Pressing flowers – A guide

I’ve been talking quite a bit recently about my newly found love of pressing flowers. It’s not really newly found as I remember the sheer delight when I was younger of opening up my mums flower press and seeing all the beautifully preserved delights inside and I got a press a few years ago that I had popped a few bits and bobs into and then promptly forgot about them.

It’s no secret that flowers are some of my favourite things and I will happily spend as much time as I can looking at them, taking pictures of them and arranging them around my home. My mum and I were meant to be going to the Chelsea Flower Show next week for the very first time (for me) and I’m so sad I won’t get to go along. I definitely plan on going next year (as long as Corona is under control!)

So about a month ago and in full lockdown decluttering mode I found my flower press. I opened it up and found a beautifully preserved chrysanthemum, some Japanese anemones and a couple of daisies. I felt sad there that it was so empty so decided to remedy this. I gathered some blossom from the garden and carefully positioned the flowers on the plotting paper and excitedly placed another sheet on the top and encased them in card before screwing shut the flower press excited to check on the results.

I was really disciplined and patient (not like me at all) and waited a whole week to open up the press again and like a child opening a present peeled the blotting paper apart to see the results. I was so very happy with what I found.

The flowers had been beautifully preserved and yet still were scented. The details were beautiful and I was so chuffed I had come across the flower press again. It gave me an idea of using pressed flowers to make Christmas presents as I like to make homemade gifts and think it offers a really personal touch. So I decided that I would press more flowers to see which ones worked best and make some prototypes with Christmas gifts in mind.

We are really lucky that the walk we have been doing in the lockdown is full of all manner of wild flowers. Many which are classed as weeds but it occurred to me that actually they were abundant and were delicate enough that they would work well in the press. You have to be careful of course as some wild flowers are poisonous or shouldn’t be picked but things such as buttercups and cow parsley are plentiful at the moment and as so many see them as weeds (not me, I think they are lovely) I picked some on our walk to press and was very keen to see the results.

I wasn’t disappointed. The cow parsley in particular presses really well and I was in a position to make my first gift. I decided that tea light holders would be a great place to start and found a glass jar that I had that had previously housed paper clips. The idea that by sticking pressed flowers around the outside that when the candle light is glowing inside it will shine through the pressed blooms. I used PVA glue and had to be very careful as the flowers are ever so delicate when pressed and got to work at gluing my flowers to the jar.

I was really chuffed with myself until I went to put a tea light into the jar and realised it was just too small for one to fit in! Epic fail! However it showed how the idea worked in theory and even just as a little vase it turned out really well and I think you will agree it’s very pretty. I thought that you could also use them in glass hanging frames or on paper mache bowls. The possibilities are endless!

So as I have continued with project press all the flowers I shared some pictures to my Instagram account and received some lovely comments and lots of questions about the best way to press flowers. I quickly filled up my one small press so decided to order another and write a blog post about how I use the press and the flowers I have found that work best.

You don’t need to buy a press at all. I have used thick books in the past and put the flowers between the pages. I did though often forget which books had flowers in and spent an awful long time once hunting for a four leaf clover that I knew was in one of the many books I own I just couldn’t remember which one! You can also use pieces of wood and paper and card that you have at home. By using the wood as the top and bottom layer and cutting up squares of card from cardboard boxes and placing paper between the sheets with your flowers in. You would need a weight of some kind to put on top or if you are good with tools you can drill holes for bolts so that the press can be bolted shut to press the flowers. I’ve had lots of questions about the best paper to use also. Blotting paper I have found is best but it’s more expensive. However it can be reused so has some value for the money. You can use regular paper or kitchen towel. I found regular paper was okay but as the flowers give off moisture while being pressed the flowers tended to get stuck to normal paper a bit more so you have to be that bit more careful when you remove them from the press.

