Beauty Eternal Easy Ways to Preserve Flowers
Flowers and other parts of the plant have been dried since ancient times, to be used in herbal remedies.
I recently wrote a book on how you could preserve flowers by drying them, and make things of beauty and a joy forever out of them.
And because you could never get a petal straight in the first try itself, you would go ahead and try again, the second time, the third time, the 381th time until it was time for your man to come home, and the cook to serve dinner.
Well, I am a 21st-century hyperactive ordinary and sometimes creative woman and definitely not Victorian. However, I do like to do some little bit of collecting these flowers, seeds, reeds, leaves, and preserving them so that when I have the time and if I have the time.
I am going to create some things of beauty and a joy forever, which may or may not be passed down to the future generations, depending on what they are going to say 50 years from now!
For all those people who are interested in DIY projects, I am going to teach you how to make a really good traditional Victorian wooden press. Of course you can buy one in the market by spending lots of money, but the amount of fun you can have out of making your own plant press is quite something else, wouldn't you say so?
Incidentally, every woman who had plenty of leisurely time in Victorian times in Europe knew how to make skeleton leaves. Surprisingly, it was only in 1860 that this art reached Baltimore. And it was supposed to be a secret, if you go by some of the publications written by women authors at that time! By that time, they had lost the art of making wax flowers, which just 50 years ago were being made by every Victorian schoolgirl, who was dreaming of orange blossoms and her own Prince Albert.
So this book is also going to tell you a little bit about all these wax flowers and especially the tradition of orange blossoms which have lasted to this day and have to be a necessary part of every wedding ceremony. In Victorian times, the language of flowers was something which every romantic heart had to learn. That was because they were not allowed to say things in public because there would be some irate parent shouting – this obsession with love, how dare any of my children speak about this unspeakable emotion in my house – and girls being girls and boys being boys, they had to find out ways and means in which they could talk to each other without their parents knowing. So the flowers did the talking.
And so orange blossoms had its own symbolic meaning, fertility and chastity. Queen Victoria was so fascinated with wax flowers that more than 15,000 of these flowers were made for her wedding ceremony. Her headdress was made up of white flowers and her bouquet had orange blossoms in it. And after that so romantic wedding, every young maiden dreaming of orange blossoms wanted a white wedding with orange blossoms. But most likely her parents could not afford these expensive flowers. So they were made of wax.
After touching upon wax flowers and how you can try your hand at them, we are going to come to more modern ways and methods in which you can preserve these flowers. The wax flowers of Queen Victoria's time were so fragile, that you can only see a few of them in Kew Gardens, London, under glass.
Today, the Elizabethan 21st-century woman really does not have the time to tint and color individual petals of flowers and also make wax fruit, and so on. She is more prone to pick out a petal – he loves me – dip it in molten wax until the petal gets covered with a thin layer of wax, then pick up another petal – he loves me not – repeat the same process again. And if she is French, she is going to say he likes me, he loves me madly, he adores me, he does not love me at all, so all right, what is the big deal.
By the late 1870s, the Victorian art of making wax flowers was going out of fashion, because the British considered it to be a bourgeois, French leisurely activity and anything the French liked to do, the British scorned to do!
So if you learn how to make wax flowers, you can use them not only to decorate pieces of art in your living room, but you can also use them to decorate candles, and other things made of wax, which means that you are going to get the reputation of a person who makes those amazing gifts, so creative!
How to Dry Wildflowers
Drying has been a more popular method of air drying the flowers, because it not only keeps the color of the dried flower, but it also keeps their shape. Sometimes, flowers are dried out in such a manner that it is very difficult to say whether they are fresh or dried.
The best flower choices for drying, are going to be the ones which have lots of petals. Dandelions, thistles, and daisies, all of these flowers should be picked, when they are just about to touch their peak of bloom. You can also pick flowers, which are just about to wither, because they are going to seed like Poppies. Grasses are also very attractive when they are dried out.
Air Drying Your Flowers
I am repeating the procedure on how to dry wildflowers, as described in my previous book. It is the same way in which you dry your garden flowers by just tying them up, hanging them in a damp and dry place petals facing downwards, and in some weeks you are going to have your dried flowers collection.
Each flower bunch can be tied up with a number of rubber bands, as long as you have put just 7 to 10 flowers stems in the bunch. These can be dried in your linen closet. Just tie a clothesline in your garage, and there you are you have a ready-made drying assembly line.
However, there are some flowers, which lose their shape as well as their color, when they are dried in the air. I have noticed these air dried roses, with their fragile petals which crumble to the touch. So roses should be dried in some other way, along with anemones and lilies. Borax and cornmeal mixtures are available in the market, to dry these flowers, and leaves can also be dried perfectly with these drying mixtures, without discoloration or disfiguration.
Just mix some borax and cornmeal together, in equal quantities, and put them in your nearest available shoebox. Spread a layer at the bottom of the shoebox about 1 inch deep.
Place the cut flowers facedown on that mixture, with their stems facing upwards and then sprinkle some more of this hydrating mixture all over them, – a 1 inch layer will do just fine. The flowers should not touch each other. They will be dried in one week’s time. Use an artist’s brush to brush off the clinging powder on the dried petals.
Always remember to harvest more flowers than you think you need, because when you start making projects, some of these dried flowers are either going to give way in your hands or you may find yourself using a larger amount of flowers than what you thought you needed.
Now it is harvest time, and when the flowers are plentiful, gather ye rosebuds and flowers, when they are plenty.
Do not be afraid to experiment with other drying systems, because someone thought of that cornmeal and borax idea, which I did not know at all up to five months ago.
I added a little bit of salt, because it was a good dehydrating agent, and if you have salt aplenty, living near the seashore, and the salt is not iodized, go right ahead. Just add three large tablespoons of salt, to about a quart of this mixture. I also tried two parts of borax to one part of cornmeal -it also worked well.
If the room in which you are drying the plants is full of light, you may want to cover the plants with a brown paper bag. Some plants like reeds and grasses are able to dry up in the air, outdoors, by themselves, on the plants. If you get them, gather them, and use them for any sort of flower arrangement, because they are already ready for decorative purposes.
Before drying any plants make sure that any sort of excess leafy foliage is removed from the branches and the stem. Just keep one or two good leaves along with the flower and the bud. That is because too much foliage is not going to dry properly and also, the more foliage, the more time it is going to take for the plant to dry.
Drying is going to take anywhere between 6 to 14 days, depending on the weather, and the part of the plant, which is being dried.
Also, dried foliage is not very attractive to look at unless of course you are drying herbs, when all that foliage comes under the category of dried herbal leaves to be collected and to be placed in airtight jars and containers.
The drying time is of course going to be different for different parts of the plant, like foliage, leaves, roots, seeds, flowers, stems, and seedpods and also fruits and vegetables.
When I was drying baby’s breath, I found that some of the flowers remained pink and white after they had dried and some of them had turned brown. A friend told me that she just used a little bit of white poster paint to brighten up this dried material by spraying it on the dried flowers. Also, if you want to restore the original shape of the cluster of dried flowers, try a little steaming.
Now when the summer is gone and you cannot manage to go out for more of your rumbles in the wilderness, you can bask in the joy of your preserved flowers, seeds, leaves, and stems.
My previous book had a number of projects, which you could try out with dried flowers, including how to make lampshades with skeletonized leaves, candied violets and potpourri, and here you have learned how to make a wooden press for drying your plants.
I found this really interesting PDF, after I had finished writing the book so you may enjoy browsing through it. There are plenty of tips here, especially list of flowers and how long they are going to take to dry through different dehydrating methods.