying medium on Thursday and took them out on the following Tuesday.  That makes 5 days in the silica gel; the instructions that came with the drying medium said 3 days.  When I took them out, they seemed a little delicate and some blooms (like the Double Blanc de Corbet and the Cherokee Rose) end up with petals falling off.  It is possible that I over-dried them.  Turns out those round Ziploc 2-cup containers are about the right size for storing the individual dried blossoms.  Now I just need to figure out a way of keeping the bloom from rattling around inside the container….

All in all, the blooms look pretty good.  The reds/purples did darken some during the dryin processes and with one exception, the rose scent did not stay with the bloom.

I am going to break here and post this.  More to follow…

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