Different Ways to Preserve Autumn Leaves
Preserving autumn leaves can be a very interesting task and one can even take it up as a hobby and can get children involved with the collection and preservation process. I have written a detailed hub on how to preserve autumn leaves with silica gel, and thought I will publish one on the other simple methods too. Silica gel can be expensive to buy and hence if not affordable, one can follow the other methods mentioned here.
These methods do not apply only to autumn leaves, but can be used to preserve any leaf that is capable of being preserved. Even flowers can be preserved using these methods!
The various methods that can be used to preserve autumn leaves are:
- Silica Gel (Normal and microwave process)
- Pressing with weight
- Pressing in between wax paper
- Drying in Microwave
- Using Beeswax or paraffin wax
The method of preserving autumn leaves or in general other leaves using Silica Gel has been discussed in another hub in detail. Please follow the link below to get there.
How to preserve autumn leaves using Silica
In the above process Silica gel is spread on a container (microwave safe if using microwave) about one inch in height. The leaves are spread on top of Silica and then again another layer of Silica gel of same thickness is spread taking care not to fold the leaves. This is left aside for a few days, sealed airtight, or if using a microwave, it is micro waved for 2 to 3 minutes checking every 30 seconds to 1 minute to see if the leaf is dry.
The poetic autumn
Let us now have a look at the different other methods that can be used to preserve the leaves. You can try all the different methods as each one will give you a different result and feel to the leaves.
Note: Make sure that you always use the best leaves that are fresh and taken straight off the trees, free from infections and other faults and deficiencies. Try your best not to use leaves that have fallen to the ground, as there are chances that they have already started to dry or rot or stepped on by people or might even be infected. Also check to see that the leaves are neat and free of dirt and dust. It is good to cut branches in the evening after the sun has gone down. Do not use leaves that have gone through a frost
Caution: It is always best to have the children under supervision while this activity is in progress. Do not leave them unattended as there are chances of them getting hurt or consuming the non-edible items.
Method: Using Glycerine to preserve leaves
In this method, glycerine is the medium used to preserve the leaves.
- Glycerine (available in supermarkets, pharmacies)
- Flat pans or plates or dishes
- Autumn leaves or leaves if you are pressing other leaves
- Mix one part of glycerine with two parts of water.
- Prepare solutions (Glycerine + water) just enough for the leaves to submerge
- Pour this solution into a flat plate or pan or dish
- Place the leaves into this solution
- Make sure that the leaves are submerged in the solution otherwise use another slightly smaller dish on top to press them down, or you can use small pebbles or marbles to hold them down
- Leave it like this for 2 to 7 days, depending on the thickness of the leaf and its texture.
- Once done, take them out of the solution, pat them dry gently with a paper towel
- The leaves are ready to be used, and they should be flexible
Using Glycerine to preserve stems:
- Glycerine (available in supermarkets, pharmacies)
- Autumn leaves or leaves if you are pressing other leaves
- Pruning clippers
- Bucket or a big mug or glass tumbler depending on purpose
Note: Get branches that have a good number of leaves and the leaves should not have gone through a frost as this method does not work with those leaves. Cut branches at night or after sun down. Choose leaves that have bright and brilliant colours. Leaves can turn darker as glycerine tends to darken the colour of leaves and hence choose light coloured leaves. You can use dark coloured ones if you like a rustic colour.
- Cut the branches from the trees using the pruning clippers and leave them in a bucket of warm water for sometime
- Combine one part of glycerine with two parts of water and add 3 to 4 drops of surfactant (helps to break down glycerine molecules enabling penetration into the stems easy)
- Now remove the branches from water and use a hammer to smash the end of the branches, so that the internal system of the branches are exposed, allowing easy flow of the solution up the stems
- Now stand the branches in this solution for a few days (3 to 5 days) away from sunlight. The leaves will draw up the glycerine.
- Once dew drops start forming on the leaves, it means that they have absorbed all the glycerine they can
- You can also feel that by touching the leaves
- Wipe the leaves and dry the branches by hanging them upside down
- Branches from some trees may take a few weeks before they are ready to be used.
- Keeps the leaves flexible
- The leaf’s original form, shape and texture are maintained as natural moisture present in the leaves are replaced by glycerine.
- You can have a branch of leaves as such to make wreaths or use them in flower arrangements or in garlands
- These leaves last for years
- Consumes time
- One has to wait for days before the leaves are ready for use.
- Leaves change colour
- Glycerine can be sometimes hard to find
Some people can be allergic to glycerine, so it is better to wear gloves while working with it.
Method: Pressing using wax paper
In this method, wax papers are used to dry the leaves for preservation.
- Wax paper
- Thin towel or cotton cloth
- Ironing board
- Autumn leaves or any other leaves
- Take two sheets of wax paper
- Lay them flat on the ironing board that has an old unwanted cloth on it, so that wax does not spoil your ironing board
- Place the leaves flat in between the two sheets (sandwich them). It is better to use thin leaves that are low in moisture content
- Put a thin piece of cotton cloth or towel on top of this set up
- Heat the iron to medium heat and start ironing on top of this for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Now turn the wax paper set up upside down (flip) and repeat the ironing process similar to the above, by putting the cloth or towel on top of it.
- Iron for another 3 to 5 minutes.
- Lift the cloth to see if the wax in the wax paper has melted and sealed the leaves in between the papers
- The time taken depends on the thickness of the leaf.
