In the northeast we have had a very mild winter. Many of the area wildflowers are beginning to bloom. In my pile of foliage and flowers are blossoms of Birds-eye Speedwell, Vinca, and Celandine. It’s time to begin restocking my pressed flower supply. I love using wildflowers, they are often small and airy, perfect for pressed flower compositions. One caution though when using wildflowers, be sure that you are not using a plant that is protected as threatened and endangered in your state. To see a listing of your State’s Protected Wildflowers check out this site: US Government list of Threatened and Endangered Plants.
I have found that the best way to retain the colors of most flowers and foliage is to flash press them in a microwave. I don’t use the expensive microwave presses; I have found the best way is to use an old book. The book must have very porous paper, it must not have gold or silver leafing on the spine or page edges, and a smaller book works better. Most of the books I use are from the 1930’s and 1940’s. You can find books of this age at yard sales and thrift stores. They are usually very inexpensive.
1. Separate your flowers into thinner petaled flowers and foliage, and thicker varieties.
3. Lay the blossoms and foliage on the page. These vincas have a thick stem that will not press well behind the open faced blooms. After I lay them out on the page I cut off that stem. For the side pressed blossoms, I leave the stem intact. I also include several buds of the flower.
4. Shut the book and rubber band the edges. For thin varieties of flowers and foliage I microwave between 15 and 30 seconds. This provides the heat that speeds up the drying process. The book should not be hot, only gently warm to the touch. For thicker varieties of flowers and foliage I heat for 30 – 60 seconds. As with anything microwave temperatures vary, you will have to experiment to see what works best for you. After pressing, clean out any residue left behind in your microwave by heating a cup of water with lemon or citrus peel, and then wiping away the moisture from the sides.
5. Don’t open the book, leave the rubber bands in place and put your book under a heavy weight.
6. Your flowers should be dried and ready to use within 3 – 7 days. To remove them from the pages of the book, gently slide a soft paint brush beneath the edges.
I use large books to store my pressed flowers. I place them on acid free paper and label the sides, leaving the edges hanging over the book pages about 1/2 inch. This helps me find exactly the type of flower I want when I am composing a picture.
The flowers and foliage are ready to use. In coming days and weeks I’ll give more tips on how I compose, glue and use my pressed flower projects.