5 Annual Everlastings to Grow as Dried Flowers
Love-in-a-mist or Devil-in-a-Bush
A beautiful cottage plant, Love-in-a-mist or Devil-in-a-Bush (Nigella damascena) has "ruffles" of fern-like foliage around its delicate petals. This thin foliage makes it look as if you're looking through the flowers. Nigella blooms in white, light-dark blue, pink, and violet during the summer. This everlasting makes an interesting transition from delicate and innocent (Love-in-a-Mist) to horned and devilish (Devil-in-a-Bush) once the seed pods show up. It's a real charmer in the garden and beautiful as an everlasting.
Nigella damascena may be an annual, but it re-seeds easily and once you plant it, you'll have it every year. Plant the seeds directly into their bed as they have a taproot and resent transplanting.
Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) comes in both annual and perennial varieties but are more often used as annuals than not. Again, the blossom parts that attract us are actually bracts, not the true flowers. They have an oval, clover-shaped head that come in red, pink, orange, white, and purple. Those of you blessed with good vision will notice the tiny white or yellow flowers poking out between the bright bracts.
In fact, you may see the true flowers best on the variety 'Strawberry Fields'. This is because the little yellow flowers stand out against the red bracts and look like the seeds on a strawberry. Although Globe amaranth is usually grown in the full sun, they'll do just fine in areas with part shade.
Strawflowers (Helichrysum bracteatum or Bracteantha bracteata)
Probably the most well-known of all the everlastings, strawflowers are annuals that come in a wide array of bright colors. What looks and sounds like crinkly-paper flower petals are really modified leaves called bracts. The very center of the blossom is where you'll find the true flowers.
Strawflowers have a lot to offer the gardeners as they bloom reliably from summer until a hard frost; and then continue to share their blooms as dried flowers. Most strawflower varieties grow anywhere from 12" to 36' tall; with the taller varieties requiring staking.
Larkspur (Consolida ambigua) is an informal, classic English border beauty that dries just like it's cousin perennial Delphinium (Delphinium spp.). It's a cool-weather lover and can be planted in the fall for the earliest spring bloom or early spring. Larkspur is notoriously slow to germinate (sometimes 2-3 weeks to show up), so have a little patience.
They prefer sandy soils if they can get it and regular watering (don't over-water) all season. Plant their tiny seeds in a sunny to part shady area and cover them lightly with soil. Fair warnng: as a dried flower, larkspur is extremely delicate.
Everlasting blooms offer a second chance to be enjoyed long after they no longer need a vase and water. Be sure to leave some room in your garden for the flowers in this charming category.
Bells of Ireland
Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis) are unique annuals and are as interesting in the garden as they are in dried arrangements. They may look as if they're covered in green, cup-shaped blossoms. But, to see the true flowers you'll have to get a little closer. What we're admiring as "flowers" on this plant are actually the calyxes around the dainty, white flowers.
The easiest way to grow Bells of Ireland is to sow seeds directly into the garden a few weeks before your last frost date in zones with cold winters. Cold temperatures are important to this plant because the seeds have to go through a chilling period in order to germinate. So, if you live in a climate that has mild winters, sow the seeds late in the fall or keep them in your refrigerator for two weeks before planting them. Be patient, the seeds can take a month to germinate.