When words aren’t enough, can the everlasting promise of a dry flower speak the words resting on the tip of your tongue and let someone you hold dear know just what they mean to you?

What in carnation? Though the actual concept of a dried flower may seem a little barmy, the truth is to most, they’re simply iris-iristible!

To the not-so-green-fingered, they’re a welcome relief from the panic attacks of once again forgetting to water the plants, and to the pollen-challenged, they’re a refreshingly (sneeze-free) scent. Being 100 per cent natural and biodegradable, they’re no offence to the planet either. And for the disorganised, they’re the ideal last-minute gift to send in the post, as their longevity guarantees they’ll arrive perfect and intact. It will seem as if you’d planned a stunning, thoughtful present all along (you can thank us later!)

In essence, dried flowers are a godsend and we’re far from the only ones to recognise it. The art of drying flowers is thousands of years old, dating back to the ancient Egyptians who lay wildflowers in tombs in tribute to the departed and the ancient Greeks who used dried garlands to celebrate significant occasions. In the West, the language of dried flowers came alive in the Victorian era, when it became popular to dry flowers and leaves to use in tea, decorate fans and embellish clothing. Across aeons, dried flowers have been used to represent endurance and resilience, symbolising eternal love and the ability to persist and overcome adversity.

Great British Life: Dried flower bunch from The Petal Girl. Dried flower bunch from The Petal Girl. (Image: Rachel Goodwin)

One who truly appreciates their beauty and vast uses is Colchester-based Rachel Goodwin, aka The Petal Girl.

‘I grow most of my flowers,’ Rachel shares, ‘many for drying. I pick varieties I know will hold their colour and use them to create bouquets, wreaths, baubles, garlands, bridesmaid hoops and more.'

Rachel started working in floral design six years ago. After spending most of her life in a corporate role, she was keen to pursue something creative in her spare time, so enrolled on an introductory floristry course and flourished from there. She currently offers one-to-one and small private group workshops, which can be booked online at thepetalgirl.co.uk, with hopes of providing additional group ones later this year.

Great British Life: Rachel uses dried flowers to craft hoops, garlands and even Christmas baubles. Rachel uses dried flowers to craft hoops, garlands and even Christmas baubles. (Image: Rachel Goodwin)

‘The purposes of dried flowers are limitless,’ Rachel says. ‘They’re the perfect accessory – forming flower crowns and hair pieces – and make unique, gorgeous additions to home decor. I recently created some dried flower branches which have been displayed in vaulted ceilings and shop windows.’

Though hard-pressed to choose a favourite creation, Rachel admitted she particularly loved working with detailed wreaths and hoops.

‘They take a while to make, but the result is breathtaking,’ she explains. ‘Last Christmas, I crafted a dried flower wreath and adored the light, fresh colours. It was a ray of sunshine during the winter months and it’s immensely satisfying seeing work that I’ve grown and produced myself. Dried flowers are the gift that keeps on giving.’

Great British Life: Petal & Lace wedding arrangement and display. Petal & Lace wedding arrangement and display. (Image: Toni Kenton)

For others, like Toni Kenton, owner of Brentwood’s Petal & Lace (petalandlace.co.uk), their love affair with dried flowers began decades ago.

‘It was the 80s - dried flower and silk arrangements were all the rage and lots of entrepreneurial people were developing a cottage industry in their kitchens, beavering away to make dried flower arrangements in wicker baskets and selling them,’ Toni says. ‘I thought I’d like to have a go at that and off I went.’

After visiting an Upminster flower emporium, she started crafting arrangements to display at home. Now over 30 years, two qualifications and much industry experience later, she’s preserving wedding bouquets and occasion flowers for people across the county.

‘We’re one of only a handful of UK companies to use freeze-dry technology to preserve our bouquets,’ she adds. ‘Wedding arrangements are wholly preserved and carefully recreated in a deep box frame to provide a precious wedding keepsake.

Great British Life: Dried flower decor for a wedding at Braxted Park by Petal & LaceDried flower decor for a wedding at Braxted Park by Petal & Lace (Image: Toni Kenton)

‘Like many things, the dried flower trend has come full circle, and they’re being appreciated by a new generation of flower enthusiasts. More brides-to-be are choosing them for their bridal bouquets and wedding reception decor. Neutral calm tones are very in season and the variety of textures, from the rigidity of a palm leaf to soft pampas grass, can create a bewitching display.’

Recently, the winner of the Unique Services Award at the prestigious Essex Wedding Awards, Toni added: ‘I’m incredibly proud to have won and excited for the future. After construction of my new workspace is complete, I look forward to being able to offer floristry workshops incorporating how to make wedding reception decor.’

Demand for floristry workshops is at an all-time high, with many booking them as a quirky hen-do activity, idyllic mother-daughter bonding experience and alternative social outings.

Great British Life: Stock Florist's professional courses offer real experience from working florists. Stock Florist's professional courses offer real experience from working florists. (Image: Eleanor Hadow-Begg)

‘Rather than eating or drinking out with friends, you can meet up to learn a new skill, boost mindfulness and make something beautiful to take home,’ shares Sam Raindle, owner of the award-winning Stock Florist (stockflorist.co.uk).

People can join their experience classes for a taster of the floral world and discover how to craft hand-tied bouquets, table centres and more. Those interested in becoming a florist themselves can explore their range of professional classes.

