How to Preserve Flowers
The art of flower preservation has a long-standing tradition. As a matter of fact, more than likely we have been “saying it with flowers” for many thousands of years. Even the Ancient Egyptians preserved flowers. From finds in Egyptian tombs, we have learned the Ancient Egyptians loved to arrange bouquets and often used poppies, mandrake and cornflowers.
Today, the tradition of preserving flowers has taken on a new meaning. We often choose to preserve flowers from special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries and birthdays. Wedding bouquet preservation is on top of the agenda of many brides. It is wonderful to have a memory of that very special day.
By now, you are probably wondering how you can preserve flowers arrangements or like to know more about wedding bouquet preservation, there are a variety of methods you can use. If you are not sure, or worried about the outcome, contact us, and we will take the worry out of the situation.
How to Press Flowers
Pressed flowers are simply wonderful, and can be used in a number of creative ways. Flower preservation is not only about adding flowers to endless pictures. Plants and flowers can be used as a creative medium and art format. For instance, pressed flowers are often used in countries such as France to adorn walls.
Pressing works best with flowers and leaves which are naturally flat, but you can get more adventurous if you would like to. You can even press whole branches if you have got enough space. It is a great technique when you would like to press plants with spike leaves such as iris and montbretia.
Indeed, pressing is one of the best methods of retaining autumn leaf colour as well as the colour of fresh beech. The drawbacks are that the finished result is rather two dimensional, and very brittle. The flatness can be disguised by rounded flowers such as peony.
The Technique of Pressing Flowers
Preserving flowers by using pressing is pretty straight forward.
Place several pieces of newspaper or blotting paper flat, Then carefully arrange the flowers in a single layer making sure no leaves overlap or curl. Cover with more layers of blotting paper and newspaper, and add more flowers if you like. However, as a trial run, it is a good idea to press just one layer.
You can use a flower press if you have one, but heavy objects such as large boxes will work as well. One a smaller scale, you can press individual flowers between the papers of a thick book and make sure to place a heavy object on top.
For a less flat effect, try flower preservation using a pressing technique; build the layers up in and out of the corners, and leave the weight of the paper and flowers to do the job.
Check the flowers after a week, but you need to be aware that some flowers and leaves may take six weeks to dry completely. Store your creations in paper until you are ready to use them.
How to Preserve Flowers by Air Drying
Air drying is another technique you can use and often involves no special equipment. Drying periods vary a great deal. Some flowers and leaves take several weeks or months, and others may just take a week. Once again, it all depends on what kind of flowers and leaves you use.
All dried flowers can become brittle and this applies to air dried flower preservation. Some may even end up having unnaturally straight stems if they have been hanging upside down.
If you would like to try his technique, everlasting flowers are perhaps the beginner's choice. They are members of the Compositae family. This group of flowers includes strawflowers, helipterums and xeranthemums. The beauty of these flowers is that they contain little moisture and are easily grown in any British garden.
Other suitable candidates for air drying include seeds heads such as honesty, flowers from the herb chive, cow parsley and Angelica. But, you can also experiment with other plants such as fennel and hollyhocks. Grasses which have smaller seeds heads are also ideal for air drying.
Flowers with heads composed of many tiny flowers such as gypsophila, lady's mantle and achillea are great alternatives. You can also add Chinese lantern flowers which look rather exotic when both fresh and air dried.
Preserving Flowers Using the Air Drying TechniqueThe goal of air drying is to dry the plant material as quickly as possible. Speed ensures less colour is lost and make it less likely for harmful molds to affect the flowers and leaves. What you need is plenty of ventilation and an area which is free from sunlight and other light. Bunches of drying flowers can look nice hung up in a kitchen, but as kitchens can get steamy, and preserving flowers in the kitchen is not always such a good idea.
Attics and dark corners are better choices, and if your garage is well ventilated, you may want to try this easy to use this flower preservation technique in there. Any space should always be dust free to reduce the chance of any contamination.
Leaves slow down the drying the process, and before you hang your flowers to dry, you want to try to strip away as many leaves as possible. Bunches should be small enough to allow the air to circulate freely. Also, make sure the flowers in the centre of the display are not crushed by the surrounding flowers.
Drying time depends on the type and moisture content of the material and the conditions in which it is drying.
Stems may shrink through the drying process, and it is often necessary to re-tie any bunches.
Preserving Flowers In a Microwave
This relatively new method has proved successful with miniature roses or cluster flowers. You can also try it with small green plants and flowering specimens such as Forget-Me-Knots.
Other flowers may respond well to this method so it is worth giving it a try. However, the material does need to be air dried after microwaving but the process speeds up the drying process. It also helps to retain the colour.