- The wax in the wax papers would have now got stuck to the leaves and the leaves can be seen through clearly after the wax has melted.
- Once this is done, let them to cool and there are 2 ways in which these leaves can be finished off for that final look.
1) You can cut the wax paper around the leaves, leaving a margin which will seal the leaves in between the wax papers
2) Try to peel off the wax paper to see if the leaves come out perfect having a layer or coating of wax on the leaves. This has to be done before the cooling process.
- Now the leaves are ready to be used
- Simple to preserve
- Consumes less time
- Cheaper method of preservation
- The leaves last longer
- The leaves can lose their original feel or texture
- Decolourisation or change in colour is possible
- Care need to be taken while using the iron
- Children cannot be asked to proceed with this activity all by themselves and they need to be supervised, but it is best for an adult to help them with the ironing process
This method uses a microwave to dry the leaves for preservation.
- Paper towels
- Acrylic spray or spray glaze (available in craft stores and in some hardware stores)
- Autumn leaves or any other leaves that you would like to preserve
- Take two paper towels
- Lay two paper towels flat on the microwave plate and arrange the leaves on top of it. Choose fresh leaves
- Place another paper towel on top of the leaves to cover them.
- Set the microwave to medium
- Microwave the leaves for 30 seconds and check to see if the leaves are dry and if not, microwave for another 30 seconds.
- Take care and check the leaves every few seconds to see if they are dry
- Leaves continue to dry for some more time even after taken out of the oven, so one needs to be very careful
- Take utmost care as dry leaves if left for a long time can catch fire
- Also if you leave them for more time than needed, they get burnt and their colour can change
- Once done, take the leaves out and cool for a few hours or may be even a day.
- Spray the leaves with acrylic spray, which will act as a sealant. Spray on both sides.
- This is a very quick and easy procedure
- Very economical as the only item you need to purchase is the acrylic spray
- Leaves do not have the feel of the real fresh leaves
- Care has to be taken not to burn the leaves
- Microwaves have to be handled with care
- Children should be kept away from them and not allowed on their own to operate the microwave
Method: With weight
In this method, weight is used to press the leaves. This method is suitable for semi dry leaves and thin leaves.
- Heavy books or Weights or rocks
- Spray glaze or sealer
- Petroleum jelly (gives a supple feel to the leaves)
- Take 2 sheets of news paper
- Place leaves between the 2 sheets (sandwich) of news paper taking care that the leaves do not get folded
- Leaves can be coated with petroleum jelly to get a soft feel after drying
- Place this set up into a heavy book
- If not using a book, weights can be placed directly on top of the newspaper set up
- For more weight, place more books on top or weights or rocks.
- Keep this set up in a dry place for about a week.
- Check after a week to see if the leaves are dry, if not, keep back for another week.
- Keep checking every two days to make sure that the leaves are drying as some leaves tend to rot especially if too moist or thick.
- This dried leaf can be sprayed with spray glaze or sealer to give a shine and will also help to keep it in tact by sealing.
- The simplest and easiest method
- Costs nothing
- Leaves do not last long compared to the preserved leaves
- Leaves do not look pretty compared to the leaves preserved using other methods
- Leaves are flat and dry and can crumble easily
- While handling heavy books, weights and rocks, care needs to be taken not to get hurt by dropping, especially the children.
Preserving leaves using wax paper and beeswax
Method: Using beeswax or paraffin wax
In this method, beeswax or paraffin wax is melted in a double boiler (ordinary pan if double boiler not available) and leaves are dipped in the wax and preserved.
- Beeswax or paraffin wax
- Double boiler or pan
- Autumn leaves or any leaves
- Take beeswax in a double boiler and melt it. If you do not have a double boiler, you can use a pan too
- Dip the leaves in the wax one leaf at a time so that it forms a thin coating on top of the leaf. Hold on for 30 seconds till the excess wax drip off and the remaining wax dry.
- If you need a firm leaf, you can dip it a second time (double coat) in wax
- Allow the wax to solidify and place them on a tray or sheet of paper. It is best to hang them with cloth pins
- The leaves look like real leaves and feel like plastic
- Beeswax is translucent, so the real colours of the leaves are seen
- Beeswax smell good
Disadvantages + Hazards:
- Needs supervision from adults as hot wax can cause burns
The leaves are placed in between the laminating sheets and laminated
- Laminating sheets
- Laminating machine
- Pressed dry / semi-dry autumn or other leaves
- Place flat dry / semi-dry autumn leaves in between the laminating sheets as you would laminate documents in general.
- Leave space in between the leaves, so that they are sealed perfectly.
- Run this through the laminating machine
- Once laminated, allow to cool for some time and cut around the leaves leaving a little border around
- Simple method
- Easy to preserve
- Leaves need to be pressed and dried before laminating
- Leaves do not look like original leaves
- Care has to be taken while operating the laminating machine.
- Children should not be left with the machine unattended
Decorations and craft using autumn leaves
While autumn leaves can be preserved in so many ways, these leaves can be used for crafts and decorations in so many ways. You can go creative and create your own ideas of what to do with these leaves.
Thank you for reading.
I hope you enjoyed reading this hub and also hope that it was useful and informative. I am sure many of you will have experiences of preserving leaves or flowers. Please feel free to share your experiences, ideas, thoughts and feedback. I have not laid hands on any advanced techniques, except the pressing and ironing methods.
If you feel that there is something that can be added to the hub, please leave a comment below or contact me.
Thank you again.