PRESSING FLOWERS AND FOLIAGE FOR FUN
Dr. Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Professor
You can preserve the beauty of your summer garden by pressing flowers and using these to decorate a variety of objects from picture frames, candles, and pencil holders to bookmarks, personalized note cards, and stationery. It's easy to do, though you will need patience as the flowers need to dry at least three to four weeks before you can use them for creative crafts.
The selection of flowers is probably the single most important step in the process. As a rule, orange and yellow blossoms tend to retain their color, while most blues, purples, and pinks will fade over time. Reds usually turn an unattractive muddy brown.
You will need to choose flowers that will flatten well though don't be afraid to experiment. Roses and other large, double flowers can be taken apart and the individual petals pressed and used to recreate the "look" of the original flower, for example.
Some flowers that work well are artemisia, asters, clematis, coreopsis, daisies, delphiniums, feverfew, fuchsia, lobelia, pansies, sweet alyssum, violets, and viburnum. You also can use herbs (both the flowers and leaves), ornamental grasses, ferns, tree leaves, and foliage plants, such as dusty miller. Or check out roadside wildflowers including Queen Anne's lace, goldenrod, and wild black-eyed susans. Houseplants, including many types of ivy, also provide interesting foliage choices.
The best time to harvest plant material for pressing is on a dry day in the morning when stems are full of water. Wait until after the dew has dried before picking. For variety select flowers in various stages of bloom including buds. Take only perfect specimens in peak condition. Gather some complementary foliage, and keep everything in a container of water until ready to use. For best results, plan to press the flowers and foliage as soon as possible after picking.
Although some gardeners like to use a purchased, adjustable flower press
(available in most crafts stores), all you really need is a thick, heavy
book and sheets of paper towels, waxed paper, or blotting paper, such as
you'd purchase in an art supply store. Carefully place the blooms
and foliage on a sheet of toweling or paper, making sure that the specimens
do not overlap.
Sandwich between several additional sheets to absorb moisture, and then insert in the book. Place additional books or heavy objects on top to add extra weight.
Thicker blooms and stems may be microwaved briefly to begin the drying process. Place covered in the microwave for 30-second increments until the plant matter is partially dried. Then place in between absorbent sheets and continue the drying process as described above.
After a few days, replace the outer absorbent sheets, but don't disturb the pressed plants and flowers. Check after two weeks, then continue checking periodically until specimens are thoroughly dry and "crisp" to the touch, which means they are ready to use. Handle gently.
To make your own flower press, you will need two rectangular pieces of plywood cut to the same dimensions and four long bolts and wing nuts to hold the press together. To assemble, drill holes in each corner of the plywood, and insert the bolts and nuts. The wing nuts allow you to tighten or loosen the press to adjust the pressure.
Next, cut pieces of cardboard, newspaper, and blotting paper (or paper towels) to fit between the boards. Arrange your flowers and foliage between two sheets and place this between two sheets of cardboard and a few layers of newspaper. Repeat the process with additional layers of pressed plants, cardboard, and newspapers to make a stack. Press by tightening the corner bolts.
There's no limit—except your imagination--to what you can do with pressed flowers. So start cutting and saving flowers from your summer garden now for fun crafts project that your whole family will enjoy.
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