The technique for Preserving Flowers Using Your Kitchen Microwave
Strip away the foliage, then place the flowers, or even grasses, in a single layer on several sheets of kitchen towel in the microwave. Use a medium setting 9 400 – 500 w) and microwave for about 2 minutes. Check after about one minute, and replace the kitchen towel if soaked.
The process releases a lot of moisture and it is important to wipe the microwave after use. Remove the flowers, hang them upside down, as for air drying, for about three days.
Preserving Flowers in Water
This is really a variation of preserving flowers by drying in air. The best candidates for this process include “papery” flowers such as hydrangea and heathers. You can also try drying Achillea in this way, and it is a great way to dry hosta leaves.
The Technique To Preserve Flowers in Water
Strip the leaves, and then place the flowers stem in about 1 inch of water. Put the material in a warm spot to dry up as quickly as possible. Do not top up the water as it evaporates and is absorbed.
How to Dry Flowers in Desiccants
Drying flowers in a desiccant is the least predictable method of flower preservation. It is one of the main reasons why flowers dried using this method are so expensive to buy. But, it is fair to say that this is the connoisseur's method, and when successful, the technique produces beautiful lifelike flowers in both colour and form.
Desiccated flowers are more fragile and vulnerable to atmospheric moisture than those preserved by other methods. The best way to display them is in airtight glass domes.
During the process, the water content of the flower is completely absorbed by the desiccant material. This can be silica gel, borax, sand, or even yellow cornmeal. Another drying material you can try is natural soap-based washing powder. All of the creations made by Magenta Flowers are done using silica gel desiccants.
Silica gel is the most expensive desiccant but gives reliable and outstanding results. It is available in both granular and powdered form. The granular can be freeze-dried and pulverised with a rolling pin. Silica gel is the fastest acting drying agent, and some flowers, such as pansies and Harebells, need only a day. More rigid flowers such as sunflowers & lupins can be dried in the granular form, but it can take up to two to three weeks.
The other two agents mentioned, borax and alum, are both powdery, lightweight and relatively inexpensive. The downside is that they tend to form clumps when damp. If a petal is wet on the surface, borax and alum sometimes crack and harden. You can mix both borax and alum with cornmeal. Using this method, it will take a little bit longer to dry your flowers – perhaps a week.
Sand is an old-fashioned desiccant which needs careful preparation before use. It must be fine grain, salt free and clean. Using sand straight from the beach does not work as the salt in the sand will damage the flowers. In general, commercially packaged river sand is the best. It takes about three weeks to dry preserve flowers in this way.
Suitable flowers for sand drying include garden roses, zinnias, dahlias and carnations. You could also experiment with other flowers such as marigolds, camellias and pansies. This is not a method you should use for wedding bouquet preservation.
The Technique for Drying Flowers Using Desiccants
Time is important when it comes to using desiccants. All material should be picked on a dry day and fully mature. The time between cutting the flower and starting the process should be as short as possible. Preferably the flower should be cut within 1 inch of the head.
If you like to display the flower in a vase, or other arrangements afterward, you can insert a wire into the remaining stem or wire it after drying. Make sure you remove all green leaves before you proceed.
Put a 1-inch layer of desiccant in the bottom of a large plastic box or old biscuit tin. Gently turn each flower in the desiccant to coat it, then place the flowers directly into the desiccant making sure they don't touch each other. Never build up several layers of flowers as the process will fail.
Slowly pour a steady stream of desiccant over each flower ensuring the space in between every petal is filled. If you find this difficult, place a cocktail stick in between the petals to separate the flowers as you pour. Gently shake the container from time to time to make sure you get rid of any pockets.
Replace the lid tightly after you have covered the flowers well and then store in a warm, dry place. The warmer the desiccant stays, the faster the flowers will dry. You will also notice less colourloss.
Once the approximate drying time is reached, slowly pour out the desiccant through your hands. It is a good idea to wear lightweight plastic gloves when you do this so that it runs away more easily. Catch and inspect the first flower. It should feel papery. If it does so, remove it and the others. If not return, for another couple of days and check again.
A good trick is to place one flower a little bit shallower than the others but still covered by the desiccant. In that way, you can inspect it without disturbing the others. Always wear gloves as you don't want to introduce moisture to the process.
Flowers left too long will become brittle and dark. Any desiccant left between petals can be brushed away with a lightweight makeup brush such as blusher brush or other small makeup brush. Paintbrushes are okay, but the hair on many paint brushes are often too hard and can damage delicate petals.
The desiccant can be re-used, but it is important to carefully remove any material left after the drying process.
Preserving Flowers with Glycerine and Antifreeze
Glycerine, diluted with water, is the traditional way of preserving mature foliage. Many leaves from species such as beech and eucalyptus dry beautifully using this method. All too often we ignore the beauty of leaves, but dried leaves displayed can look stunning. It is all about using the right can of preservation method.
