I reckon you are already aware that there is more than one way to dry or preserve flowers, right? Well, this post is going to explore a few of these methods and hopefully one of them will grab your attention so that you will give it a red-hot go!
What does the Sturt's Dessert Pea have to do with drying flowers? Absolutely nothing! I painted this beauty, and it is the South Australian Native Floral Emblem (I live in Adelaide) - and I like it! I think if you could grab hold of this gorgeous flower, it might dry just as well as any other.
Flower preservation through 'pressing' is an age-old method of storing moments in time that conjure special memory and sentiment - most often gathered randomly while on walks or kept as mementos given as expressions of love. Many flowers have been preserved lovingly, pressed within the pages of Bibles and books (not ideal as the moisture can ruin the page unless you have blotting paper on hand to envelope the flowers).
Vintage or Antique Flower Presses instruct us that this has been a longstanding artform of preserving the glorious bounty of herbs and flowers down through the ages.
The outstanding creative ingenuity of people has resulted in a variety of flower preservation methods (including making one's own press), to clever forms of contemporary measures such as Silica Gel, use of the Microwave, or even Ironing flowers. This has inspired even the timidest of creators to gather the darling buds of May.
I have actually tried a few different methods of drying flowers to use in my creative exploits and I will endeavour to share them with you now.
A Truth: Sensibility demands utilising the quickest way possible to remove the moisture while also preserving the colour of the blossom. Importantly, it is also wise to consider preserving the form and structure of the plant including leaves, tendrils, seeds. Leaf shapes and seeds can be a wonderful addition to your creative projects.
We will work from slowest to swiftest methods below, beginning with:
1. The Flower Press
The Flower Press is one of the slowest methods of drying flowers, but it can be worth the wait (anywhere up to six months for some flower types - yikes). It can also be a therapeutic process and exciting at the outcome reveal.
All flowers can be dried whether large or small, thick or flimsy - the Flower Press can handle them all very well.
Obviously if you don't have one of these you can simply go to my recent Flower Press post and get it happening.
you could totally use your noggin and buy one of these stunning personalised beauties from this amazing Australian online shop 'ARLO & CO' here
if you're feeling adventurous - make your own!
You will need four long screws, bolts, metal washers and wing nuts, ply or mdf board cut to size (I would paint this and decorate it accordingly with one of my magnificent flower paintings), cardboard and blotting or media paper - easy peasy. There are plenty of viddies online to help you along with this if needed.
How to Press Flowers using the Flower Press
Whatever form of preservation you use, the most recommended time for picking flowers at their height of colour and essence is deemed to be early in the morning (after any dew has diminished).
Some even report that standing the picked flowers in a tonic of sugared water (1 spoonful) for around an hour will hydrate the flower after the trauma of cutting or picking and bring them to their best pose prior to pressing.
I would recommend that you place the larger, thicker type flowers at the bottom of the Press as you may well be aware - the thicker the flower, the longer it will take to dry out. Placing the more flimsy or fine flowers at the top of the Press will allow you to whist them away sooner for your creative purposes.
Same goes for the concertina Press above - simply place the bigger, thicker flowers at the back of the Press.
If you are using a wooden press start pulling it apart by removing the top layers of wood, cardboard and paper etc.
Leave the long screws in place on the bottom section and place a piece of the cardboard and a piece of the blotting paper down.
Trim any parts of the flower you don't want and place them face down on the blotting paper. You may wish to remove the stems - if you do, cut them as close to the flower base as possible.
Place another sheet of blotting paper over your flowers and then lay another piece of cardboard over this. Repeat this process until you are finished laying your flowers.
Lay down the top wooden layer and clamp it down as firmly as possible with the help of the wing nuts. Voila! Now we wait - you could check the flowers after a few weeks.
2. Silica Gel
Obviously, drying plants as soon as possible after picking is the best way to preserve their colour. As mentioned above, the flowers should be perfectly dry prior to any method of preservation.
Using silica gel offers a fantastic option of preservation enabling them for use as gorgeous floral displays for your home as the flowers are not really pressed into a flat oblivion but dried to hold their form. This manner of drying is reasonably fast as it usually only takes a few days for small flowers such as pansies or violets. However, some flowers such as roses or larger flowers can take up to ten days to completely dry.
