I am Nicky, the owner of VELT Designs, based in the sunny town of Cape Town, South Africa. I press and preserve plants as a business and run local workshops to showcase and educate people on the step-by-step process of pressing plants. I also sell beautifully handcrafted flower presses and botanical glass wall hangings.
To press or preserve plants or flowers is a lovely activity to do on your own or with your kids and there is no need for expensive equipment too.
In this short tutorial, I am going to explain the basic principles of flower pressing.
When pressing fresh flowers from your garden or pots, it is important to ensure that the flowers are at the right stage of their lifespan. If you harvest from your garden, try not to cut flowers that are still damp from the morning dew or late afternoon after a day of sun. It’s best to cut them early morning but once they have dried off from any residue. Florist bought flowers shouldn’t be an issue as these would be pre-cut and not wet from outdoors. Don’t leave them until they are wilting or almost dried up as this won’t allow the colours to preserve well.
There are a number of methods to dry and preserve flowers but my two favorites are the traditional methods, but these need patience!
Traditional Flower Press
A traditional flower press (like the image above), is made up of layers of wood and absorbent paper. The layering technique of bolting it all down with nut bolts is then how you press your plants of flowers.
Probably the simplest and most affordable way to press flowers is by using an old book or telephone book. It’s best when the pages are not glossy but rather an older book where the paper is absorbent. Some of the flower colouring can mark the pages, so be sure it’s not your favourite book from the shelf.
Once you have your pressing method organised and close on hand, the next step would be to prep your flowers. Use a sharp pair of scissors or an NT cutter and carefully remove any of the greenery from the base of the flower head or floral receptacle. This cleans any bits of the flower head that you don’t necessarily need and also keeps it as clean as possible to avoid mould due to excess moisture, during the pressing process.
You can keep the stem as long as you want but if it is too thick it is sometimes useful to slice this in half. The flower head and the stem needs to be flat and at the same level. If you press the stem and it is raised higher than the flower head with its petals, the pressure from the press won’t press the flower head and only the stem. The flower head is the most important part and also the most delicate.
The other option is to remove the stem completely and press it separately and when you are at the stage of composing your pressed flower in a frame or on a card, you can then reassemble the stem to look like it is still attached to the flower head. The option is yours.
Also make sure you have all the petals flat and not curled over when you are about the lay the pages in your book or layered pressing pages and wood slats in your press.
Once you have prepped your plants and laid them out in your press or book, it is important to check that there is adequate space next to each specimen so they don’t touch each other. If they do touch, it will be quite tricky to pull them apart once they have pressed and dried. This often results in tearing your pressed specimen.
The more absorbent, the better!
It is important to always use paper that is absorbent and it is advised to check on your flowers every 2 to 3 days. If there is a lot of moisture residue coming from the plant, it is best to change the paper in your press, or very carefully move them to a clean page in your book.
The pressing can take approximately 3 weeks but this depends on what type of flower or plant you are pressing.
I preserve my pressed plants and flowers between glass but you can be creative and use any which manner to frame and hang yours.
A final thought
This is such a calming and joyful pastime to have; my favourite part is going to have a look at my flowers that I pressed. I am often blown away with the intricate details each part of the flower has. Have fun and remember to enjoy your outdoor spaces and breathe in the fresh air to stay healthy and happy. Stay safe out there everyone, hold tight, we will all soon be out of this and will all appreciate the beauty of nature just a little bit more.