Transform flowers into artwork, gifts and even food |

All throughout the Triad, gardens are abloom with beautiful flowers. Here, where summers stretch beyond the calendar and temperatures stay warm well into fall, there are still many months of harvesting left.

Eventually, summer flowers will fade and die with the frost…

But that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to those beautiful blooms. We interviewed local flower farmers, gardeners, artists and crafters for their ideas of how to get even more enjoyment from the flowers you grow or buy at the farmer’s market.

They shared ideas for preserving and drying flowers and advice for turning blooms into artwork and gifts. You’ll even learn about some edible treats you can make using flowers from your garden.


Preserving Flowers

If you’re old enough to know what a phone book is, you probably have memories of your mother or grandmother pressing flowers between the pages.

While thick phone books are a thing of the past, drying and pressing flowers are still very much in vogue.

People are also reading…

Shellie Watkins Ritzman teaches classes on flower pressing at My Garden Blooms, her boutique flower farm in Kernersville. In the class, students receive wooden flower presses.

But a heavy book works just as well, Ritzman says. Just place flowers between clean sheets of parchment paper, newsprint or even printer paper and put them in the book.

Check the flowers weekly, changing the paper as necessary, until they’re dry. Pressed flowers are very delicate, so handle them gently. You may want to use tweezers to lift them.

For best results, avoid using flowers with thick centers for pressing. Instead, choose varieties like violets, pansies, forget-me-nots, cosmos, delphinium, sweet alyssum or clematis or petals from flowers like zinnias, roses and marigolds.

Ferns, leaves and herbs also make good specimens.

“Flowers that press well, as far as color: Yellow and orange blooms will keep their colors the best,” Ritzman says. “Blues, pinks and purples will fade a little bit, and red flowers will turn brown.”

What can you do with pressed flowers?

In Ritzman’s classes, students make bookmarks using dried florals and Mod Podge. You can also use them on homemade cards and gift tags. Ritzman has also decoupaged pressed flowers onto rocks.

You can put the flowers between glass to make artwork or coasters. (Just wrap the edges of the glass with foil tape.) You can also preserve pressed flowers in epoxy resin, making coasters, paperweights and jewelry.

Wendy Wellons, a local urban gardener who shares her garden on Instagram as @The_Cut_Flower_Garden, embraces the notion of getting the most from her garden at every stage of the plant’s life.

“The garden is the place where I can exercise my creativity and the place where I can leave everything behind,” she says.

She has been pressing and drying flowers to create a window-sized art piece that spans all four seasons.

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Good flowers for drying and pressing include violets, pansies, forget-me-nots and cosmos

How to Dry Flowers

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of pressing flowers, you can easily dry them after they’re harvested.

“The key to drying flowers – you want to pull all the foliage off the flower,” Reitzman said. Tie the bunches together with twine or rubber bands, then hang upside down in a dry, dark place for two to three weeks.

This fall, Ritzman will be hosting a class where students will decorate pumpkins with dried flowers. (For more information, visit

Hydrangeas can be dried in a vase for ready-made arrangements. The key is to pick the flowers at the right time, once they’ve started the process of drying on the plant. The petals will feel a little papery.

Cut stems on an angle, remove the leaves and place the hydrangeas in a vase filled halfway with water. As the water evaporates, the flowers will dry.

Dried hydrangeas can be used in fall arrangements, wreaths or even added to a Christmas tree.

When dried, roses and lavender can be used in myriad ways. They can be added to homemade bath salts or sugar scrubs or used to make potpourri. You can also make sachets for your drawers or closets.

Combine dried lavender buds with essential oil and soy wax to make wax sachets. (For a full tutorial, visit

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Turn them Into Art

Take a cue from the Dutch masters, Monet, Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keefe and countless other artists and turn your blooms into artwork.

To paint flowers is to give them immortality. Frida Kahlo famously said, “I paint flowers to prevent them from dying.”

You can set up an easel outdoors to paint en plein air, as Monet did. Or you may want to paint a still life of a formal flower arrangement in oil or use watercolors or acrylics to paint a bunch of wildflowers in a Mason jar.

Cat Redmond, a Winston-Salem artist, shared some easy beginner tips on how to paint flowers.

“When I first started out, I felt like I couldn’t paint flowers,” she says. “I learned to do an abstract impressionistic type of style.”

Instead of trying to paint realistic flowers, “focus on making flower gestures and impressions of flowers,” she says. “Focus on keeping it loose and more abstract. That will help take the pressure off.”

Redmond recommends using inexpensive acrylic paints for your flower paintings. Don’t feel like you have to invest in oils or artist’s paints. Three brushes – a round brush, a square brush and fine brush for adding details should be all you need.

As you begin adding paint to the canvas, keep in mind that “flowers are basically made of blob shapes – U shapes, oval shapes and round shapes,” she said.

When she’s painting florals, Redmond begins with the darkest shade first, then layers on lighter shades to bring her subject to life.

Once the basic shape is formed, you can add details “to take your flowers to the next level,” she says.

Use a comma or loose C-shape to create petals. Use a fine brush, or even a pen or Sharpie marker, to make dots to form the center of the flower.

Peonies and hydrangeas are easy flowers for beginners to paint.

To paint a peony, start by painting a loose, organic oval blob. Then add layers of comma shapes to create the petals, lightening the color as you work by adding some white to the paint. Finally add a darker dot of color in the center.

Want to paint a hydrangea? “You can actually use your pinkie finger to make little dots” to form the petals of a hydrangea, Redmond said. Start with a darker color, and then layer hues on top to create depth.

Gardener Wellons who offers edible and cut flowers, workshops, custom arrangements, and garden design advice, takes beautifully composed still life photos of her floral arrangements that are frame worthy.

Many of her floral arrangements are done in the Ikebana style, a centuries-old Japanese art noted for its minimalism and almost sculptural design. When photographing her arrangements, Wellons is mindful of the composition and the interplay between the flowers and the background.


Take your favorite flower photo and order a puzzle featuring the image.

With today’s high-quality camera phones, it’s easy to take artistic photos of your flowers and garden, Wellon says.

Images can be framed, as shot, or there are apps like Waterlogue that you can use to add painterly effects to your photos.

You can also turn your flower photos into custom jigsaw puzzles using sites like Zazzle, Shutterfly or Snapfish.

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Edible Flower Creations

Vegetables aren’t the only edible things you can harvest from your garden.

There are many edible flowers, including roses, pansies, nasturtium, violas and culinary lavender, that can be used in salads, breads and baked goods. Just make sure they have been grown without pesticides.

“You cannot just buy flowers from (the grocery store) and feel comfortable with making anything edible from them,” says Wellons, who sells edible blooms. But if you grow the flowers yourself or know how they’re grown, you can feel safe eating and cooking with them.

You can use rose petals, lavender and peony petals to make simple syrup for cocktails, tea and other drinks.

After sampling a delicious rose jam while in France, Wellons decided she wanted to make her own using petals from her own rose bushes. (She has about 60 growing in the three different gardens.)

You’ll need petals from 15 roses to make two jars of rose jam, Wellons said. Choose fragrant varieties that have not been sprayed for the best flavor. The only other ingredients you’ll need are water, fresh lemon juice, sugar and pectin. (Wellons shares the full recipe on her Instagram account.)

“If you have roses in your garden, this becomes a special treat,” she said.