How To Preserve Flowers

Enthusiasm for preserved flowers has come in waves throughout the centuries; each time adding a new technique, improvements and new ideas. So that today we can choose from tried and tested ancient techniques e.g. air-drying or modern methods e.g. microwaving.

Preparing your Flower

- Pick your flowers when they are freshest
- But pick when dew has dried and they are thoroughly dry

Pressing the Flowers

This is an easy, favourite and one of the oldest ways to preserve flowers. Most flowers are suitable for pressing; the ones that don't come out so well are flowers with large round flower heads or round middles that won't flatten down easily such as large roses, or Waratahs, or fleshy leaves (e.g. succulents) that tend to squash or ooze out.

- Press flowers when there is no moisture on them. Cut & press your flowers & leaves when the weather is dry because water can get trapped in the flowers which can turn them mouldy when you press them.
- Your flowers may turn brown if they don't dry quickly enough.
- To keep more of flower's original colour change the blotting paper (or newspaper, or sheets of paper) every couple of days to help flower dry quicker.
- Before placing your flower for pressing; take a moment to imagine how it will look when it's flattened, and arrange it nicely e.g. you may like to avoid parts overlapping.
- With some flowers e.g. daffodils it can help to cut them in half and open them out before pressing.
- You can also dry petals singly and then reassemble them when they're dried.
- Thick flowers like Chrysanthemums need to have their calyx (bottom of the flower) thinned before pressing, but don't cut off too much or the flower will disintegrate.

We already told you in our introductory article how to press flowers using heavy books. You can press several pages of flowers at a time; just make sure that you leave at least 1/8" of pages between pressings. Another good way is to make or buy a flower press. A good botanical flower press can aid air circulation and give good results.

Advantage: your part of the process is quick & easy to do - then you just wait for the flowers to dry out.
Disadvantage: flowers can lose their colour, some species become brittle and can easily break. Have to wait 2-3 weeks for flowers to totally dry out.

Air Drying Flowers

Make sure you pick flowers when they are really dry. A good time maybe mid-morning after the dew has dried but before the flowers may wilt in midday sun. Remove excess leaves from the stems, (unless you want to dry them as well).

Divide them into small bunches and tie with elastic band. Hang upside down in a warm, airy place out of direct sunlight - preferably dark, or low light because sunlight bleaches the colours. Make sure there is ventilation or the flowers may go mouldy. Most flowers need about 2 weeks to dry out.

Some flowers e.g. hydrangeas need a slightly different way - though it may sound strange! Put the stems in a vase with a little water (about an inch). When the flowers have used up all the water, the flower heads will actually have dried out successfully.

Advantage: one of the easiest techniques. Works well with flowers called 'everlasting' or 'immortelles'.
Disadvantage: flowers can go mouldy if you're not careful

Waxing

Is more often used for foliage than flowers. Waxing can be done on fresh flowers or leaves, or dried, or partially dry. But don't try to press your materials after waxing.

Method: Melt some paraffin wax. (some people put a little mineral oil into their wax to thin it out a bit). Plunge each individual flower or leaf into the wax. Remove and shake off excess. Put in fridge to set and harden.

Advantage: simple and quick.
Disadvantage: can be bit more tricky waxing flowers

Glycerine

Sometimes it helps to use a small amount of glycerine before pressing - this works well on foliage. Some people experiment with mixing it with a little water of alcohol. Spray it on and let it dry to the touch before you press.

Glycerine is a natural preservative and can be derived from animal fats, vegetable origin, or made synthetically. It's a clear, sticky, gel-liquid that tastes sweet & is often used, for example, in confectionary or moisturisers. You'll find it in the cake-making section of a supermarket, in a pharmacy or craft shop.

Advantage: foliage & leaves stay soft & pliable. Flowers can be painted, or wiped clean. Lasts indefinitely.
Disadvantage: - glycerine does not preserve the green colour of foliage; leaves turn brown, black or gold

Microwaving Flowers

This is a very modern technique to preserve flowers and is very quick - though it's not a favourite choice for everyone. You can use it on most types of flowers but not those with thick fleshy leaves as they contain too much water.

ONLY use a non-metallic container to put your flowers in, and never have any wire or metal around the flowers. You will need to experiment to get the right setting and timing for your particular microwave. So start off with the low settings, and only for a few seconds at a time. Some people use silica gel for better results.

Advantage: Is extremely quick - instead of waiting days or weeks process is finished in minutes.
Disadvantage: Does not work well with plants that have thick or fleshy leaves.

Another very successful way to preserve flowers is using Desiccants - see our separate article.

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