Silica Gel is a moisture absorbing and drying agent resembling tiny porous crystals - available in a variety of colours that will change from one to another throughout the drying process. For instance, if the gel is blue, it will turn pink once all the moisture has been removed from the flower - a great indicator for when to remove the flower.
The gel can also be re-used by drying it out again in a 250C oven on a shallow baking tray for around an hour or so, or until the crystals go back to their original colour.
TIP: use the same type of flower for each container to enable a more uniform drying time.
Seal them in an airtight container of silica gel crystals by immersing the whole flower (stems and all) for at least a day or two until they are completely dry.
Load an airtight container with around 2-3cms of silica gel
Place the flowers (whether on their own or with the stems and leaves) by laying them flat into the silica gel. Try not to let the flowers touch each other.
Spoon the silica gel over the flowers so that there is no room for any air around the flowers. Seal the container once complete.
Once the crystals have changed colour completely, remove the flowers gently and brush off any 'clingon' crystals.
Preserve their longevity by spraying with hairspray to prevent any moisture return to the flowers.
Silica Gel is available at most craft shops, florists or online through a variety of conglomerates. It can be a little expensive, but it can be reused over and over again.
3. The Microwave
A more modern technique is to dry your flowers in a microwave. Flowers dried this way retain the colour but also remain quite flat as the idea is to press them down with something heavy while being microwaved. You could leave the heavy dish out if you want to, however the blossoms will curl as they dry.
I have preserved flowers using the microwave method in the past and the result has been excellent (until I actually burnt some flowers because I cooked them by having them in far too long - if you are after brown flowers then follow my craa craa lead). You only need 1 -2 minutes (depending on the flower), and you can tweak the microwave settings.
There are also a few microwave specific flower presses on the market now. Some genius has even come up with a simple terracotta press for microwave use.
These options range from around $22 AUD to $huge bucks AUD but if this is something you do often, it may be worth the investment.
This is what I do
I usually just lay down a sheet of absorbent paper (paper towel - not the skimpy thin one, but a good quality towel) onto the microwave tray.
Place the flowers on the paper towel and then place another sheet over the flowers. Try to space the flowers out a little.
Place a heavy dish or container over the top paper towel
Microwave on high for around 1.5 minutes then check the flowers for dryness. If some are dry and others are not quite there yet, simply removing the dried flowers and continue on for another 30 seconds until the rest of the flowers are dry.
Creatives generally use this method to obtain a quick outcome as it produces dry, flat and colourful flowers (they appear deeper in tone) and petals that are perfect for all kinds of artwork including: jewelry, resin art, bookmarks, soap or paper making, cards or stunning framed pictures.
4. Ironing (whaaaat?)
The best flowers for preserving in this manner are flowers that will hold their shape and colour, particularly flowers that are naturally flat or have single-layered petals. Some of the best flowers for this method are readily available in most gardens and include pansies, violas, daisies, zinnias, cosmos, delphiniums, geraniums, and other petite blooms.
Set your iron to the hottest temperature - NOT on steam!
Place the flowers between two sheets of either parchment or paper towel - both will work.
Place the iron on top of the paper and leave in place (no moving it around, ok?) for around 10-15 seconds and then move to a different spot and do the same until the whole area has been 'ironed'.
After around 15 seconds (when the paper has cooled), lift to see if the flowers are dry.
Store the dried flowers in an airtight container until needed for your creations.
I have also used these ironed flowers to create a decorative wrapping paper
by placing them between two layers of waxed lunch paper, with a parchment layer or a clean piece of fabric on top.
Place the flowers between two sheets of waxed paper (bottom sheet - wax up; top sheet - wax down)
Use the iron without steam and iron over the layers until the wax melts and sticks both sides together
A beautiful paper design is the result. Obviously, it doesn't have to be wrapping paper - it can be used in all your artistic creations or journals.
Whatever method you use for preserving your bounty (you can see there are a variety), once dry, your pressings should be kept out of direct sunlight or strong artificial light as both will cause further fading.
Let me know what you think by commenting below. I would really love to see any of your pressed flower creations.