Spring is just around the corner and already some of the early bloomers have been peeking their floral heads out, teasing us with the promise of warmer days. While there’s nothing better than filling a vase with stems you’ve snipped from the garden or foraged on a walk, this year we are loving the idea of preserving those delicate finds for even longer. Maker and blogger and long time flower presser Claire Holland shares her passion for the art along with knowledge and tips on how to prepare and then press your flowers for the best results…
For me, flower pressing will forever be associated with childhood memories of summer days spent happily gathering wild meadow flowers with which to fill the wooden press I was given for my birthday. The highlight of my primary school years was the annual flower pressing competition that the whole school took part in. Points were awarded for the most species found, how we’d identified them and how we presented them with their names neatly written out in pencil underneath. I took great pride in this project and would spend hours walking through the fields near my house, head down, searching for a species that I hoped no one else would find, then wedging them carefully between the pages of the press. I was most disappointed if I didn’t get placed in the top three!
My love of flower pressing was re-kindled after I had children and they liked to bring me fistfuls of cowslips and meadowsweet when we went out on walks though the fields near our home. Not wanting to discard them (they’d never last too long in vases once we get them home), I began putting them in books to preserve them to keep as mementos of our summer walks. Now, the books in my workroom are filled with countless specimens of flowers and leaves – partly because I can’t resist collecting them, but I’ve also recently started to use them in my artworks.
Spring is a gift for those who wish to start experimenting with pressing flowers. While there is a while to wait before we can venture out and gather wild flowers, at this time of year there are an abundance of flowering bulbs and early-flowering shrubs that offer up a brilliantly colourful array of pressing potential. Look for snowdrops, dwarf daffodil varieties, fritillaries and primroses. Even if you didn’t plant any spring bulbs back in autumn, these common varieties can be found in flower in your local nursery or florist, and even in some of the supermarkets. What better way to celebrate the end of winter!
Tips on preserving the flowers you’ve bought or collected
Wild flowers tend not to last long, particularly in summertime, and will quickly wilt, making them unusable for pressing. If you know you’re going out on the hunt for flowers to press, try taking a plastic, lidded tube filled with water and popping them in once you’ve picked them. I got one from a florist and I try to always remember to take it out with me. Alternatively, wrap them in a piece of kitchen towel or fabric soaked in water. You can revive most species by cutting the stems on an angle (to increase the surface area) and plunging into slightly warm water. If they’re very wilted, try leaving them outside (inside the water vessel) and the cooler air will help them perk up again. Always try and press flowers as soon as possible when they’re at their freshest, but avoid pressing when they’re still wet or damp as they’ll stick to the pages and get damaged. I lay mine out on a piece of kitchen towel to dry. If I get impatient I’ll lightly blot them with absorbent paper to get rid of any excess moisture.
The Book Method
I use books for my pressing flowers – they’re readily available and provide a simple, go-to method. Make sure you remember which books you’ve used though – I’ve lost count of the times I’ve forgotten and had to pull out every book on the shelf! I now write down which books I’ve used as well as the date I put the flowers and leaves in them as a reminder as to when to open them. Try and wait at least two weeks before opening them up to avoid damaging the flowers – they can easily stick to the pages and tear when they’re not fully dry. I confess that I don’t bother, but it is a good idea to use blotting paper between the pages to avoid damaging the book. If you’re in a hurry to see results, place the book you’ve used under a pile of heavier ones. Otherwise, you can simply put them back on the shelf and wait a few weeks longer to open them.
Different types of flowers to try:
Forget-me-nots, dog violets, snow drops, snowflakes, tete-a-tete dwarf daffodils, crocuses, primula, snake’s head fritillaries, bluebells
Buttercups, clover, red and pink campion, ragged robin, yellow and purple veitch, cowslips, yarrow, betony, knapweed, cuckoo flower, meadow cranesbill, field scabious
From the garden
Nigella (love-in-a-mist), aquilegia, pansies and violas, astrantia, larkspur, lacecap hydrangeas, geraniums, geums, flowering herbs (thyme, borage and dill work particularly). well)
Don’t forget the leaves!
It’s well worth experimenting with different leaves as some press beautifully. I particularly like the greenery on clematis, aquilegia, elder and cyclamen. Leaves tend to dry out quickly once pressed though and can start to curl, so be sure to get them stuck down as soon as you can.