‘Our professional courses offer genuine experience from working florists,’ Sam says. ‘Students can learn different techniques quickly, guided by expert tutors, and share in our deep appreciation for flowers and the pursuit of beauty.

Great British Life: Florists at Stock love to use dried flowers mixed in with fresh flowers for an added element of texture to arrangements. Florists at Stock love to use dried flowers mixed in with fresh flowers for an added element of texture to arrangements. (Image: Eleanor Hadow-Begg)

‘Every member of the team comes from a diverse range of creative backgrounds and the opportunity to transfer those skills to working with the most beautiful, natural things on Earth is very special.’

In the classes, the florists work with fresh and dried flowers, often using a combination of both in their bouquets.

‘Dried flowers add a textural element to the design,’ Sam shares. ‘For example, fluffy dried bunny tails look amazing dancing above a bridal bouquet of delicate blush roses, and tall pampas grass is great to add height and movement to large meadow arrangements.

‘Bunches of dried flowers became incredibly popular during lockdown as a long-lasting alternative to a fresh flower display to send to loved ones they couldn’t see on special occasions.’

Great British Life: Steve and Janice Pierce, owners of Blossom Hill Flowers. Steve and Janice Pierce, owners of Blossom Hill Flowers. (Image: Blossom Hill Flowers)

Essexonians can further uncover the magic of dried flowers with the help of Blossom Hill Florist (blossomhillflowers.co.uk), who deliver taster and one-to-one, full-day classes, mostly held at their Danbury store, but also various locations across the region – even once in a pie’n’mash shop!

‘You can bring yourself, your mum, your BFF. Everyone is welcome, and you’ll have the most inspirational morning,’ shares shop owner Janice Pierce.

Janice started in the floral industry when she was a student, later gaining her teaching degree and becoming a floristry lecturer at Writtle University College for 27 years. Throughout her career, she ran her own business from home, but after retiring in 2022, opened the Blossom Hill shop.

Great British Life: Dried flowers add texture and vibrance to bouquets. Dried flowers add texture and vibrance to bouquets. (Image: Blossom Hill Flowers)

‘I love interacting with the local community, helping during both happy and sad occasions, and have become firm friends with many of our customers,’ Janice shares.

It would seem in the world of dry flowers, as William Butler Yeats says: ‘There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met.’ There’s something about their natural beauty that helps inspire and bring people together, a sentiment that Kate Hargreaves couldn’t agree with more.

Great British Life: Tangle and Thyme offer floristry workshops in the studio and cutting garden. Tangle and Thyme offer floristry workshops in the studio and cutting garden. (Image: Kate Hargreaves)

When she established Tangle and Thyme, a floral design studio and cutting garden in High Easter, seven years ago it was with the dream of creating wild and natural designs that would bring the outside into the heart of people’s homes and celebrations.

‘I loved flowers and growing things and used this as an opportunity to combine my passion with the garden-gathered style of floristry we’ve adopted,’ Kate says. ‘Sustainability is incredibly important to us. By growing much of what we use in our cutting garden, wildflower meadow and foliage field, we help reduce air miles and create an oasis for bees and butterflies.’

Tangle and Thyme provide bespoke weddings, buckets and bouquets for celebrations and individual or subscription flowers. They also offer workshops in the shop and cutting garden.

Great British Life: Tangle and Thyme's Kate uses specific flowers for drying, most of which is done in dark cupboards around her home.Tangle and Thyme's Kate uses specific flowers for drying, most of which is done in dark cupboards around her home. (Image: Kate Hargreaves)

‘Seasonality is at the heart of what we do, so the cutting garden offering changes almost weekly,’ Kate explains. ‘We move from narcissi and tulips in the spring, through to peonies and roses in early summer, followed by dahlias in late summer and chrysanthemums into autumn.’

Kate uses specific flowers for drying, with most of the process being done in dark cupboards around her home. She then uses them to create hoops, hearts, and name places that are sold at tangleandthyme.co.uk.

‘Dried flowers are once again having a moment in the spotlight as people are becoming more concerned about provenance and the environment,’ she says. ‘Everlasting flowers impart permanence and beauty with their longevity helping to reduce waste.

‘While fresh flowers will always hold a place in my heart because of their scent and movement, by using dried flowers and seed heads, you complete a flower’s circle of life. They enable you to enjoy plant life even in months when fresh flowers aren’t in season and to capture a moment in time to treasure forevermore.’

Great British Life: Narcissi and tulips are in season in spring. Narcissi and tulips are in season in spring. (Image: Kate Hargreaves)

Put a spring in your step...

It’s well known that April showers will bring May flowers. For a dried bouquet blossoming with joy, why not craft an idyllic arrangement using these sprigs of spring:

  • Lavender – a classic spring flower, popular for its soothing appearance and scent.
  • Helichrysum – small and daisy-like, this flower prompts fond memories of days spent in the sun crafting daisy chains.
  • Delphinium – for a sprinkle of elegance.
  • Acroclinium – another perplexing name, but these delicate dried flowers are bursting with charm.
  • Dried Star Flower Glixia – a pretty name for a pretty flower teeming with vibrance to make your bouquet pop.
  • Roses – whatever your favourite shade, roses always make a timeless addition to any dried flower bunch.