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Planning Retirement Online


Out of the box - Pressing Flowers

                                     April 2009

This is our regular OUT OF THE BOX feature where we give suggestions on different things to try.   


If you have tried something unusual or different, tell us all about it - and send in a photograph as well if you can – so that we can share your experiences with others.


Email: outofthebox@laterlife.com   


 

flowersThis month - The art of pressing flowers

When I was a child, I had an aunt who was highly skilled in making beautiful cards and pictures using flowers she had picked and pressed herself.

I never thought a lot about it at the time, but I recently came across one of the cards she had sent me all those years ago and it still looks beautiful - it has maintained all its subtle colour and shading and seems as fresh as the day it arrived.

Pressing flowers was really a Victorian activity; in the mid 19th century it was hugely popular and a very acceptable pastime for ladies of all ages. Now it seems there might be a slow revival; I hope so as it is such a lovely way to add an individual touch from nature to gifts, cards and letters. You can also use pressed flowers to make lovely floral pictures or even incorporate them in home decoration; sticking them on wooden furniture and finishing off with a clear varnish can add a very individual touch.

To press flowers, first you need to choose the flower. When you press a flower you are ridding it of all its moisture and its colour can change. Some become paler and also develop a “faded” shade which can be charming, but some flowers can develop stronger intense colours when pressed and working out what does what can only be achieved by experimentation. Interesting, similar type flowers which look exactly the same when picked in a bunch can dry to slightly different shades.  Flower pressing is not an exact art!

Once you have collected your flowers, you divide the flowers into the petals, leaves and stems, whichever parts you want to incorporate into your final design. Make sure the flowers have no moisture drops on them and are clean before pressing; they may also need a little trimming to tidy them up.

You can still buy manufactured flower presses, although new ones can be hard to track down. These are usually three or four small squares of wood lined with corrugated paper and blotting paper which can all be clamped tightly and evenly together on top of each other through four corner screws.

In the press, the individual sections of flowers are carefully positioned between two sheets of blotting paper before the covering wooden lay is screwed down tightly and left to dry out. It takes several weeks for the flowers to press and become completely dried out.

You can use kitchen paper towels or an absorbent paper pressed between heavy books or telephone directories as long as there is an adequate weight of books on top to do the pressing. Blotting paper is still ideal if you can find any as it has such absorbent qualities and the whole idea of pressing flowers is to rid the plant of all moisture.

Today of course modern technology has caught up with this wonderfully traditional pastime and you can now microwave your flowers! This is now the general method for professional flower pressers around the world, and this new technology also can help to preserve deep colours which can fade using the traditional methods.

You can today even buy specialised flower pressers for microwaves, but for most of us the best way is to construct our own microwave press. Simply obtain a small piece of hardboard and cover with three sheets of blotting or absorbent paper. Place a layer of prepared flowers on the paper and then cover with another three sheets of blotting or absorbent paper. Put a second similar sized piece of hardboard on the top and secure the packet firmly together with four or five strong rubber bands. Pop the packet into the microwave and cook on a medium heat for two minutes.

Leave for a minute, then gently remove top packaging and see if the flowers are totally dry. If not repeat the process until they are. This may take a little experimentation and machines vary.

Once the flowers are totally dry you are ready to go. They need to be handled with grat care of course as they will be quite fragile, but they can be mounted on paper or on lovely fabrics such as linen, silk or velvet. Many people incorporate pressed flowers in paintings, or on individual invitations or cards.

If properly pressed until totally dried, these flowers can last for years without further deterioration.

If you love the idea but can’t find enough plants in flower, or don’t have the time to collect your own, there are craft shops that sell ready pressed flowers. Flower pressing is also excellent for young people – they can start a collection of pressed flowers from the British countryside which gives them a great hobby as well as a good understanding of our fauna.

There are lots of craft shops around the UK that can help with advice and equipment; John Lewis sell a flower press for £10 (www.johnlewis.com)  or websites that can help include:

www.fredaldous.co.uk

www.preservedgardens.com


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