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Dried and gone to heaven: Baltimore florists embrace arid new design trend

Alyssa Zygmunt, co-owner of The Greenhouse, thinks that low-maintenance, long-lasting dried flowers are well suited to the tastes and needs of customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Alyssa Zygmunt, co-owner of The Greenhouse, thinks that low-maintenance, long-lasting dried flowers are well suited to the tastes and needs of customers amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

You know the old story. Shell out a bunch of money for a big, gorgeous bouquet of flowers. Take it home and the clock starts ticking. You have a few days. Maybe longer, if you can slice the stems right and remember to stir in the mysterious packet of plant food.

Fortunately for the cost-conscious consumer, low-maintenance, longer-lasting dried flowers are catching on. More fashionable (and natural) than silk flowers, they’re popular in bouquets and arrangements, either on their own or mixed in with fresh-cut blooms.

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Alyssa Zygmunt, co-owner of The Greenhouse, began selling bouquets of what she calls “forever flowers” for Mother’s Day, even before opening her Falls Road shop next to Good Neighbor in August. She thinks that low-maintenance, long-lasting dried flowers are well suited to the tastes and needs of customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It feels responsible to spend your money on something that will last,” Zygmunt said. While wilted flowers can be yet another reminder of death’s inevitability — kind of a bummer — dried flowers can be a more uplifting and practical choice.

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Business partners Amanda Fennell Andrews (left) and Alyssa Zygmunt at The Greenhouse in Hampden.
Business partners Amanda Fennell Andrews (left) and Alyssa Zygmunt at The Greenhouse in Hampden. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

The trend has been gaining popularity in recent years, with high-end floral shops like East Olivia selling preserved bouquets to customers across the U.S. In 2018, actor Mandy Moore turned heads with an Instagram-ready wedding adorned with multicolored pampas grasses and an arch of dried baby’s breath, dyed pink. And bohemian brides love them for weddings, says Lana Brown, owner of Fleur De Lis Florist in downtown Baltimore. Online flower shop Urban Stems now carries a line of dried floral bouquets, ranging in price from a $35 bunch of pampas grass — it resembles wheat — to a $175 assortment of hand dyed stems.

Amy McManus, owner of Crimson & Clover Floral Design in Roland Park, said she began to sell dried flowers again after seeing the trend make an “insanely expensive” appearance at the website of retailer Anthropologie. “I love a mix of dried and fresh,” McManus said. She often mixes neutral colored items like pampas grass and sand palm leaves into an arrangement of fresh-cut flowers for a whimsical, beachy effect.

Drying flowers can also be a way to repurpose leftover stems, says Liz Vayda, owner of B.Willow. At her Remington shop, designers save excess buds from fresh flower bouquets and press them to create cards or tags. “We try to have as little waste as possible, especially if it’s something that can be made aesthetically pleasing and beautiful.” She also sells arrangements of dried blossoms ranging in size from bitty boutonnieres to bountiful bouquets.

But when it comes to dried flowers, not all blooms are created equal.

“Not all flowers are meant to be dried,” said Brown. She favors plants like lavender, roses and antique hydrangeas, too, which retain their original color and develop a vintage, dreamy quality. They also work well in bouquets and arrangements for bohemian or desert-style weddings, Brown said. Certain breeds like eucalyptus and strawflowers can look the same dried and fresh, and herbs are generally a good choice. Tropical flowers for the most part are not well-suited to preservation, says Vayda.

Looking to experiment with the trend at home? Here are Zygmunt’s tips:

Look for plants with a heartier stem. more fragile blooms might be better for pressing instead, says Zygmunt.

Forage for your own. Zygmunt likes to pick some of her own wild plants while en route to visit her mother in Montgomery County. “97 is the best country road you can drive down,” she said. She looks for plants that are already dried — one step away from “being absorbed by nature,” she said. But be careful not to pick someone else’s blossoms

Commit to the idea of drying while flowers are still in their prime. So don’t let your blossoms decay in their vase. “If you wait till the flowers are decomposing, oftentimes the petals will fall,” Zygmunt said. While drying, hang the flowers upside down and keep away from direct light unless you want a bleached effect.

Less is more. Dried flowers lend to what Zygmunt refers to as an airy, ikebana style. You can put just three items in a vase, positioning them to achieve the desired shape. A spritz of hairspray can help prevent fluff from shedding.

Consider the cats. Pets have been known to swat at grass-like or pointy dried stems, Zygmunt says, something to consider when choosing an arrangement for the home. And watch out for air conditioning vents.

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