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How to Press Flowers, Leaves and Herbs

Instructions and basic techniques for pressing flowers and foliage.


A gardener learns more in the mistakes than in the successes.  ~ Barbara Borland

Microwave Flower Presses

The Lee Valley Microwave Press is offered in 2 sizes, measuring 6-1/2" x 6-1/2" or 8-3/4" x 8-3/4" and both will easily fit in your microwave. The presses come with two absorbent wool pads and two sheets of broadcloth that sandwich between two stout kiln-fired terra cotta slabs. The terra cotta moderates the drying process, preventing over-fast drying.

The Soapstone Microwave Flower Press has thermal properties and V-shaped vapor holes to allow flowers to dry evenly. The press includes 2 absorbent pads, 2 cotton liners, and 2 soapstone tiles.

The Microfleur 9" Microwave Max Flower Press works well with thin flowers. It comes in 2 sizes, the smaller is 5 inches square and includes a 30 page project book with ideas and pictures.

 

Botanical Flower Presses

Professional Plant Press Without Driers & Ventilators by Carolina Supplies... the 18 x 12 press only, Constructed of hardwood strips firmly held together by rivets at all outside joints and 5/8' double-prong staples at all others. Will withstand hard usage. Comes with two 1 x 72', extra-heavy web straps with spring-closing, lever-release buckles.

College Plant Press by Carolina Supplies features lightweight cypress construction, suitable for field or laboratory; fastened by 5/8' double-prong staples. Complete with two 52' straps with spring-closing, lever-release buckles. Includes 12 blotting-paper driers and 12 ventilators. Size, 18 12'

 

Remember...  When in doubt give it a try! Have some fun, experiment, and never stop playing!

 


More Advanced Pressing Methods - The methods discussed above work well with simple flowers and leaves. You will need to put more effort into such things as pressing open roses, pressing orchids, magnolia, lilies, ducculents and cacti, and making skeleton leaves but it can be done. As lilies open, it is vitally important to always remove the stamens to prevent staining the flower. These can be pressed separately if you want them.

Pressing Fruits and Vegetables can be fun, and with proper Fruit and Vegetable Preparation you can get some pretty good results.

In some cases it helps to treat your foliage and leaf materials with a little glycerin or fabric softener solution before pressing, especially with fall leaves. Just mix with warm water, spray it on, and allow the leaves to dry to the touch before pressing. This is not the same as preserving with glycerin.

  • You can get glycerin from a pharmacy or craft store and mix it with either water or alcohol.
  • The softening ingredient in fabric softener is glycerin, so you can also use a little fabric softener mixed with water.


Pressing Flowers

I encourage everyone who wants to work with pressed flowers to try and press your own flowers. Pressing flowers can be very gratifying in itself and will add to the enjoyment of creating a finished pressed flower piece.

There are several good methods for pressing flowers. We'll cover some of the basics here.

Flower Preparation (optional) - For best results pick your flowers at their freshest and press when there is no moisture on them. It's helpful to properly condition your flowers if you don't press them immediately upon picking them. I normally try to condition them regardless of how soon I'm able to press or dry my flowers. The colors are better when you take this extra step.

Pressing The Flower :

  • If you don't press your plants right away put them in a zip-lock bag and place in refrigerator, never freeze. Blow into the bag before sealing; the carbon dioxide will help your flowers stay fresh.
  • When preparing the flower for pressing some thought should be given as to how it will look when flattened. Avoid allowing parts to overlap unless for artistic effect.
  • Large and/or succulent plants are best preserved by cutting both longitudinal and transectional (from different specimens) sections from them and drying these. Leaves should normally be laid out flat. Thick flowers can be split with a sharp knife and opened flat with their internal parts face up.

Padding and Desiccant: For best results, thick or fleshy plant material should be padded when pressing and desiccant should be used. You can buy blotter paper impregnated with desiccant but it is very expensive and you still need to deal with the padding.

For a much cheaper and better way, make your own pads with the desiccant already in them. It's quick and easy!

To Make Desiccant Padding:

  • Cut polyester batting (the stuff used for quilting) to the size of your press.
  • Sprinkling silica gel generously on your polyester batting
  • Use iron-on interfacing cut to the size of your batting, and iron it right to the batting.
  • Turn your pad over and sprinkle more silica on the other side.
  • Apply the interfacing as above.
  • I sew around the edges with a zigzag stitch to keep it all together permanently, but it will work without sewing as the interfacing bonds to the pad..
  • After doing this you can no longer see the color indicators: just dry them in the microwave or oven between each use.

You can get everything you need at JoAnne's and can even use a coupon for 50% off.


Easiest: Pressing Flowers in Books - Place flower between 2 sheets of paper to protect the pages of the book. Leave at least 1/8" of pages between pressings, weigh the book down and wait a couple of weeks.

Alternatively, you can put the book with flowers and paper in the microwave and zap in short bursts, 30 seconds to a minute at a time Let cool between zaps, opening your press to let moisture/steam escape while cooling. Be careful not to over do it, burning your flowers. Repeat until almost done, then put in a another book or press to finish. Try it, it works well!

I have an old set of encyclopedia Britannica that I picked up at a garage sale for under $10 that I use for pressing. They look better than phone books and you come across some pretty interesting info as you press.


Flower Presses - You can buy a flower press or make your own. Personally, I prefer a specially made botanical flower press made with no metal because it allows greater air circulation and can be used in the microwave or left to air dry. It would be hard to make your own though, unless you're good with wood-working. I had mine made by a woodworker to my specifications. (Using dowels rather than screws, with sewn on Velcro straps)


Make your own simple wooden press: Cut  2 boards, hold them together with a long bolt and wing nut in each corner. Cut pieces of cardboard and blotting paper (or newsprint) to fit between the boards, and layer it; Wood, cardboard, blotting paper, plain white paper, flower, plain white paper, blotting paper, cardboard, then repeat your layers etc. Place the other piece of wood on top and tighten the wing nuts. Your color retention will be greatly improved if you put the flowers between sheets of paper and then try to change just the blotter paper at least every couple of days. The flowers may turn brown if they don't dry quick enough.


Microwave Pressing - For good results you can use a microwave flower press or use books. Set microwave to 30 seconds then let cool... repeat until your flowers are almost dry ... avoid over cooking.

To save time, consider working with 2 or 3 presses, just zap one while the others cool and alternate.

While still in the paper, place your flowers in a book or flower press to finish pressing. This normally takes anywhere from a few hours to a day depending on the particular flower.


You should get good pressed flower results with any of these flower pressing methods. Different flowers press better with different methods, so experiment.

There are many examples of flowers that press well on other pages of this site.

The variety of flowers and plant materials to press is so great that you really need a couple of different presses if you want to be well covered. A flower that presses well in one type of press may do poorly in another type of press,

If I could only have one press I would choose a botanical press. I sometimes see presses of solid wood with either metal buckle straps or wing nut fasteners that are referred to as "botanical presses" but that's not accurate. A professional style botanical press should have the more open frame-work design.

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