You thought summer bulbs were just for the garden? Maybe a few that can be grown indoors? They’re far too versatile to serve only one purpose. While living, growing, flowers are the greatest way to gift someone beauty, you can add a personal touch to your Season’s Greetings cards this December using pressed flowers.
Pressing flowers was a common hobby in the Victorian era as a way to preserve the beauty of a season all year. The preserved flowers are gathered into an ensemble on a page and secured with a small blob of glue. When they’re arranged with thought and care, they bring delight into the home, or into the hearts of those who receive them as greeting cards.
In today’s consumer-driven world it is easy to purchase a greeting card and personalise it with your own message. With relatives who are separated by many miles, and many South Africans homesick overseas, the most original and thoughtful way to send them a piece of your heart is to send them a garden. A garden minus the soil. A garden’s worth of flowers – immortalised in the peak of their beauty – on paper.
Pressed flowers are about to make a come-back in the craft scene, and personalised greeting cards are always in. Unfortunately, not all flowers can be pressed, some contain too much sap and tend to rot. Others may have a thickened area that doesn’t flatten well.
It’s important to know which flowers can be pressed and which ones you have to simply enjoy while they bloom on the plant. Daylilies, so named because each flower only lasts one day, will last a lifetime once dried. They’re every bit as majestic when they’re preserved, making a lovely statement piece on the front of a Christmas greeting card.
Making your own greeting card is fun and it’s a great way to keep children busy this holiday season. If you get started now, they can grow their own bulbs for the greeting cards. Some of the pressed flower highlights include gladioli, sandersonia, and irises.
The perfect time to harvest flowers for pressing is when the flowers are at their driest after the morning dew has dried and before the evening clamminess sets in. Avoid harvesting on rainy days.
Harvest only the freshest looking flowers that you’d like to immortalise. They need to have crisp colours and perfect edges. If your flowers have suffered damage, or if they, for whatever reason, fall apart during the harvest, it is still possible to save just the petals. Once they’re dry, there are endless ways to arrange your preserved flowers – they don’t have to form the shape of their original flowers – be creative!
Once you have your flowers, it’s best to get them home to prevent wilting. Wilting will interfere with their aesthetic appeal once they’re dry.
A bonus of harvesting flowers to dry is that you’re also deadheading. Dahlias make incredible dry flowers, either whole or as separated petals. Dahlias also benefit enormously from deadheading, as this prolongs their flowering season and encourages them to divert energy into a better recovery during winter and a better flowering season next spring. You can call it two-birds-with-one-stone.
Keep the same varieties together. Different flowers will dry at a different pace, which is why it helps to sort them according to their variety. Label each “press” so you know which flowers you have saved in which place.
Sorted? Now you can arrange them. Place each flower face-down on a white sheet of paper. Make sure no two flowers are touching. If they’re touching when you place them to dry they will be stuck that way.
Cover the sheet of paper of face-down flowers with another sheet of white paper. White typing paper is perfect, it helps to absorb the moisture which is pressed from the flowers. Place the papers with the flowers between two telephone books or heavy encyclopedias.
Add a label to your homemade press with the name of the flowers it contains and the dates you harvested and pressed them.
It’s important for the flowers to be under intense pressure. It is not necessary to use an actual flower press, but if you use heavy books, add a brick or a cinder block to the top of the books for added weight.
Yes, it’s tempting to see how they’re getting on. Opening the pages too soon causes the pressed flowers to wrinkle. The flowers might rip apart as you open the pages. Patience is a virtue.
After a month, your flowers should be ready. If you live in a very tropical climate and the humidity levels are high, you may choose to wait a little longer, just to be sure.
You will know your flowers are ready when they are hard and dry and perfectly preserved. Use tweezers to handle your flowers, they are incredibly delicate now.
You can now arrange your flowers on your greeting card paper. Use clear-drying wood glue to secure them in place. Try to be creative with your arrangements and make patterns that wouldn’t naturally occur in nature, for a breathtaking result. Experiment and lay out all of your designs before you secure them.
Too late to make your greeting card on time this year? Stock up on summer bulbs now for next year. Hadeco’s top choices for pressed flowers include Dahlias, Daylilies, Gladioli, and Irises. Visit our online to store which bulbs are available for ordering right now.