How To Press Flowers and Preserve the Magic of Spring
Spring is a special time of year. It seems that each day a new bit of color pops up in the neighborhood, whether it’s the bright green of the tulip shoots, the yellow of the daffodils, the deep purple of the violets, the creamy white of the magnolia blossoms or the bright pink of the cherries. Pressing flowers and foliage is a simple way to chronicle and preserve the colors of springtime. Plus, gathering flowers is a great way to engage your senses and be present, whether you’re on a hike or merely walking through your neighborhood. Luckily, it’s easy to press flowers!
There are many ways to press flowers, from the most barebones DIY method of placing them between the pages of a book, to more hi-tech methods using a microwave. We like to stick to the basics and use a classic wooden flower press – in fact, we love pressing flowers so much that we designed and produced our very own! It’s a pretty easy project to fashion your own personal flower press, but for this tutorial, we’ll be using our Black Walnut Flower Press, available in our retail store and web shop (Sunset Magazine called it “must have” in their January, 2016 issue, and it was recently featured in the Seattle Times’ NW Showcase!)
How To Press Flowers
Step 1: Gather
What you need: Basket or bag, a sharp pair of scissors, and a ziplock bag with a moist paper towel (optional).
Stash a small pair of scissors in your basket or bag, and get out into the neighborhood. If you know your neighbors, ask permission to clip a flower or two. Keep in mind the size of your flower press, and pick your specimens accordingly. We like to keep our cuttings about 3-4″ long if we’re including a bit of the stem and foliage. Alternately, cut just below the base of the flower. Place specimens in your basket. Think about what you ultimately want to do with your died flowers, and gather accordingly, trying to keep your clippings varied. Parks are a great place to look, but wildflowers pop up everywhere; medians, sidewalks, and abandoned lots often lead to exciting discoveries.
For best results, always pick clean flowers and leaves free of blemishes and spots. It’s easiest to press flowers that are dry, so avoid going to look during or directly after a rain. If you’re going to be out for more than an hour or so, place the cut stems in the ziplock bag, so that they make contact with the moist paper-towel. This well help keep them fresh during your journey.
If you’re venturing out of the city or off of your property to gather flowers, please remember to gather responsibly. Many of our natural areas are safe havens for threatened and sensitive species, and many have restrictions about what flowers, if any, can be cut. That said, the wild flowers of the Columbia Gorge are what inspired us on our journey to design and sell a flower press, and they make lovely specimens to press, when appropriate.
Step 2: Prepare your specimens
Once you’re home, you’ll want to get your new specimens in your flower press as quickly as possible. Lay out your flowers on the counter, and trim away any unwanted leaves. Cut stems at an angle. Brush off any dirt with a moist paper-towel. If your flowers have wilted slightly, place them in a vase and allow them to rehydrate for about an hour. Discard any specimens that have wilted.
Using your scissors, split any thick flowers in half for best results.
If you can’t press your flowers for whatever reason, close them in a ziplock and put them in the refrigerator to extend their freshness.
Step 3: Arrange specimens in press
Open your flower press and remove all cardboard/vellum paper inserts except for the bottom. You’ll want to distribute specimens throughout the press, starting at the bottom layer, putting your flowers on top of the cardboard inserts between 2 sheets of vellum.
Try to distribute the flowers throughout the press evenly, so that there aren’t any large bumps that would cause them to dry unevenly. It’s helpful not to over fill the press. We like to stick to 3-5 specimens per layer.
Replace the top of your flower press on the screw posts. It’s okay if you can’t fit all the cardboard and vellum back in at once – you can set some sheets aside for later use. Screw the wing-nuts back on the posts, and tighten evenly around all 4 corners. You want to tighten firmly, but not so firmly that the cardboard compresses unnecessarily.
Step 4: Press flowers, wait, unveil!
This last step in how to press flowers is arguably the most difficult: patience! For best results, you’ll want to leave your specimens undisturbed for at least 2-3 weeks. Set your flower press aside, somewhere it can be admired but not forgotten about. The ideal location will be nice and dry, with good air circulation, as the goal here is for your flowers to dry as quickly as possible. While you’re waiting, you can brainstorm fun ideas for how you’ll use your new pressed flowers and foliage!
Check in on your flowers after about a week by seeing if you can tighten the wing-nuts down a bit more. As the flowers dry, they contract, which will make your press feel a bit loose. Tighten them down again to keep the drying going.
After 2-3 weeks, it’s time to see how you did. Unscrew the top of the flower press, and carefully remove the top sheets of cardboard and vellum. It’s common for flowers to stick a bit, so take care when you open the press not to rip them as you pull off the paper. If your flowers feel totally dry, and still colorful and vibrant, you’re all done! It helps to use tweezers to pull them off the page.
Any flowers that still feel moist can go back in your press for another week of drying. The rest can be used in craft projects, home decorating and more! The possibilities are truly endless.