“Dried and preserved botanicals are making a comeback.Welcome back, pampas grass!”

What starts a particular flower trending? Is it color? Is it an influencer giving it a shout-out? Is it because we are always at the mercy of the trend timeline’s revolving door? It is actually all of the above. Looking to the past to find something new is the circle of life for a trend. When a trend loses its newness and becomes common, we shelve it and save it until it’s rediscovered by a new generation of consumers who welcome it back (oftentimes thinking it’s something completely new!) while adding their own spin to it.

The latest trend unearthed from the floral time capsule is inspiring both next-gen florists and consumers: dried and preserved botanicals. Now, please don’t go all “post traumatic dried-flower stress syndrome” just yet. Although many of us vividly remember customers bring us their crispy, faded, dusty Eucalyptus wreaths and asking for them to be “freshened up” when they really should have gone in a dumpster, the new generation of dried and preserved flower enthusiasts are embracing these materials as layers of color and texture in a fresh and modern way.

everything old is new again

Preserving or drying flowers dates back 4,000 years, to the Egyptians, who presented them as a part of their funeral ceremonies. Dried plants and flowers have traveled the continents as culinary spices on the Silk Road (early trade routes between Asia and Europe) and beyond, and as healing medicines in almost every culture on the planet.

Collecting and preserving plants has always been a popular pastime, especially in the Victorian era (mid- to late-1800s). People pressed flowers and leaves to keep in botanical scrapbooks for study and as mementos. Looking back through the trend timeline, dried flowers were reintroduced in the 1950s and became popular in the 1970s/’80s. And now, yet again, they are having a renaissance. Ornamental grasses and textural dried flowers have now caught the attention of another new generation.

Dried lavender (Lavandula), baby’s breath (Gypsophila), Banksia, bunny-tails (Lagurus) and the uber-popular pampas grass (Cortaderia) are showing up everywhere from West Elm to Anthropologie stores. What brought this trend back to the future?
Over the last 18 months, consumers have continued to embrace colors that feel a bit antiqued, with a patina to them, and there are limited fresh flowers in that palette. Searching for a relaxed vintage vibe, trend-seekers were primed and ready to use dried botanicals. The next-gen DIY consumers are enthusiastic makers, and they readily embrace materials like dried flowers for their authenticity. Then add some influencers: first Kaley Cuoco (June 2018) and later Mandy Moore (Nov. 2018) used pampas grass combined with fresh florals in their wedding décor, giving brides-to-be a new concept to obsess over. The door was now open for other dried and preserved flowers to join in.
Timing is everything. The popularity of Eucalyptus as a fresh foliage has transitioned into dried bouquets.
Lavender has always been a much-loved dried flower and is, once again, appreciated for its aromatherapy and
wellness connections. Dried Banksia and Protea provide larger bloom options while poppy (Papaver) pods and other pod and seed forms can add a rustic wood tone to designs. And, of course, the dried-flower juggernaut of the moment is pampas grass, the feather-like plumes of which can be found in white, beige and even pink, meaning there are endless ways to style it. (Check out photos of pampas grass wedding décor in articles at bit.ly/pampasgrassweddingdecor).

Dried flowers and grasses coordinate with almost any style from urban loft to farmhouse chic. Home-décor consumers are adding flowers in bleached and sun-washed colors to spaces that need softness. Brides are in love with the texture and weathered colorations of today’s dried materials. Their delicate gray tones, blushy-pinks and peaches are the perfect elements of softness for bouquets, ceremony circles and moon gates, and the versatility of dried and preserved flowers coordinate with almost any style from earthy boho to modern minimalistic to luxe romantic.

So get onboard with this trend by embracing dried and preserved and incorporating them into all types of design work today!
Bill Schaffer, AIFD, AAF, PFCI, and Kristine Kratt, AIFD, PFCI, are the creative directors behind Schaffer Designs, a floral event company. Bill and Kris are diverse contributors in the floral industry, specializing in not only trend translations, education, product development,and showroom and trade-show design but also commissioned floral installations. They’re also award-winning authors. Email bill@schafferdesigns.com and/or kris@schafferdesigns.com.