Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Olivia from Imperial Beach, CA. Olivia Wonders, “How old can flowers get?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Olivia!
An old adage claims that diamonds are a girl's best friend. When it comes to making someone feel special, though, flowers can't be far behind. Who doesn't enjoy receiving a bouquet of roses on their birthday or Valentine's Day?
Unfortunately, fresh flowers fade and die out quickly. If only there was a way to capture and preserve their beauty. If you've ever pressed flowers before, you're probably thinking, "There is a way to do that!"
Pressing flowers to preserve them has been a favorite method for thousands of years. Scientists have uncovered evidence of pressed flowers from many ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks.
Early botanists developed methods of pressing flowers and plants, so that they could bring multiple specimens back from trips into the wild for later study and analysis. For example, even Meriwether Lewis made time to press flower and plant specimens he found on his famous cross-country journey with William Clark.
Pressing flowers was a popular pastime in Victorian-era England. In fact, many people associate pressed flowers with that time. However, flower pressing remains popular even today. In Japan, for example, Oshibana remains a popular art form that consists of pressing a variety of flowers together to create a whole picture.
Botanists learned early on that pressing flowers was an easy way to preserve them without chemicals. Simply pick flowers and plants when they're fresh. Place flower or plant samples between two pieces of paper inside a large book and place weights, such as additional books, on top to keep even, steady pressure on the pressed samples. In two to three weeks, the samples will be dried completely and able to be placed in an album or used in crafts.
The key to successful flower pressing is drying the flowers as completely and quickly as possible. Popular absorbent papers to use to help speed the drying process include newspaper, blotting paper, printer paper, and plain cardboard.
Experts recommend avoiding waxed paper (it retains moisture) and textured paper towels or coffee filters (they can imprint delicate petals). For those who don't want to wait two to three weeks, advanced drying techniques have been developed that involve ironing or microwaving flowers prior to pressing.
People who press flowers at home do a fine job with newspaper and old, heavy books. Botanists, however, have developed various flower and plant presses over the years.
Some consist of large flat boards that can be tightened around samples with adjustable straps. Others might replace straps with bolts and screws that can be tightened to apply the steady, even pressure desired.