Drying Herbs and Flowers - Hanging Method
This is the time of year when I begin gathering herbs and flowers for the Smudging Wands I craft. Some plants are already blooming, whereas others I use won't begin to blossom until a month from now. So, I gather what I can now and dry it for use later when I finally have harvested all of materials to make Flower Smudging Wands.
Most plants will dry quite easily with this upside down method. It keeps the flowers and stems straight and full of color. They also make lovely decorations around the house! Notable exceptions to this method would be Dandelions and Dahlias. Dandelions are too moist and will close. Dahlias will turn brown. They are instead best dried using silica crystals, which I will cover in another post!
Things you'll need:
1) Clippers. I highly recommend getting some garden clippers rather than scissors. Clippers tend to have a sharper cleaner cut which is less likely to mangle the plant and leave it open to diseases.
2) A good basket or reusable bag is handy to have for holding all your cuttings.
3) String or thin twine. I have a nice roll of thin hemp twine from my local yarn shop.
4) Drop cloth. I use an old white sheet, towels work fine too.
Even when gathering from the plants in my garden, that I have an intimate relationship with, I like to ask permission to cut them. They always are more than happy to oblige, but it's respectful to ask.
Don't forget to refer to Gathering 101 for proper gathering techniques!
1) Cut LOW on plant stems below the axillary bud in the elbow joint. This allows the plant to continue to grow.
2) If it's a single stem plant, cut close to the ground to prevent unsightly stems.
3) Be sure to vary your cuts about the plant or stand of plants so everything still looks balanced and full.
4) Stop periodically and take a step back to see what you’re doing. Move around and make sure you're leaving the plant just as beautiful as when you came to it.
As you gather, give the plant material you've cut a good shake to dislodge any insects or spiders back to the Earth. They don't want to come with you any more than you do. Once you have a nice bundle of plants for your purposes either spread them out on your drop cloth outside in a shady spot or inside depending on what's available to you and how windy it is! The drop cloth will help you gather up the fallen bits of plant material and insect stragglers, to return outside with a gentle shake once you've finished.
Here I'm working with Catmint, Purple Sage, and a wee bit of Spanish Lavender (Lavender season hasn't begun in earnest yet!) Divide your plant material up into bundles of about the width of your enclosed thumb and forefinger. I find this amount to be best for quick drying and ease of separating again. Larger amounts of bundled material can take longer to dry and have a higher risk of molding. However, you could do twice this amount fairly safely if you want a fuller looking bouquet.
Tie a generous piece of string around your bundle towards the end of the stems so you can hang them upside down to dry.
Make one end of your string much longer than the other. This is what you'll use to hang it later. Make your string secure around the stems, but not so tight that you cut into them. I'm actually leaving mine rather loose in these photos because I intend to cut the bundles free later and divide them into new groupings. I don't want the stems so close that I can't get them apart without damaging the herbs when they're dry.
Once you have all of your bundles tied up it's time to hang them. I have several ways I do this. Nails all over the walls in every free space of the house! Just tie a slip knot on your long string tail and slip it onto the nail. You'll be able to see and feel when the plant material is completely dry. There's usually enough air flow in the house, especially hanging this way, that the plants dry quickly without any problems. I've even done this with juicy Rosehips and never had issues with mold.
If you want less holes in the wall, you can hang a long pole (or branch in this case) horizontally to hold many bundles. Mine is hung with thick twine on the ends knotted down with two loops that I hang (again) on large nails. The bundles can be looped over the pole and tied on to hang down and dry this way. Get creative with your hanging flowers and herbs. They can fill your home with scent and beauty!