My newest press came from Amazon and was £16. It came with the wooden press, bolts, seven sheets of card and twelve sheets of blotting paper included which I thought was good value for money. There are lots of presses available and the prices differ so I am not recommending a particular one. Have a look and see what suits you best.

This new one has six bolt holes and you thread the bolts through before you start pressing so you don’t risk losing flowers after you start putting them in place on the paper. You lay out a sheet of card and on top of that a sheet of blotting paper. On top of the paper as above you can lay your flowers out. You need to remember that they will spread out as they flatten and that they will also give out moisture so you need to give a little room between each flower so that they don’t get stuck together as they are pressed. Once the flowers are laid out you need to pop carefully another sheet of blotting paper on top and then another piece of card on top of that. This layer system is the same as you fill up the press with layers of card between each ‘bundle’ of blotting paper. When you are ready you place the wooden top over all of the cardboard and thread the bolts through the holes. You then use the wingnuts (provided with the press) and twirl them onto the bolts. These then get tightened so that the press is pushing onto the flowers and the magic can begin. You have to be careful not to do it up too tight as it can make the wood buckle and the press won’t be so effective.

This new press came with bare wood for you to decorate however you like. I have used sharpies to personalise mine but you could paint it, use stickers or decoupage as you fancy. You then need to be patient and wait for the press to do its thing. I am awful with being patient and usually only manage about three days before I have a peep. About a week is best for small flowers and you will have some lovely pressed blooms ready for you when you open up the press.

These flowers are on about day four and are well on their way but not quite ready.

These are more than a week pressed and you can see how lovely the result is. I would say that the best flowers I have found are generally flat to start with. You can press thicker flowers but the finished result isn’t quite as well defined and they take much longer to dry. Small flowers are working best for me and anything that is delicate seem to give great results. Cow parsley, forget me nots, daisies, buttercups, blossom, hydrangea flowers, lavender and lots of grasses are working really well and give very pretty results. I have tried some purple salsify this week which is a wild flower a bit larger in size and although pretty the results as you can see aren’t quite as lovely as the smaller more delicate blooms.

You can see on this image also the way that the blotting paper absorbs moisture from the flowers. I would also say that a top top is to add additional layers to your press by using the card box idea. I have added four layers to my old press by cutting A4 sized card to use as additional layers. It’s the same as the card in the flower press anyway and we all have boxes that can be reused for this purpose.

The thing I love about pressing flowers is that there is no right or wrong it’s all about trial and error. You can try any kind of flowers you like and as long as you have patience will see some lovely results. I think I am loving the small delicate blooms because they press quicker but there will be larger flowers that I will explore as time goes on. You don’t have to spend a fortune on flowers and can forage some beauties for free. Please don’t though pick from peoples gardens or from floral displays. You won’t be popular and when there are so many lovely wild flowers around you really shouldn’t need to!

It’s also a fab activity to do with little people. I have boys as you know but they have both started suggesting flowers they think we should try and press and have picked some cow parsley with me to press this week. In these times of home schooling you can make some great artwork with pressed flowers and also examining them under a magnifying glass is a great activity too.

Pressed flowers are also being used in decoration and if you are an Escape to the Chateau fan there is a fab episode where Angel presses large flowers from their walled garden to use on the walls in the Potagerie suite in the chateau. The results are beautiful. Although I don’t have a chateau (I want one) or a walled garden (I want one) I love that I am doing similar on a smaller scale. I would love it more though if I did have a chateau so if anyone knows of any going cheap give me a yell!

I hope this has been a useful guide. I would love if you have any questions or are going to give it a try yourself for you to get in touch. I will also update as I do more pressed flower crafts to give some ideas of what you can do with your pressed flower treasures.

Take care, Lucy xxx

Author: TiredfromWhitstable

I'm Lucy, a 32 year old working mother and wife from Whitstable in Kent. This blog is for all my musings on life and follows my eternal struggle to juggle everything from being a mum, a volunteer youth mentor, a wife and making a lovely home and garden. Please join me!

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