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Everlastings, like strawflower, are long on versatility

By Elizabeth PullarSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / April 9, 1982



Rare is the gardener who does not examine the many colorful seed catalogs that swell the mails in winter and early spring. Always of interest are the new developments in both flowers and vegetables that usually appear.

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Hard to resist is a review of old-time favorites that are described in detail with magnificent and showy illustrations.

Before deciding upon a list of desirable flower seeds for the space allotted to annuals, consideration might be given to a special group of seeds known as the everlastings.

Most seed catalogs list the annual flowers that can be dried and used for winter bouquets under a separate heading. A scrutiny of the varieties adaptable as everlasting flowers will reveal that they can be equally attractive in the border and as cut flowers while growing as fresh blossoms.

Since the everlastings serve a dual purpose for summer and winter, they are a good investment for the homeowner.

Some catalogs recommend raising everlastings, not only as a pleasant hobby, but also as a profitable venture. In recent years there has arisen a tendency for dried flowers to be sold in mixed bouquets ready for display in decorative baskets or bowls.

In addition, florists and specialty stores are in the market for groups of everlastings to be made up into attractive and out-of-the-ordinary wreaths and arrangements of all sizes that will keep in prime condition for many months.

In fact, a little experimentation with dried flowers will become a challenge to the grower himself to fashion artistic displays of colors and forms with the satisfaction of knowing that all have been grown in his summer garden.

Perhaps the flower that comes to mind first as a specimen useful for an everlasting arrangement is the colorful strawflower (Helichrysum).

As its name suggests, its blossoms are made up of strawlike petals in daisy form. This annual, grown in mixed colors of red, pink, yellow, and white, retains its shape and brilliancy if picked just before the fully open stage and hung upside down in a bunch to dry. Strawflowers make a showy display in the garden, too, where their vivid colors are a pleasant addition to the border.

A range of white, blue, and yellow colors that keep their intensity after being dried are those of the annual statice. This flower is used by many florists and can be a source of deep and true color in dried bouquets.

The stems of statice are thick and stiff but the blossoms form in graceful sprays that add a varied texture to a dried-flower arrangement that sometimes features only blossoms of round or daisy shapes.

These round flowers that retain their everlasting qualities include some that are far from common but worthy of trial as something new.

Xeranthemum has double blossoms with papery petals in red, pink, and white colors. Acroclinium has large daisy-shaped flowers in white, pink, and deeper reds. For drying this annual, it is best picked in bud form. Ammobium is a white everlasting with yellow centered blooms, not often seen, to be sure, but interesting if for no other reason.

Nigella, love-in-mist, is a dainty plant in the summer garden, and its delicate flowers of pink, white, or blue will dry to good advantage. Helipterum has small flowers of yellow, which is often needed for variety with other colors in a mixed dried bouquet.

In addition to the spray clusters of statice and the round daisylike flowers, there are those with ball-shaped blossoms that add diversity to an everlasting display. Globe amaranth is an example of this type, with ball-shaped blossoms that retain their good color when dried. In similar form is the globe thistle (Echinops), the blue flowers of which are valued assets in an everlasting arrangement.

Then there is the pretty ageratum, which can be dried for an everlasting blue if picked before the flower heads open into fluffy maturity.

Celosia, or cockscomb, is a favorite everlasting, for it furnishes bright red and yellow blossoms for dried bouquets and is a showy specimen for the border as well.

There are two types of celosia, each of which you may want to grow. There is a plumelike variety that is exceptionally pretty with its bright feathery spikes. Then there is the crested type with velvety flower heads that, from their appearance, give cockscomb its name.

New for 1981 is the All America-award-winning variety called Apricot Brandy. Its feathery plumes are of an unusual orange color, said to be excellent as an impressive bedding plant.

Two biennials that are included in a garden of everlastings are the Chinese lantern (physalis) and the money plant (lunaria). Both of these are valued for their dried seed pods rather than for the flowers.

The Chinese lantern is familiar as a common decorative novelty sold at roadside stands in the fall.

The large seed pods of lunaria are thin, silvery disks that somewhat resemble coins. It, too, may be bought as an ornamental dried curiosity at roadside stands.

Though everlasting plants will retain their beauty in dried form for more than a year, most gardeners prefer to raise and harvest a new crop each season.