Growing up, I remember looking at the knick-knacks on my mother and grandmother’s tables and there were always dehydrated flowers, in part or in whole, some framed, some sandwiched between pages of books and forgotten. At an early age, my mother taught my sisters and me how to press a flower. There was nothing fancy about it and I’m sure Martha Stewart wouldn’t be impressed.
There are a few different ways to press a flower: a traditional flower press, the handing press, a microwave press and the book method. The easiest and most cost effective way is the book method. Any method you choose keeps the flower’s color and shape intact by flattening and drying out the flower.
You can press several flowers at once with the book method, just ensure there’s a chunk of pages no less than ½ inch thick between flowers. If you have pick a flower that tends to bleed color easily, line the pages of your book on either side of the flower with wax paper. This keeps the flower from being damaged and helps in lifting it from the page with less “sticking.” If you intentionally choose a flower that bleeds, you can line the pages with a handkerchief to leave an impression. The handkerchief can be framed and used as a knick-knack.
Pick flowers when fully in bloom, as that’s when their color is brightest, and make sure they’re dry. You can keep the leaves attached or not, depending on the look you want. You can either choose a flower that can easily be opened up and laid flat to expose the center or you can choose a flower that can be folded over.
In both cases, a flower such as an Indian Blanket (also known as a firewheel) or a morning glory works best. Not only are these bright and colorful, but they are also native to Texas and therefore easy to cultivate and maintain; they offer natural healing benefits as well. The Kiowa Indians believed the Indian Blanket brought good luck when placed in a home. Parts of the flower and stem were used to relieve headaches of early colonists. The morning glory was used by the Houma Indian of Louisiana to cure snakebites.
If you use a flower with a conical or fuller base, like a rose, it’s best to press the petals by themselves, instead of the whole flower. You can also use fern, sprigs of other greenery or baby’s breath to add a touch more of the natural element for arrangement’s sake.
Lay the flower open-faced or folded, between the lined pages of the book and close. Wait two weeks before opening the book to check on the progress. However, if you use a handkerchief as a liner, check every couple of days to ensure the impression hasn’t smeared. Remove the handkerchief once desired imprint is achieved, and then place blank paper on either side of the flower to take its place.
After three weeks you can remove the flower and use in your own knick-knacks.
If you’d like to learn more about Native American folklore and native wildflowers, while passing the tradition of story-telling on to your children and grandchildren, take a look at Bloomin’ Tales: Legends of Seven Favorite Texas Wildflowers in which Joy Fisher Hein illustrates the enchanting tales of Cherie Foster Colburn.
Bright Sky Press
Where Texas meets Books. Wildflowers & Folklore.