Pressing Flowers with Janie
Picked at their peak and then preserved, pressed flowers offer a wonderful way to savor the beauty of summer long after its blooms have faded from the garden.
Gardener, artist, and author Janie Gross discusses the art and science of pressing flowers and shares some of her own techniques, using microwave and a custom, vented, microwavable press. As Janie explains, pressing not only provides a means by which you can preserve blossoms; it can also serve as a way to record your garden's evolution from year to year. Furthermore, pressed blooms can be used and enjoyed in myriad ways. According to Janie, the best flowers for pressing are those with a single layer of petals, such as cosmos and delphinium, while thicker flowers, such as peonies, lilies, and large roses, generally are not good candidates. For best result, you should always begin with freshly cut flowers (it's also best to cut them in the afternoon, after the morning dew has had a chance to evaporate). Some of the flowers she recommends pressing from Martha's garden include Virginia blue bell tulips, pink miniature roses, perennial geraniums, and forget-me-nots. To demonstrate, Janie uses a dwarf Jacob's ladder from her own garden.
For more information on pressing flowers and leaves, visit our feature story.
- Flower press
- Utility knife or Japanese knife
- Microwaveable press
- Avery sheets or airtight plastic bag
Begin by cutting the stems short enough so that they'll fit in your press (Janie's press is a custom-designed model, but you can use a generic press from a crafts store).
Place the flower on a sheet of clean paper, and continue placing additional flowers to design your layout; just make sure the flowers aren't touching one another. Leave the flowers in the press until dry, which should take 3 to 5 days, depending on the flower and the humidity levels outside.
If your flower is more complex, meaning that it has more than one row of petals, you'll need to dissect it before pressing. (Jamie uses a Japanese knife for dissecting, but you can use a utility knife), cutting it in half and removing the pistols and stamen.
At this point, Janie uses a vented, microwavable press, which has layers of cardboard and sheeting between two pieces of felt, to press her flowers in the microwave. Alternately, you can use two pieces of stiff cardboard and a non-porous weight such as a small piece of marble. Place the flower between the cotton sheeting, place it in the microwave, starting at a medium heat, and set the timer for 35 seconds. Flip the press over, and microwave for an additional 20 seconds; check it, then microwave 20 seconds more. Remove.
Set the flower between sheets of paper, and weight with a book until completely dry, about 1 hour. Once pressed, store your flowers in protected Avery sheets or in an airtight plastic bag away from direct light.