This Beautiful Technique Basically Makes Summer Flowers Last Forever
Pressing flowers and leaves
Pressing flowers, weighting them flat as they dry, has been done for centuries, since as long ago as Ancient Egyptian times. It's a technique that allows us to preserve not only the flowers' delicate beauty but also the memories we associate with them. The Japanese art of oshibana, which uses pressed flowers, petals, and leaves to create elaborate images, dates back to the 1500s but only became known in the West when trade increased between Japan and Europe in the late 1890s. It then became very fashionable in Victorian England. It requires meticulous skill and is said to have been an art perfected by samurai warriors to promote patience and harmony with nature.
It's not merely a decorative pastime, however. The examples found in scrapbooks of plants and flowers collected and pressed by travelers, gardeners, and botanists have also improved our knowledge of nature and the botanical world.
- To retain maximum color and prevent browning, flowers have to be fresh but dry, so choose ones that are either in bud or have just blossomed, and pick them on a sunny day.
- Begin with a small, flat flower, such as a daisy, primrose, or pansy. Large, bulky flowers will need trimming at the back to get them to lay flat.
- Use either a special flower press, which can be bought easily in shops or online, or heavy books, such as big dictionaries, an encyclopedia, or even old telephone books. (Moisture from the flowers may cause the pages to wrinkle a bit, so avoid using a book you don't want damaged.) To help prevent this, put the flower(s) between two pieces of paper before placing them between the pages of the book. It is best to avoid kitchen paper and patterned papers as many have textures and color that may end up imprinted on the petals.
- Arrange the flat face of the flower on your paper, then press it within the pages of the book. You can press multiple flowers at the same time; just ensure there is sufficient space between them so that moisture from one flower doesn't transfer and they don't become stuck to one another. Do not disturb the arrangement when closing the book.
- Use more books, or a brick, to weigh down the book once it is closed. Leave for at least a couple of weeks until the flowers have dried out.
When I was younger, I traveled in India and noticed that instead of putting flowers in vases as a welcome, it was common to find bowls or pools of water filled with floating flowers and foliage. I have loved this way of bringing nature into the home ever since.
The practice is rooted in the ancient Hindu principles of Vastu, which focus on the natural environment and the five elements and energies of nature: earth, space, water, fire, and air. Maintaining a positive balance with our environment encourages good energy, harmony, and flow, crucial to health, peace, and happiness.
Water, as rain, rivers, and the seas, is precious and holds great energy. It is the essence of life, the basis of all life; without water, life cannot exist. Placing a bowl filled with water and flowers near the entrance to your home is therefore highly auspicious.
Take a bowl (I prefer a shallow, wide one) and fill it with cold water.
Cut the stems of the flowers to about 1 to 2 inches long so they can still suck up the water to keep hydrated. Flat flowers with a larger surface area will float best.
Float your freshly picked leaves and flowers on top of the water—like lily pads—to create your own delightful floral pond.
Keep tuning in to mbg this week for more Craft Week how-to's, and check out what we've already shared here.
Adapted from an excerpt from Fforest by Sian Tucker with permission from the publisher.
Sian Tucker is an art graduate who, in 2004, after living and working for many years in London as a textile designer, moved with her partner and their four young sons to west Wales and set up fforest—a farm set in 200 acres of natural beauty, sandwiched between the river Teifi gorge and the Teifi marshes nature reserve, close to a beautiful stretch of heritage coastline.