Gardens Illustrated picks out garden furniture, tools and lifestyle items that we think are the best and most exciting, based on independent research and careful consideration. On some occasions we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products. But this doesn’t affect what we choose to highlight and we will never let it bias our coverage.

Cut & Dry by Carolyn Dunster – Book Review

A beautifully presented, essential guide to knowing, growing, cutting, drying and styling your own dried flower specimens and arrangements. Reviewer Sonya Patel Ellis is a writer and artist

by Carolyn Dunster
Laurence King Publishing , £17.99
ISBN 978-1786278890

If dried flowers were once associated with a dusty corner of a room, Carolyn Dunster’s beautiful homage to the ephemerality of plants and flowers very much brings them back into the modern, stylish home. Whether you’re a floral designer, enjoy crafting with botanicals or are seeking to add colour and texture to your abode, Cut & Dry: The Modern Guide to Dried Flowers from Growing to Styling is both valuable reference guide and covetable coffee table tome.


Dried flowers look best when styled against a simple backdrop, devoid of clutter and with definitive editing, which Cut & Dry does perfectly. By presenting each specimen or arrangement against largely minimalistic backgrounds, natural forms in various stages of preservation or decay are given space they need. It’s a thoroughly modern guide but one that should stand the test of time thanks to its choice words, sharp design and selective imagery by Ida Riveros.

Floristry, botanical styling, planting design and garden writing are all in a day’s work for Dunster and this holistic approach to dried flowers shines through. In chapters on The Best Plants for Drying, How to Grow Your Own, Drying Methods, Styling and Projects to Try Yourself, each papery bloom, sculptural seedhead, feathery grass or turning stem of foliage is intimately described from a gardener’s as well as an artist’s perspective.

This is key: dried flowers are all about seasonality so the more you become acquainted with the life cycles and characteristics of plants and flowers – how strawflowers grow, how love-in-a-mist seedheads mature or how hydrangea petals antique or the best time to collect aromatic herbs – the more intuitive you can be in your designs.


Inspiring dried flower arrangements are presented at the back of the book after the real star of the show: how to know, grow, cut and dry your own flowers.