Pressing Plants: How to Collect and Press Flowers, Herbs, and Leaves

Pressed flower art began more than 500 years ago, when people started collecting botanical specimens. Initially, the these pressed plants were glued on paper with a small index card indicating the plants name, location it was found, and any other relevant information. During the Victorian era, this hobby developed into the creation of Flower Books, or Herbariums. These were special books of pressed plants, gentle poetry, thoughts of romance, and a little botany mixed in for good measure.

The art of pressed flowers has continued to evolve. Today, it’s easy to create everything from delicate and beautiful greeting cards to wall decorations of pressed flowers sandwiched between sheets of glass. Paper-makers often use pressed flowers to add texture and beauty to their papers, and scrap-bookers use the delicate dried beauties to adorn their pages.

A Few Flower Pressing Basics

Almost all wildflowers and nearly every leaf will begin to wilt if they are carried by hand for too long. For this reason, it is best to lay your pickings between sheets of blotter paper as soon as possible. Also, be sure that you have lightly brushed any moisture from the flowers and leaves so that they don’t discolor or mold while being pressed.

Arrange your plants with care, according to their texture and color. Ferns and flowers with thinner leaves and petals cannot be too firmly pressed, so you will want them closest to the outside of the press as possible; the closer to the middle of your press, the more pressure is applied.

You should change blotter paper at least twice in a two-week period for best pressing results. If any of your plants adhere to the paper, simply tap on the back of the page and it should loosen right up.

Building a Flower Press

The design of flower presses can be an expression of your interest in nature. I’ve seen some beautiful presses that were ornately carved, others had their surfaces wood-burned into intricate designs. Still others were as simple as an accordion of laminated cardboard tightened with thick rubber bands.

Your flower press may also be of a Victorian fashion, to reflect the origins of pressed flower art. This is the easier of the two press designs I’ll share here.

The Victorian Style Press

Collect two boards of the same size and width. These can be as large or small as you think you’ll need, but should be around the same size as the blotter paper you plan on using. Layer several sheets of paper on the first board, and layer your plants, spaced evenly, between these sheets of paper. Make sure there are 4-6 sheets of paper between each layer of plants. Then, place the second board on top and strap the two together. Old belts work well for this, since they are easy to tighten up securely, but you might need to make a new hole in the belts since the boards are likely much smaller.

Leave your press in a warm, drafty area for 14 days. You can remove the straps after this time, but do not remove the boards yet. Allow the plants to sit, loose, inside the press for another 2 days before exposing them to air.

For storage, try placing plants of a kind (pansies with pansies, ferns with ferns, etc.) in a manila envelope and storing flat on a bookcase.

Lolaness’ Flower Press

This flower press is inspired by the first I ever owned, which was nothing more than several sheets of cardboard sandwiched between two pieces of plastic. I loved that press, though. Especially good for day hiking trips, as this press is small and will fit easily into your backpack, you can decorate or wood-burn this press and it becomes a personal item of beauty.

1. If you are a wood-worker, this step can probably be done at home. Otherwise, visit a lumber or hardware store to get help. You will need two pieces of wood, 8″ x 8″ each, and about Ã?½” thick. One hold should be drilled about Ã?½” in from each of the four corners on both pieces of wood to accommodate wing-nuts.
2. Corrugated cardboard, several pieces or one accordion-folded piece to form several sheets should be measured to fit inside the holes of your press; 6″ x 6″ should work perfectly.
3. Gather 2 pieces of blotter paper for each fold, or “sheet” of cardboard. Plants will be sandwiched between the two pieces of blotter paper.
4. Place the back board of your press face-down. Fit the wing-nut screws through this, and layer your cardboard/blotter paper sheets inside the space created in the middle. Fill up the sheets with your desired plants. Place the top on, threading the screws through the holes on the top of your press. Tighten the press down firmly with wing-nuts.

This press should not be opened or loosened until the end of 14-18 days. At the end of this period, loosen the wing-nuts but do not remove them yet. Allow the pressed plants to “breathe” for at least 48 hours before carefully removing them.

Using Your Pressed Flowers in an Herbarium

Interested in creating your own Victorian-inspired herbarium to place your precious creations in? This is a relaxing, meditative pursuit that takes the standard journal or diary one step further. Your herbarium can be interlaced with pressed flowers, waxed leaves, and matching scented oils until you have created a very intimate flower book that reflects all of your vision.

To begin your own book, purchase a blank diary or small notebook which can be carried with you. You will also need a good 3-ring binder with dividers. Some of the sections you will probably want to include in your divided binder are: music, chants, recipes, herbals, lore, meditations, saying, definitions, blessings, etc. No matter what sections you decide to create, always organize your binder in such a way that you can immediately flip to a specific item you have placed in the binder.

Keep your smaller diary with you as much as possible. In this book, make notes of your dreams, ideas, observations, tid-bits of conversation that you really want to remember, etc. About once a month, you should transfer the things from this diary that you want to use into your personal binder. Take your time with the sheets you transfer; decorate the passages with your pressed flowers and scents, reflecting the content in a way that is just an expression of you. The idea is to have your favorite and most valued information all in one spot, instead of having to rummage through a bookmarked list of internet favorites, through 18 volumes of literature, or sorting through a mess of notes.

Before long, one of your favorite relaxing activities will involve sitting quietly in a private spot and paging through the beauty of Nature in word, thought, and vision.

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