Your garden is glorious with flowers: the roses have outdone themselves this year, the larkspur is reaching new heights and your zinnias are falling all over themselves with blooms. Cutting the flowers in bouquets for the house is one way to enjoy them. Preserve the cut flowers and your enjoyment will last for several years.
Air drying is the simplest method. Strip the flowers stems of their leaves, bundle them in bunches and hang them upside down in a warm, dark place to dry. All flowers will dry, but some are more amenable to the process. White flowers tend to dry beige or light brown. Red dry almost black. Flowers with thick petals take longer to dry and sometimes start to mold or rot before the process is finished. Dried flowers are about 1/4 of their original fresh size. Colors are more intense after drying because the pigments are closer together, and petals are wrinkled.
Silica gel and corn meal are two easily obtainable desiccants used to dry flowers. Find silica gel in a crafts store and corn meal at the grocers. The material used for drying draws the moisture out of the flower and into itself. Flowers that have thin petals work best because the desiccant has to be brushed over, under and between each petal. Fill an airtight container with an inch of desiccant. Place the flowers on the desiccant and cover each petal with the material. Fill the container with desiccant until all flowers are completely covered.
Pressing flowers preserves the flowers through drying. The flowers still shrink because the moisture is removed, and they are flattened through the process as well. Pressed flowers may be used in scrapbooking, picture frames and as art work. Place fresh flowers between two pieces of paper or paper towels, and compress the the flowers under heavy books for several weeks. Small flowers like daisies, dianthus, snapdragons, and larkspur press better than large flowers. Roses take well to pressing if the flowers are in the open stage and not too big. Large rose buds are a challenge to press because they're so thick. Cutting them half sometimes works.
It's a challenge to dry flowers in the microwave because they go from fresh to cooked so quickly. Additionally, too long in the microwave and the flowers can dry out so much they start on fire.
Despite the name, freeze-drying the flowers involves more that putting fresh flowers in your home freezer. Freeze-drying requires special equipment and isn't appropriate for the home. It's best done commercially. Freeze-dried flowers look very close to fresh but are very delicate. Since it's expensive to use the services of a freeze-drying company, the process is mostly used for special occasion flowers like bridal bouquets.