Pressed Flower Mementos
I glance at a framed picture on the wall. These lyrics play in my mind: "Pressed in the pages of some aging text, lies an old lily, a-fading..."
A couple years back, I had an old friend visiting. While I worked on articles, he would take walks around the U-District and (once) into the Ravenna and Green Lake areas. He picked up blossoms on a couple of those excursions, among them, great big rhododendron blossoms that had fallen to the sidewalk.
He pressed them in my books. Most went home with him to make framed art for friends and family. But he made one for me, coloring with my pastels to make a backdrop for his design, arranging and rearranging the petals. Until they were perfect.
Perfect for a moment in time.
Although it's only been two years, a lot of fading has taken place. Already the picture shows far more wear than the handful of Pima cotton I was handed in a car so long ago.. handed over casually with, I feel sure, no expectation, I would keep it all these years. lt's not entirely his fault, the fading of those flowers. He was working under serious time constraint. His flowers had little time to press before they became art. Compounding the matter, a lot of them were foundlings, not in prime condition. And until recently, my friend's designs had mostly been limited to tile.
I remember: We meandered through Pike Place Market, and once or twice, he stopped to look at pressed flower art, taking inspiration for his designs. I doubt he gave much thought to how they would look beyond that week, or month.
But I'm pondering it now as I browse the internet. As I pick up rhododendron petals.
So here it is: what was known once, and what is known now.
Images by the author
Painting a Fallen Rhododendron Petal - An Urban Flower Pressing Tale
I picked up this rhododendron blossom on the walkway outside the library. It was soft enough when I got home that I could flatten it without doing any snipping. When I looked at it a day later, I was startled to see a couple of tiny specks... crawling. That may happen more with blossoms that aren't in prime condition. Some sources say to only pick what is in prime condition -- that it will keep better. That isn't always feasible, however, in an urban setting. (Moreover, if you consider the matter from the flower's perspective...)
To continue the tale: After a little over a week had passed, the blossom was looking more chipper. I took it out and tried dabbing some paint on the blemishes. It was an idea I had gotten off the internet -- color a petal by dabbing on craft acrylic. I opted to just dab a bit here and there on the blemishes and leave most of it au natural. Applying floral dye all over a flower can keep it from fading. But I just don't know about doing that. I mean, makeup is one thing -- but a whole new face?
The blossom is back in the book now -- tucked away after its photo shoot. That's another thing I read: The flower should spend quite a long time in a dark place. Eight days is not ideal. A month is better.
The two rhododendron blossoms that I picked up more recently -- one from the same tree as this one, the other from a nearby pink-white shrub -- don't seem to be harboring anything but their own sweet selves.
Pressing Flowers 2011 - Lots of Blossoms, Little Time
What Do You Do When You're Pressed for Time? - Rhododendron/ Azalea Pressing with a Little Help from the Microwave
This is something that that might have helped my friend press those rhododendron blossoms quickly and preserve their colors on into the future. I think the browning indicates there was too much exposure to the elements early on.
Most microwave pressing instructions call for some sort of equipment, either bought or constructed. But this woman is using stuff that most of us tend to have lying around. (She does do a bit of book pressing at the onset.) She's working with azaleas, which are not unlike rhododendrons. She starts out like my friend did: by making a little cut in the blossom to flatten it. (Sigh.)
This is a beginner's tutorial -- ideal for tile artists from the desert who find themselves transplanted to the Northwest in June and find themselves uttering, "I must construct something from flowers. Now."
Microwave Pressing Resources
I gather that microwave pressing does more than expedite the process -- it can help preserve the colors, too.
The book below does not contain a lot of detailed information about constructing a press, but it has a tremendous wealth of information about the process of pressing flowers (including the old-fashioned method without the radiation).. It also has some record sheets that you can use to perfect your own art.
And if you want to buy your equipment...
What Would You Try?
To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't have felt comfortable microwaving the little purple blossom. Yet I know there are times when the method really works for what people are doing.
So if the traditional method won't meet your needs...
What method would you be most apt to try?
More Tips for Getting Started
- The Basics, from Preserved Gardens
A solid page of the basics (small print!) covering both microwave and book pressing.
- Preserving the Color, from GardenWeb
A forum thread about color preservation.
- Q and A, from Greeting of Grace
This response notes that coloring is among the options for preventing fading.
More of This June's Rhododendron Blossoms - All Foundlings!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rhododendrons capture my heart in a way that hydrangea don't. I have been a rhododendron my entire time writing on this site. (I didn't select the profile picture just for this occasion.)
But when it comes to pressing, hydrangea just may win -- at least with those of us who are beginners. The rhododendrons have huge, lush blossoms in three dimensions. But those bitty little hydrangea blossoms are pretty flat. And they come though the drying process looking... well, like themselves. Darling little selves that look good in cards or scrapbook pages.
Puget Sound Florals
One is not, incidentally, supposed to remove anything one picks up at Discovery Park. It is not the true wilderness. I may mention that to my friend the next time. At one point, he was maneuvering around a sign to pick up something, or get a better look. I called his attention to what the sign said: no one beyond that point.
Flower Petals in Unlikely Places
I spotted this in the Goodwill recently. I thought of my friend stopping to admire the pressed flower art in Pike's Market -- and of carrying home the discards and bits of bramble. Here's a use for them.
Pressed Flower Tile
I wondered: Could a person combine flowering pressing and tile? Apparently yes. But I don't imagine you'd want those tiles out in the sun!
- Making Pressed Flower Tile
Decoupage over slate!
Tile from Plant Matter
Pressed Flower Memories
This video won't teach you anything about actually pressing flowers, but it is good mood music for the endeavor! There aren't many lyrics presented, but the stanza about pressing flowers is printed on the screen. And there are some images of pressed (and faded) flowers.
There seems to be a personal story here.
A Flower Press to Paint
I hear flower presses do save time -- even if they don't go into the microwave. I thought of my niece when I saw this one. How fun for a creative child: Paint it first!
The problem is they don't have a lot of flowers out there in the Sonora Desert.
I got the impulse to check on -- and take a picture of -- an old corsage.
Some of the things I saw around it... ah, I had not been thinking of them, but when I saw them, I knew this page had to be written.
I haven't been to many concerts -- so expensive for a single night, a single listen! But look: Dan Fogelberg, Desert Sky Pavilion, July 14,1992.
But what was the white fluffy stuff snagging the corsage? Was it supposed to be there? And then I remembered: a handful of Pima cotton, picked up be a dear one on his meanderings, handed to me carelessly in a car... ... It would have been one of two people. Part of me wants to say it was Person #2, perhaps because of the remembered emotion. But Pima cotton... a car... I think it was given to me by the friend I was referencing on this page.
It's been a long, long time since we sat around a coffee table on -- Was it Tuesday nights? -- reading the things we'd written. I was a little more than a girl. He was older than me by a dozen years. I didn't quite propose. The closest anyone came to actually suggesting he should marry me was an acquaintance at a house warming party. "Now all you need is a wife," she said.
No, I didn't quite propose. But I did enough to open up a bit of a divide... for a few years. A partial divide. Now if you're like me, you can always go back to the most intense thing you've ever known. But you can't necessarily go back when there's been something more intense in the interim.
The window was open for a few years -- just a little less time than the divide.
Some arts take longer than flower pressing. And in some, timing is even more tricky.
I'll end on this tribute. In addition to the lines about the faded lily, we have this, from Souvenirs:
Here is a poem that my lady sent down
One morning while I was away
Wrote on the back of a leaf that she found...
(And if you're going to do that before pressing, I recommend acid-free gel pens.)
Now here is a sunrise to set on your sill...