Pressing Flowers

by Anthonyfamilyinfo@gmail.com

Pressing Flowers is a Memorable Family Activity

I’ve been pressing flowers long before YouTube or Google could explain how to do this ancient art. Every year, the fifth graders at my school, Crockett Elementary in Bryan, Texas, made a wildflower collection.  Our teacher provided some instructions, but my mother taught me how to collect, press and preserve the flowers.

In keeping the family tradition, I’ve pressed flowers with my granddaughters.  Just as my mother explained to me, I told the girls that some flowers are easier to press because they are not too delicate or not too thick.

Flower pressing is a good activity to do with children, it’s simple enough for any age.  It can be done any time of year using cut flowers.  But in Texas, March to May is the ideal time to collect both garden and wildflowers.  For a summer activity, small varieties of zinnias can be pressed.

My girls chose larkspur and bluebonnets from my garden.  They cut the flowers and brought them inside where we worked quickly before they began to wilt.  As we worked, I told them how my mother and I went searching along country roads looking for wildflowers and that we only cut 2 or 3 of each, leaving enough for the next year’s crop. 

Just as mother had taught me, I showed the girls how to carefully arrange each flower on blotter paper and gently press them first with their fingers.  We also pressed some leaves and talked about the colors of the flowers and their shapes.  Next, we carefully placed paper on top and set it in the flower press.

Flower Presses

I explained to my granddaughters that I did not have a flower press for my first collection, so for weight we used World Book encyclopedias, sandwiching the paper and flowers between the heavy books.  Every few days I had to check the flowers.  Mother had told me how to tell when a flower was dry.

Inspired by my fifth-grade project, I later had a small pressed flower business.  I still have the flower press that my father made for me. Daddy was not a carpenter, so my press is not square or fancy, but it works. Made of quarter inch plywood, it has 4 long bolts, each with a washer and wing nut.  It is really a pretty simple process.  The wings nuts are tightened to put pressure on the flowers inside that are sandwiched between paper and pieces of cardboard. 

My granddaughters and I used a flower press that I gave one of them for Christmas.  This exceptionally beautiful press has everything needed and is from Flavell Trading. Made of English oak, it is heavy and truly an heirloom piece.  I learned of it on Instagram through the amazing Clare Foster @clarefostergardens.

For my fifth-grade flower collection, I mounted each specimen on paper.  I had forgotten, but my sister recently reminded me that we placed each pressed flower between pieces of waxed paper, put a kitchen towel on top and gently ironed them.  This melted the wax and “sandwiched” the flower inside so it could be mounted onto heavy paper and placed in a binder.

Flower Identification

The final step was flower identification, so mother took me to the library.  I fell in love with flowers of all sorts long before fifth grade, so it was fun to look through all the books. I identified over 50 of those flowers and kept my collection.  And, I did get an A+ on the project.  Many years later my son and I made a pressed flower collection for his school project and we used mine to identify his flower collection.

Today, there are products made for pressing flowers using a microwave.  I’ve not used one but the results are outstanding, particularly if you want to use the flowers artistically.  Pressed botanicals can be used to create bookmarks, note cards, framed art and embellish candles.

What to Press?

Somewhat delicate and overall thinner garden and wildflowers.  Some of the best flowers to press are pansies, violas, larkspur, delphinium, cosmos and Queen Anne’s lace.  And, don’t forget foliage – ferns, nandina, grasses and individual leaves.  

Do I still have my 5th grade wildflower collection?  From time to time I loaned it out and I don’t recall who, but the last person did not return it.  I hope it is composted somewhere, making flowers grow.  But I still have great memories of collecting and learning to press flowers with my mother and now my precious granddaughters.  Make some memories by collecting and pressing flowers with the children in your life.

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