Florist Favourite: Top 5 Foliage to Dry | 5 min read
For many, understandably, flowers are the be-all and end-all of floral design. Flowers steal our hearts, lift our spirits, and move us to feel something. However, they do not achieve this all on their own. A combination of elements come together to make a mesmerizing design. Enter the understated, often overlooked, role of foliage.
Foliage creates rhythm through repetition. Foliage creates line directing the eye to move along its length. Foliage, also, provides the all-important staging allowing the leading actors the space to shine.
If you cannot already tell, I have quite the affinity for foliage. In my creative process, foliage is often the starting point; its expanse and volume will inspire the design’s progression. I typically use foliage that I forage as well as materials acquired from local flower wholesalers. I then dry foliage that I source myself through the ever-reliable method of hang drying upside down in bunches. To follow, I have compiled a list of my Top 5 Favourite Foliage to Dry. The list includes foliage of different colours and textures, which I commonly utilise in my designs from vase arrangements to botanical wall art.
1. Bracken Fern | Pteridium esculentum
Well, it’s an obvious choice given my business, but there is so much to love about bracken. Bracken has incredible shape, line, and presence; yet it remarkably retains an airy, light quality. I also love its textural contrast and earthy colouring. Florist tip: bracken grows prolifically in the wild, usually found along roadsides as a low-lying evergreen fern. I should caution that it is important to be aware of any relevant legislation regarding foraging. Obviously, do not forage from national parks or local government reserves. When picking bracken, the brown or, dare I say, dead form is preferable. Bracken picked green retains green tones as it dries.
2. Queensland Silver Wattle | Acacia podalyriifolia
This one is a giver. Queensland Silver Wattle has stunning velvety silver-green foliage, then come winter it blooms the most delightful plumes of yellow flowers. Due to its delicate nature, wattle can be challenging to use dried; however, its unique silver colouring and volume make it so worthwhile. Florist tip: I personally think the best time of year to pick this variety of wattle is in winter roughly before it is about to bloom. At this stage, the foliage is lush and there are sprays of flower buds that add a whimsical touch to a design when dried.
3. Italian Ruscus | Ruscus aculeatus
One of the dearer foliage supplied by wholesalers, Italian ruscus screams luxury. It is the most self-indulgent choice in my list, but its beauty is undeniable. Given its expense, Italian ruscus is not commonly dried and, if I were more sensible, I would recommend against it. However, Italian ruscus has the most divine shape, line, and movement quality that translates both fresh and dried. With sun exposure, ruscus also transitions from a rich green to a golden brown. As someone who loves to work with earthy colour tones, the range of beautiful brown-tone dried foliage can be limited; so ruscus, in my opinion, is worth the expense and works wonders.
4. Poly Gum | Eucalyptus polyanthemos
Well, it would be practically un-Australian not to include eucalyptus in a list of florist favourites. With its heavenly scent, eucalyptus is a florist staple. Poly gum has a beautiful softness and subtlety as it dries. Its unique coin-shaped leaves slightly curl and create a rippling movement effect. Without a doubt, poly gum is my favourite eucalyptus for drying.
5. Magnolia | Magnolia grandiflora
I have only recently discovered magnolia’s potential as a dried foliage. For me, it is the best of both worlds: a touch of green on one side of the leaf with a velvety rich brown on the back. So, magnolia has several value-adds, including its colour versatility, its large impactful leaves, and its overall abundance fills out a design and takes up space.
I would consider the foliage in my top 5 list my classic go-to’s. I use them frequently in design and their versatility means that I use them in a range of design styles. Never underestimate the value and impact that foliage provides. In my experience, foliage can be a florist’s greatest friend and ally in the design process.
Are you a foliage lover? What are your foliage favourites? Let me know below.