Dry-floral arrangers and crafters call them "everlastings" because the blossoms of statice, strawflower and yarrow don't fade. Why? Because this group produces blossoms that are dry and papery even when newly opened from the bud. Plant them in with your vegetables and harvest a truly lovely crop that will fuel all your gift and decorating projects next fall.

Dry-floral arrangers and crafters call them "everlastings" because the blossoms of statice, strawflower and yarrow don't fade. Why? Because this group produces blossoms that are dry and papery even when newly opened from the bud. Plant them in with your vegetables and harvest a truly lovely crop that will fuel all your gift and decorating projects next fall.


The most well known of these is statice, also known as sea lavender. It is easily recognized by the small, intensely blue-violet blossoms held in dense clusters.


There are two types of statice. The large-leaf perennial, Limonium perezii, is frost-tender and limited to warm, dry climates. Its tolerance of salt makes this a popular border plant for arid coastal climates.


For the rest of us, annual statice, Limonium sinuata, is an very rewarding seasonal plant. Annuals are plants that grow from seed, mature and set seed in a single growing season. Plan to sow much more than you expect, and be sure to use only fresh seed for 2012 because this species doesn't remain viable for long and germination rates quickly decline. Because annual statice is not picky about soil conditions, it's ideal for planting around the edges of an in-ground food garden where fertility is lower. They are maritime plants of the Mediterranean coast that do exceptionally well in sandy ground, with a marked tolerance for alkalinity.


Statice will thrive in the empty spaces between food plants, too. They are ideal for adding useful color to a kitchen garden or herb patch. More-serious gardeners may devote an entire planting row to annual statice just as you would another food-bearing plant. This ensures a more generous harvest that includes lots of bouquets to hang indoors as the green stems become as dry as the flowers.


Annual statice originated as a purple-blue flower, but breeders have done a wonderful job of expanding the range of hues. Now you can select from hybrids offering true blues, and many shades of pink, red, yellow, orange and white. Blending these colors results in eye-popping bouquets or softer dusty tones for old-fashioned looks.


Sow statice after the last frost along with your heat-loving veggies and flowers. As your plants mature, they produce many stems, each topped with a group of flowers. It's best to cut them in the morning after the dew has dried. Select stems just as the buds open to keep them from maturing any further. When these slightly immature blooms dry fully, they will open just a bit more, then are frozen in time at their peak. The longer statice flowers stay in the sun, the more faded they become, so this early picking is key to maximizing color in the cut materials.


Like with any other annual flower, you can encourage statice to produce more and more blooms by promptly cutting stems as they reach maturity. Because seed formation signals the plant to slow or perhaps stop producing new buds, you'll get far more from each one if you cut daily.


Once you have enough for a bundle of floral stems, bind them together with a thin rubber band and hang in a cool, dark place to dry. A ventilated closet or even your garage is good. The biggest problem with everlastings is exposure to sunlight. Therefore, store all your dried flowers in the dark, and locate arrangements away from windows.


If you can grow vegetables, you can surely find success with statice. Best of all, it's truly everlasting, offering summer beauty and color in your home long after the snow starts to fly.


Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com. Contact her at mogilmer@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 891, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.