Nearly everyone has at some time saved a flower or leaf by pressing it between the pages of a book. Pressing flowers has been a favourite art form since it gained popularity during the Victorian Age.
Various methods have been tried since then, and several new techniques have been developed in order to improve the colour and shapes of pressed flowers.
Basic Wooden Press:
Wooden flower presses are easy to construct and are capable of holding many layers of plants.
1. Cut two pieces of plywood (no larger than 9″ x 12″) slightly larger than the paper you wish to use in-between the floral material.
2. Drill holes large enough for four long screws in all four corners of both pieces of wood.
3. Place the floral material layered on absorbent paper in-between the boards. Slip the screws through the holes and tighten with wing nuts to compress the floral material in-between the sheets of paper.
Padded Pressing Boards:
The basic wooden press has some disadvantages. The thick parts of the flowers can be crushed, while the thin petals of the flowers, left unsupported, can shrivel. Sometimes moisture collects inviting decay, and often times flowers and leaves stick to the paper. Even though the basic wooden press has some drawbacks, it has been the standard pressing technique used by avid plant pressers for many years. Better results can be achieved by using pieces of raw cardboard (chipboard) padded with polyester fibrefill and fabric. Place the padded board on the backside of the flower and plain chipboard on the front.
The non-absorbent polyester allows moisture to evaporate instead of collecting within the sheets of absorbent paper. It also supports the back of the flower, while the front is pressed against the plain chipboard. Both thick and thin parts of the flower are held firmly in place without being smashed or bruised. Using a smaller, standard wooden press, and substituting the absorbent paper with layers of padded pressboards and chipboard definitely adds to the success of the pressing technique.
Polyester fibrefill is sold in most fabric stores. It is available in different thickness. The padding should be approximately one and one half inches thick for larger flowers and one half inch thick for more delicate flowers. Cut two 9″ x 6″ pieces of plywood for a smaller press, and use eight and a half by five and a half inch pieces of chipboard. Use straps or weights for pressure instead of compressing the pads with screws and wing nuts.
How to make a thick padded board:
1. Cut one piece of one and one half-inch fibrefill, 2 pieces of chipboard and one piece of nylon tricot-knit fabric to five and one half by eight and one half inches.
2. Spray fabric glue over the surface of the chipboard.
3. Press the piece of fibrefill into the glue on the chipboard.
4. Spray glue over the surface of the fibrefill.
5. Lay the fabric on top of the glued surface. Press down on the fabric so it adheres to the fibrefill.
For Thin Padded Boards follow the previous procedure using half-inch fibrefill.
Filling the Press:
Use thick pads when pressing heavier flowers like zinnias, dahlias, daises or delphiniums. Use thin pads when pressing lightweight flowers such as: pansies, primroses, violets or forget-me-nots. Space them close together but not touching.
• Split roses and buds down the middle before placing them in the press. Start at the top of the calyx and cut down through the stem. Then, slice up through the petals. Place the two halves against the plain chipboard and the petals against the padding.
• To press flowers in profile, fold them upwards and lay them on their sides on a piece of plain chipboard. Cover them with a padded pressboard.
• To press a spray of flowers which has a stem, leaves, flowers and buds, lay the spray right side up on top of a padded press board. Arrange the spray in a graceful line and cover it with a piece of chipboard.
Stack the thick and thin padded:
Pressboards and place them in-between the plywood sheets. Add pressure.
• Identify the contents of each layer or groups of layers by including a “Post-it” note with the date and kind of flower being pressed.
Excessive pressure will definitely bruise the flowers, yet insufficient pressure will cause shrinkage. The springy quality of the polyester adjusts to the changing shape of the flowers, expanding or compressing as they flatten. Keep the press in a warm, dry place as the flowers dry. Drying time will vary depending upon temperature and humidity. Most small flowers will be dry in four to five days. Pansies may require seven or eight. Flowers are dry when they are stiff and crisp throughout. Partially dry flowers feel cold to the touch. Don’t remove the flowers from the press until they are completely dry.
Partly dried flowers will shrink and pucker up. In unusually cold and damp weather, slip your press into the oven using only the gas pilot light for heat. If you don’t have a pilot light, preheat the oven to 100 degrees and turn it off before placing the press inside. Each day, until the flowers are dry, preheat the oven, turn off the heat, and place the press inside. Put a sign on the outside of the oven to remind yourself and others that the press is inside.
To remove floral material from the press, slip a thin knife under the centre of the flowers. Don’t pull the petals, they may tear. Most flowers are easy to remove. Brush off any loose vegetation clinging to the pads. When the polyester pads become flattened with use, fluff them up by holding them over a steaming kettle or pot of water. Chipboard sheets can be cleaned with a damp cloth. To prevent them from warping, stack them in the press to dry.