Preserving Fall Leaves and Flowers
By Joan Whetzel
Here in Houston, we don't get much in the way of fall colors. In fact, the leaves are still green in October. What little that we do get in gall colors, lasts only about one week between Thanksgiving and the first week in December. It's one of those "blink and you'll miss it" events. When my siblings and I were growing up, our grandmother who lived in Ohio felt sorry that we missed "real fall." So she devised a way to send us a sample of what we were missing - fall leaves sealed in waxed paper. Every year we looked forward to those boxes with her fall treats. Here's how she did it.
For this project, you will need paper towels, waxed paper, an iron set on a low heat with no steam, an ironing board, and of course some fall leaves. (Yes we can still collect a few fall leaves here in Houston. We just have to be quick about it.)
Protecting Your Ironing Board and Iron
The purpose of this project is to preserve the leaves between waxed paper, which seals in the leaves and seals out the air. This prevents the air from aging the leave, making it turn brown and brittle. The way it works is that the iron melts the wax in the two pieces of waxed paper. Removing the heat allows the wax to cool, creating a bond or a seal between the two pieces of waxed paper. Unfortunately, the waxed paper has wax on both sides of the paper. So while you're melting the wax between the two sheets, you are also melting the wax on the outside of the waxed paper, which means that you are also waxing your ironing board and the heating surface of your iron. This will transfer on to any clothing you iron afterwards, unless you protect both surfaces. This is where the paper towels come in. The paper towels create an absorbent barrier between the ironing board and one piece of waxed paper, and another barrier between the top waxed paper and the iron.
How to Preserve your Fall Leaves
First, place two paper towels down on the ironing board. Next, place a piece of waxed paper on top of the paper towels. On top of this, layer your fall leaves (3-4 depending on the size) so that there is waxed paper all around the edges, followed by a second piece of waxed paper and two more paper towels. Turn on the iron to a low heat and make sure the steam is turned off. Gently press the leave package. Allow it to cool and examine the waxed paper to make sure it is sealed around all of the edges.
I've kept my fall leaf packages for at least 6 months, and they still retained their color. Store the, where you can pull them out to look at them from time to time, like a scrapbook or memory box. By the way, this is project is not limited to fall leaves. It can be used with pressed wild flowers and four-leaf clovers in the spring as well. I'm sure there are plenty of other things that can be sealed in this way.