Pressing flowers is the best! Not only does it preserve their beauty forever, but pressed flowers also make for great arts and crafts. Use your dried flowers and foliage to make pictures or to decorate paper, boxes, bookmarks, candles, frames, and albums. Seriously, preserved flowers look good on everything. What’s more, it’s so easy. (The hardest part is the waiting). Here you’ll find instructions on one of the most basic and effective preservation techniques.
The only safety concern when it comes to pressing flowers is to not pick poisonous plants like euphorbias (spurge), monkshood, and foxgloves all of which can cause skin irritation and itching. If you're not sure ask an adult and if they're not sure too then don't pick it (you can always do a bit of online research later).
If you're going to try the microwave method make sure you've got the permission (and help) of a responsible adult – don't overheat things or you might start a fire!
Tech Tip: Need help identifying plants? (The Oregon State website http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/plant_ident/) has an easy to use identification key for woody plants.
Tech Tip: There is also a growing list of smartphone apps that identify plants for you. There's a comprehensive list of what is available on (this website http://nyfablog.org/2010/03/28/new-plant-id-apps-for-the-iphone-and-ipad/).
Collect fresh flowers on a sunny day after they have dried from the morning dew, but before the heat of midday wilts them. Be sure to collect healthy samples as any bruises and imperfections will brown during pressing. Rivet TIp: Flat flowers that have single petals like pansies, violets, and daisies work the best especially if you cut the stems and press them face down. You can still press puffier flowers like marigolds and dahlias, but you might need to slice them in half (lengthwise like you would slice a tomato) and/or remove some of the center petals.
Place your flowers or foliage between 2-3 sheets of non-glossy newspaper. This will help absorb moisture, which is the enemy of preservation. You can also use paper towels, but any “quilting” pattern might show up on your samples. Then again this might end up looking pretty cool. Rivet Tip: Don’t overlap leaves, petals, or stem, but do put similar flowers together.
Put your paper flower “sandwich” in the middle of a dictionary or equally large book. Close the dictionary and place more books or other heavy objects on top.
Put your flower press somewhere dry to prevent molding and let it sit for two to four weeks (thinner, smaller flowers dry fastest). I know, I know, waiting is the worst, but it’s like they always say good things come to those who wait.
If you are pressing puffy flowers, you might need to change the outer sheets of paper after a week or so if they get really damp. (Don’t try to change the paper directly touching the flowers as it’s easy to tear or wrinkle the flowers in this state.) Rivet Tip: Can’t possibly wait that long? Try microwaving your flowers to preserve them. Put the book with flowers and paper in the microwave at a medium setting and zap in very short bursts (30 seconds to a minute max, you don’t want to set the kitchen on fire). Open the book and let the flowers cool between zaps then repeat until almost done. Put the flowers in fresh paper (the outer sheets only, leave the paper directly touching the flowers alone) and another book to finish.
When your flowers feel papery and dry they’re ready to be used for decoration or to make awesome art.
The method described above is just one way to go about preserving flowers, below are several links to website which describe other methods. Different flowers press better or worse depending on the method used so experiment away:
How to press full, open roses: http://www.preservedgardens.com/rose.htm
How to make a cardboard and rubber band flower press: http://pinkandgreenmama.blogspot.com/2009/07/how-to-make-your-own-flower-or-leaf.html
How to preserve flowers using silica gel: http://www.ehow.com/how_6384896_preserve-flowers-silica-gel.html
A general website with lots of preservation, drying, and project ideas: http://www.proflowers.com/guide/a-kids-guide-to-preserving-flowers
Now that you have some great pressed flowers it’s time to decorate. For this you’ll need:
- Pair of tweezers (optional but very helpful)
- Wood glue (e.g., Elmer's Carpenter's Wood Glue)
- Shallow dish or container to hold the glue
- Scissors (to add curves)
- Arrange your press flowers, one layer at a time starting with the bottom layer, on your paper or work surface before gluing. Rivet Tip: To create a flowing, graceful appearance with your pressed flowers incorporate curves into your design by adding tendrils and bent stems. To curve stems, gently rub them between your thumb and the back end of a pair of scissors before you press them.
- Pour a small amount of glue into a shallow dish or container. Remember a little goes a long way.
- When you are happy with your arrangement and ready to glue, start with the bottom layer. Dip one end of a toothpick into the glue then apply to a pressed flower by placing little “dots” across the entire surface. Use as little glue as possible but make sure to distribute it evenly across the flower.
- With the tweezers, pick up the flower and turn it over so the glue side is facing down. Place it on your paper or other work surface and press gently across the entire surface with the flat side of the tweezers. Once the flower has been placed in this manner do not move or adjust further. Rivet Tip: When you apply pressure with the tweezers hold it for at least five seconds to ensure surface adhesion. Also allow a layer of flowers to dry completely (which may take a few minutes or a few hours depending on the amount and surface used) before applying another layer of flowers.
- Repeat the above steps until all the flowers have been glued, then admire and enjoy your handiwork.