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How to press flowers for display

 

We reflect on pressed flowers in our grandmother’s collection, preserved perfectly after many decades. Some flowers, but not all, can retain their colour and perfume. Pressed flowers are ideal for artwork displays, decorating cards, or making a personalised gift, but are not limited to just these.

 

Back in the day, if we didn’t have a flower press (that is available to buy), we used the old phone book (and there are few of these left around) or a heavy book. Remember that pressing in a book may stain or cause the pages to wrinkle from the moisture in the pressing.

Some flowers are more complex than others to press, but once you have mastered the art, starting with the easy flowers, you can become more ambitious and go on to more intricate ones. Decades ago, horticulture students were required to press hundreds of flowers and leaves for their horticulture certificate, and if done correctly, they last over forty years.

The first thing is to select your flower. Some of the easiest flowers to press are pansies, viola, primula, petunia, daisies, cosmos, and lavender. Some of the scented flowers may keep some of their fragrance as well.

When you select your flowers, remove any excess foliage and excess moisture by patting them with a cloth. The flower presses best when dry. If a flower head has many smaller or thick flowers, pressing will be more difficult without further dissection.

If you have a bought or homemade wooden flower press, it will have absorbent sheets to lay the flower between. Blotting paper was commonly used, but now the trend is watercolour or parchment paper. For the thrifty, coffee filter paper works well.

Lay the flower down on the paper, arrange it to be as open as possible, positioning the stem a little distance away from the flower. Once dry, you can reassemble it. In some cases, as you become more adventurous, you may have to dissect the flower so it is flatter and reconstruct it after it is dried, e.g., hydrangea flower heads. Once the flower is suitably positioned, place another few sheets on top and either close the press or, in the case of using a book, close the book and put a weight on top.

It may take a few weeks to press, but every few weeks, check its progress, and if it has started to go mouldy from not being dried enough at the onset, discard this pressing. It may take up to six weeks, but eventually, it will be totally dry, and you can carefully peel it off the book or paper. It will be paper thin and fragile, so use care when removing it.

Lift the flower onto what you are mounting it on, and if necessary, reassemble the flower and stems. When gluing the flowers into position, use a colourless, odourless, and easy-to-use glue to make this as easy as possible. If the flower has retained its colour, its colour may bleed or fade with too much glue.

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