Save your favorite blooms and stems by learning the art of pressing botanicals.
By Charlie Thigpen
Photography by Lindsey Griffin
When Cindy and I opened our store, we always wanted to showcase art that was local and botanical in nature. We were lucky to have a delightful lady named Trueheart Carl walk through our doors one day and show us the art she had been working on. Her art, which she calls True Botanicals, is always well designed and nicely framed. Her foliage and flowers placed behind glass have been very popular with local designers and customers alike. Trueheart says it is easy to press foliage and flowers, and here’s how she does it!
Selecting Leaves or Blooms
Trueheart recommends that you start small. She says not all foliage or flowers press well, and it’s all trial and error. Plants that have a lot of moisture will not work. They will mold as they dry. She loves working with foliage from Heuchera, Fastia, ferns, ginkgo, maples, and big leaf magnolia. Flowers she likes to press include black-eyed Susans, daisies, hydrangea, roses, pansies, and larkspur. She said it’s important to select leaves and flowers that are fresh and not droopy or limp.
The Pressing Issue
To flatten small leaves and flowers, Trueheart recommends using a flower press. She slips the botanicals in between two sheets of watercolor paper (available at most arts and crafts stores) and tightens the press.
When pressing larger items, she uses two pieces of plywood and a cement block.
To use this technique, set a piece of plywood down on the floor and place a sheet of watercolor paper on top of the plywood. Then place the leaves or flowers on the watercolor paper and place another piece of watercolor paper down on top of the leaves or flowers. Then carefully set another piece of plywood on top of the watercolor paper and place a heavy item such a cement block to press or flatten the items being pressed. Trueheart recommends that the leaves or flowers set for two to three weeks. Small flowers and leaves usually take two weeks while larger items will take three weeks.
The Frame Game
Trueheart’s husband frames all her pieces, but she recommends going to a craft store or frame shop to find the frame that’s right for your preserved botanicals. She also suggests going to thrift stores or antique shops if you want that vintage look. Before placing the leaves or flowers in the frame, she sprays them with a floral preservative. After they dry completely, she sprays the backside of the botanicals with an adhesive and artfully mounts them on watercolor paper or mat board before slipping them into a frame.
Timing is Right
Now is the perfect time to select leaves and flowers to press. They have been growing all season and cooler weather will soon knock back tender plants. If you don’t have a yard or garden, you can select leaves or blooms from a florist.
So why not get a little creative! Find some botanicals you’d like to preserve and press—then create a piece of art and a memory!