Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published February 27th 2011
They teach you so many things at school, and while it might be the bits about reading and writing that are going to be most useful in the long run, every now and then it's nice to revisit some of the other skills that you picked up there. Today, let's focus on drying and pressing flowers.
This tends to be the sort of thing they'll teach you around Mother's Day, because pressed flowers make charming decorations for home made cards and bookmarks etc. If it was never part of your school's curriculum then this is what the rest of us spent craft afternoons creating:
It's just what it looks like, a flower that's been flattened. And if you preserve pressed flowers properly they keep their colours for decades. So it's the home made gift that keeps on blooming.
The first step in the process is collecting your flowers. While you can pretty much press any bloom, bud or leaf, the easiest ones to press are relatively flat and dry to begin with. Everlasting daisies, violets, pansies, blossoms – these are all reliable flowers to press.
If your favourite flower has a fuller shape, like a rose for example, which is also a very moist flower, then it's easier to break off the petals and press them individually, then you can rearrange them into a flower shape once they're pressed. Most leaves are fairly flat to begin with, but ferns come up particularly well, Maidenhairs in particular look very appealing placed behind your feature flowers, or even on their own for something a bit more modern.
To make sure your flowers keep their colour longer pick them in their first flush of colour, when they're more then buds but not too much more. Then strip off all the leaves that you don't want to keep, cut their stems on an angle at least 2cms from the end and put them in a vase of water for 24 hours. If you have any flower food for cut flowers use some of that as well.
Gather together tissue paper, newspaper, cardboard, a heavy book – the phone book is ideal – and a brick, rock or anything about the same weight. Cut your cardboard, newspaper and tissue paper so that they're all just a bit smaller than the book.
Lay the newspaper on top of the card and the tissue paper on top of the newspaper, then lay your flowers on the tissue paper. Give them a good dry with kitchen paper first in case they have any water on them. Make sure none of your flowers are touching each other. Then lay tissue, newspaper and card on top of them. Some people advocate giving them a quick turn in the microwave at a medium high heat at this point but it's not necessary. Slip the whole thing between the pages of the book and repeat if you collected too many to fit on one sheet. Once your book is full, place all your heavy items on top of it.
It should take your flowers about two weeks to dry, keep the book they're encased in warm and dry while you're waiting. After two weeks check them and if they're not quite dry add another layer of tissue paper to the outsides of the first layer. If your flowers take too long to dry they'll start to rot, so the warm and dry location is very important.
Once they're done the flowers will be very brittle, so be careful how you handle them. Some people recommend spraying them with a glycerin solution to keep them strong, others advocate a couple of bursts with hairspray.
There are all sorts of things that might benefit from a bit of pressed bloom decoration, just remember that your floral creations will keep best behind glass, or clear plastic film. Or, as we called it at school, sticky back plastic.