Preserve your favorite flowers and special memories by flower pressing. Natural flower pressing is an art form that has remained the same for centuries. You can press flowers by natural methods, but to preserve color requires the use of chemicals. Crafters of all skill levels and ages can press flowers using these methods, but adults must keep the chemicals away from children or pets, as one of them is highly poisonous.
All flowers can be pressed, but some press better than others. Flowers with small stamens and flat profiles -- violets, larkspur, bluebonnets and pansies -- press very well. But flowers with large center stamens such as roses or lilies, require more preparation. Before pressing flowers with large stamens, remove the stamen so these bulky flowers can press uniformly. Foliage such as magnolia leaves, ferns and maple leaves are also good subjects for pressing. For best results select flowers for pressing after the dew is gone to prevent excess moisture.
All flowers require some preparation work before you press them. If desired, use a glycerin and water solution to help the flowers retain their color. Use a 2 to 1 ratio of glycerin and water or antifreeze and water, but keep antifreeze away from pets and children, as its sweet taste hides its poisonous effects. Place the flower stem in the chosen mixture on a high shelf so the plant drinks in the solution. This process can take anywhere from two to three weeks. Once the flowers are processed dry them by pressing or place them in a microwave-safe container filled with silica gel. Microwave the flower on defrost for 2 1/2 minutes. Check the flower every 30 seconds to prevent burning. Allow the flower to cool before pressing.
Flower pressing does not require a commercial flower presser, but they are available at most craft stores. Flowers may be pressed between the covers of a large book, such as an encyclopedia or dictionary. Place the flower between two sheets of absorbent paper and insert the paper and flower into the middle of a book. Put a brick or other heavy item on top of the book. Allow the flower to dry for a week, and then check its progress. Replace the cotton paper and return the flower to the book. Allow the flower to dry for two more weeks. Flowers may also be pressed with an iron. Press them with a heavy object first, and then set them between absorbent papers. Iron the paper with the iron set to a medium heat. Iron in 15 second intervals. Keep the iron in constant motion to prevent burning.
If you don't have time to mount them or use them in your art project, store flowers sandwiched between acid free paper -- also good for dried floral projects -- and cardboard. You can also place completely dried flowers in a plastic container with a lid. Keep dried flowers away from moisture to preserve their beauty and longevity. Laminate pressed flowers to make bookmarks, or place them in a picture frame against an off-white paper matted with a color pulled from the flower and mount on your wall.
Susan Elliott teaches studio art and creative writing to home schooled students. She is a graduate of Northwest Arkansas Community College and the Memphis School of Preaching Student Wives Program. She has written for Christian Woman Magazine and Virtuous Magazine. When she's not writing, she is painting or making costumes.