How to Make a Dried Flower Bouquet

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When you think of Valentine’s Day traditions, red roses probably top the list, along with a box of chocolates or a meal at a cozy restaurant. But no one needs to be reminded that this year has been anything but traditional. Maybe this Valentine’s Day is a good excuse to lean into the untraditional and try something fresh. Er, not fresh, as the case may be.

Dried florals have been making a comeback the past few years, thanks in part to their typically smaller carbon footprint than their fresh counterparts, which are often shipped long distances in refrigerated trucks or planes.

“A lot of people have a preconceived notion of what dried florals are,” said Rebecca O’Donnell, owner of The Quiet Botanist, a botanical apothecary and dried flower shop in Hudson, N.Y. But today’s dried bouquets are not the dusty, dull arrangements of the past. Instead, they are all about showing off the lush textures that result from the drying process.

If you’re interested in making your own bouquet, you can purchase dried flowers at many local floral shops, online from specialty companies or direct from small growers like Sarah Haven of Catkin Flowers in Brunswick, Maine. Ms. Haven’s flowers go straight to a dark barn to dry after harvest, which keeps the colors as vibrant as possible without dyeing them. She got into the business after two friends asked her to do their wedding flowers. “They wanted something that would last longer than their wedding day,” Ms. Haven said.

The romantic longevity of a dried bouquet is just one bonus. Ms. O’Donnell points out that the flowers can also change over time. “You can be creative and experiment,” she said. “When it comes to spring, you can add in some fresh flowers. You can add a little bit of water and then let them decay a bit.” And to combat the inevitable dust, she said, “just use a hair dryer on a really low speed or take them outside and shake them up a bit.”

Worried it won’t look right? That’s OK. “If it’s a little bit undone and not perfect, it’s more interesting,” Ms. O’Donnell said.

Your local floral shop may stock dried flowers, but there are also several online shops with great variety. (If you don’t feel like trying your own hand at a bouquet, many local and online shops sell lovely premade bouquets and can ship as well.)

Start with five different elements, and several stems of each. Aim for at least one from each of these four categories: tall, full or fluffy pieces; delicate, textured stems; a bold statement flower; and grasses or greenery as fillers. Gypsophila, or baby’s breath is a favorite, or try caspia for a slightly more structured look. Bunny tail grass or globe amaranth will lend interesting shapes, and protea and banksia make nice statement options. Grocery stores often carry eucalyptus stems, which are popular in dried arrangements and smell great, or Ms. O’Donnell suggests that you can even forage for fillers like cattails or wild grasses that grow in your region.

As a guide, your tallest pieces should be roughly one to one and a half times the height of your vase.

Your selection of dried flowers and grasses

A pair of very sharp scissors

Clear tape

A vase

1. Use the tape to create a grid on the top of the vase. You’ll place the stems inside the grid, helping your arrangement to stay in place.

2. Start with some of your tall, fuller stems to roughly define the shape you want your bouquet to take. If you find your stems are really brittle, Ms. Haven suggests misting them with a spray bottle while you work to give them a bit more flexibility.

3. Add in some greenery that is of similar height or slightly shorter than your tall, full stems.

4. Place a few stems of your statement flowers. Try putting the first one fairly low in the vase and avoid perfect symmetry to keep things looking natural and modern. Play around and see what you think looks good.

5. Look for empty spaces and add stems as needed.

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