Glycerined materials such as single leaves or whole branches, are a real adventure to create, but they do look fantastic. It makes you really appreciate color.
Materials treated with glycerine and antifreeze last indefinitely, and because of the leathery texture of the leaves, can be dusted or even dried with a damp cloth without the risk of damage.
This method does change colour of the leaves, but many of the new colours created are spectacular. Some materials become pale and straw coloured, and others turn rich mahogany brown or almost black.
Materials which are naturally darker have a tendency to become even darker. Laurel leaves, which only work with antifreeze, do become a rich dark colour and look amazing as part of Christmas displays. Incidentally, don't worry about the blue or yellow dye in antifreeze. It does not have an effect on the result of the colour of the foliage.
Antifreeze and Glycerine Technique
It is important to choose only perfect leaves. Discard any discoloured or blemished leaves if you are for instance drying a branch. To test whether a stem or leaf will take up antifreeze or glycerine, test it and stand it in water for a couple of hours. If the foliage begins to wilt, you should discard it.
Dilute the glycerine or antifreeze with hot, or even boiling water. It is best to experiment with the mixture as well. Some leaves respond best to two-thirds water to one part of antifreeze or glycerine, or you can try using them in equal proportions. Glycerine is thick so you need to mix it thoroughly or you risk it settling at the bottom of the container.
It is best to choose a narrow container around 3 - 4 inches which can hold large branches or leaves. Place the material in the mixture, and top up as it is absorbed. Sometimes a leaf will look like it sweats, and in that case, you can wipe it with a damp cloth.
The entire process can take up to six weeks, but smaller projects will probably take one week. If you would like to try to get really adventurous you can try floating larger leaves in the mixture. This is a great way of preserving leaves from the Swiss cheese plant. Cotoneaster and rosehips can also be preserved in this way, and the best material for both is glycerine.
The Range of Flowers to Use and How You can Display Them.
It goes without saying that you should experiment as you go along. Once you become more experienced at flower preservation, you can try more adventurous projects. You may even have some special flowers which mean a lot to you. If you do, you can preserve them in resin.
Flowers mounted in glass domes can look simply stunning. This was often done during the Victorian era. If you visit old houses or castles, you are more than likely to come across examples. The advantage of using glass domes, is that you don't need to dust the flowers.
You could also try creating bottle gardens from preserved flowers. Never add live organic materials such as moss or soil as this will introduce moulds and ruin your display. Always start with smaller displays and work your way up.
Flowers and leaves can also be used instead of wallpaper to create an inhouse design marvel. If you don't want to glue them directly on your wall, consider gluing them to canvas or even cotton material. Another great way is to add your finished projects to lampshades and furniture.
The best materials and flowers to start with, are user-friendly plants such as lavender and Achillea. Why not try raiding your garden or flowering containers to see what you can find. If you would like to hang on to summer for a little bit longer, you can even try pressing petunias or geraniums from your hanging baskets. Remember the flowers need to be fresh and free of any disease or nasty critters.
Once you have exhausted the garden, check out your surrounding countryside. Herbs such as chamomile make great plant materials, and clover simply looks amazing when dried. You can even try to preserve flowers from cherry and apple trees.
Presenting Your Flower Preservation Projects
Tying bouquets may be something that you would like to learn as part of preserving flowers. Although preserved flowers look great in basket arrangements, it is nice to know how to tie different bouquets. Your friends and family will appreciate your flowers, and preserved flowers also make great gifts.
Here are some of the most common ways to create a display:
Bunching – making material up into bunches and securing it with wire or string is a tried and tested method. This is really useful for small flowers such as violets, marigolds and single stem flowers.
Bundling – this means you tie a number of stems together. Great method to use for taller flowers and can create an amazing ornamental effect. Used alongside colorful materials such as raffia, coloured wire or ribbons, this method can look simply stunning.
Layering – placing leaves or flowers close to together and overlapping is called layering. It can be used along with a foam sphere to hold everything in place.
Open work - using the space between groups created by the position of flowers in relation to their colors. This method can enhance the design giving the entire arrangement a striking finish.
Stepping - place your preserved flowers in steps with one below the other and create a space in between. This can be done vertically or horizontally.
Once you learn how to preserve flowers you may want to tackle exciting projects such as wedding bouquet preservation. However, when it comes to flower preservation, it is best to take it one step at a time. Preserving flowers is an art form and you will learn a lot as you go.
Other ways to display preserved flowers include creating artwork made from bridal bouquets or flowers such as resin letters & resin hearts. Magenta Flowers also create wedding flower paperweights, wedding coasters as well as resin jewellery.