AT THE Chelsea Flower Show this year The Salutation Garden and Nursery exhibit in the Grand Pavilion was created entirely from the dried stems, leaves and flowers of perennial plants, writes TOM ATTWOOD. Whether you were looking at grasses, the dried heads of alliums or perennial sunflowers it was a bold move and one certainly at odds with the convention of using living plants, or, at the very least, recently cut flowers. The effect was remarkable (aside from the technical challenge of creating the display in the first place) it’s aim was to spark discussions around the idea of the garden in winter and how the beauty and intricacies of our garden plants can still be enjoyed, they don’t have to be reduced to a neat stubble the minute we get into the early months of winter.

Flowers that dry well have been used for generations to bring into the house and I find it interesting see how people use them, in some instances, almost entirely. Jane Bradley, a highly skilled basket maker who lives here in Witherslack creates stunning Christmas wreathes entirely from dried flowers. Using seasonal dried flowers Jane captures the spirit of a winter garden where the biscuit tones of the drying plants are peppered with flashes of fading colour from larger flowers heads and the stems of brightly coloured shrubs.

To grow flowers specifically for drying there are some excellent guides online as well in book form to help you. From experience, using flowers grown in our own garden - some examples of plants I’ve tried where the results have been pretty good - include among others, Echinops (globe thistle), Stachys (lambs ear) Astrantia (bistort), Anthemis (marguerite), Armeria (sea thrift), Hydrangea, Eryngium (sea holly), Foeniculum vulgare (fennel), Lavandula (lavender) and Achillea (yarrow), but really this is only scratching the surface of what is possible. Many flowers are completely unsuitable and early attempts to use them for drying will soon demonstrate this as they’re likely to disintegrate if you so much as look at them having hung them up to dry.

When it comes to 'air drying' them they should be hung up in a cool well-ventilated space out of direct sun. The simplest method is to get small bundles, tie them with string and suspend them upside down until dry.

Next week: creating a new lawn