ASK THE DESIGNER-Drying & Pressing Flowers
ASK THE DESIGNER- How can I preserve flowers from a special occasion? Can they be dried or pressed ?
This is a question I get all of the time. While I am not at all an expert in this area, I do have some experience with floral preservation. Some of my very earliest wedding bouquets came with the request of persevering the roses and creating a pair of matching topiaries for the couples mantle. While roses are very easy to dry, not all flowers dry or press well for preservation; which is something to keep in mind. Today I would like to talk about 3 basic types of preservation methods; air drying, silica sand drying and pressing. Then I would like to show a project that can be achieved with the results. Above is a vase of carnations that one of my neighbors asked me to dry or press for her. She told me that they were very special to her and she wanted to keep them forever, but she was worried that she would not preserve them properly. I explained that because they are white, during the drying process they will turn an ivory to beige color, but carnations are perfect for pressing.
How to Press Flowers:
Since I have a specific idea of how I want the end creation to look, to surprise my neighbor, I am doing a very specific type of pressing to keep the heads of the flowers in an upright position. For this process I will need wax paper, an old soda crate and lots of heavy books, so these old encyclopedias will be perfect. Yes kids, En-cyc-lo-pe-dias, Google for old people, where all our information came from, LOL!
The first step is to cut the stems of the flowers short and feed them through the whole in the soda crate. The round shape will keep the flowers shape and the hole will allow air to flow up to the heads. If you are just book pressing the flowers flat you can skip this step. Next, you will cover the flower heads with wax paper. This will keep in floral juices from seeping out and damaging your books. This is especially important, if you are pressing the flowers inside the pages of the books you actually like or if they are library books.
Finally, you will want to pile on the weight and walk away. This process will take several months so patients is key. This type of process works well on thin leaf greenery and fragile flowers like forget me nots, pansies, delphinium, lily of the valley and astilbe. I have done this process on many carnations over the years from funerals and they press well too. Just a tip, the dark colored flowers like red or hot pink turn a lovely burgundy color.
How to Air Dry Flowers:
This is by far the easiest way to dry flowers and even herbs. Take the flowers as a bundle and hang them upside down and leave them someplace dry like a garage or a basement near a dehumidifier. The reason to turn them upside down is to keep the flower’s neck straight. You see, as flowers die they wilt which causes their heads to droop. This part of the process keeps the necks straight upon drying.
This is also the perfect way to bundle herbs such as lavender or sage and dry them for all kinds for holistic purposes, form smudge sticks to bath teas. Another great air drying method can be done with rose petals. Below I have filled a plastic plate with a single layer of petals. This is basically how you make potpourri, once dried you add an essential oil to give it a fragrance.
How to Silica Dry Flowers:
The third and final way to preserve flowers is with a Silica Drying Gel. This is essentially the same stuff that comes in those little packets you find in your shoe boxes that say “Do Not Eat”.
It is highly toxic and I do not recommend using this around children or pets. When I work with this stuff my fur babies are completely locked out of the space. I do not even touch them until I have washed thoroughly. This stuff is bad news, like worse than Tide pods bad, so if you use it please read the instructions and wear safety goggles and gloves.
So, you basically pour the sand into a shallow pan. Then set your flowers into the sand. Continue to hand pour more sand into the petals to get the shape in which you would like the flowers to dry is achieved.
You can see the sand is slightly prying open the petals to give the roses a blown open or blooming look. Have the drying sand in these areas will hold the delicate petals into this otherwise unobtainable shapes. Just like the other processes above this will take several months to achieve the proper level of drying.
Creating a One of Kind Memory:
Now that time has passed and you have successfully dried your flowers, it is up to you what kind of collage you would like to make with these treasures. As I mentioned above, in the past I have turned a full red rose, bridal bouquet, into two mantle size topiaries for the couples first home. For myself, and my siblings I have created three domed floral arrangements that houses both my mother’s and father’s funeral blanket flowers as a memory keepsake. Today for my sweet neighbor, Ron decided to surprise her, and hand build a bead board shadow box with a few materials he had from a previous project. Then I was able to mount her dried flowers inside the shadow box to look like a hand picked bouquet. The second surprise I added was a few roses I had left over from her daughter’s last daddy daughter dance bouquet this year. I remembered how special it was for her to make sure that her daughter got one last set of flowers from her dad before she goes off to middle school next year. I just felt like they would really be a nice addition to make this one of a kind piece just a little bit more nostaglic for her.
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