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Dried Flower Arrangements - Dried flowers hanging from the barn beams
Dried flowers hanging from the barn beams
On a farm
on the outskirts of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania is a lady by the name of Andrea Beitzel who continues to carry on the tradition of colonial housewives who kept their summer flowers for the long, dark days of winter by air-drying them- that is, letting them hang in warm dark places until they are completely dry and ready to be arranged in bouquets.

Dried Flower Arrangements - Wooden silo along the barn
Wooden silo along the barn
Dried Flower Arrangements - 1954 Ford Golden Jubilee tractor
1954 Ford Golden Jubilee tractor
Andrea lives on the farm once owned by her grandfather with her husband, two children, twenty-eight goats, three llamas, one horse, fifteen cats, roosters, and chickens. The larger barn was built in 1854. Along side the barn is a rare wooden silo next to a 1954 Ford Golden Jubilee tractor with an original cost of $1650. The farm has fifty original acres but Andrea plants her flowers and herbs on twelve acres of land.

Back in the seventies Andrea wanted to work on her farm but wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do to earn income. Her mother saw an article in a magazine about dried flowers and the rest is history. She began with the help of her relatives drying the flowers and making swags, wreaths, and dried flower arrangements. Her company is known as A & M Growers, a wholesale florist which can be found on the internet. Her product is sold in bulk bunches but can be divided for retail sale. Custom orders are their specialty.

One of the greatest advantages of dried flowers is the season never has to end after the first frost. Andrea continues to fulfill orders all year long. Some of the floral designs are currently sold out but will be available May through July since May is the start of the new season. Her seeds which are started in March are purchased from Germania Seed Company, Chicago, Illinois. Some of the more popular choices of flowers and herbs to choose from for drying are cockscomb, strawflowers, blue salvia, Globe Amaranth which is gomphrena, hydrangea, celosia, mountain mint discovered in 1790 by a French botanist, Andrea Michaux in Pennsylvania, German statice, rubelia, Sweet Annie, yarrow, tansy, lambs ear, acroclinium , baby's breath, chives, larkspur, Silver King artemisia, eucalyptus, blue globe thistle, zinnia, white ammobium, nigella, marjoram, oregano, lemon leaves, lavender, okra, and summer savory.

Dried Flower Arrangements - Andrea Beitzel of A & M Growers, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
Andrea Beitzel of A & M Growers, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
Andrea said, "A dry hot season is much better for the industry than a cool wet one." She grows organically and uses no sprays or chemicals. Her flowers and herbs are hung on the rafters of her smaller framed barn. It is a colorful sight to behold. It takes two days to two weeks to dry out the flowers and herbs. As she receives orders, the flowers are removed from the rafters and the tedious work begins of making each arrangement separately. Last season in September when Colonial Sense began their website, she had thirty-three orders to fulfill. The most popular seller for Andrea is the wreath. The next popular seller is the swag.

To air dry flowers, be sure to cut them on a sunny day around noon when the blossoms are quite dry and not wilted. Take off the foliage, which doesn't dry very well, tie the stems together in small bunches, and suspend them upside down from an overhead beam in a barn or rack. In about ten days the flowers will be completely dry and ready for arranging. Wreath bases are also available for your own design.

Dried Flower Arrangements - A dried flower swag
A dried flower swag
Other ways to preserve cut flowers are with glycerine or silica gel, or pressing flowers in a heavy book.

A & M Growers has had a good year based upon the bunches of dried flowers being sold out. With a hot dry season, another year can be successful for the company. Make sure you check out Andrea's website to see the beautiful arrangements she makes. The floral designs for 2010 are posted. Holiday and seasonal floral arrangements are also available. This year the summer's color doesn't have to end with the first frost. Brighten your colonial home with dried flower arrangements.

Source: Interview/research/photos by Bryan Wright

Related Links:

A & M Growers

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