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How to Press Flowers, According to a Flower Artist

Photo: Kate Cadbury

Over the past few weeks, many of us have been on the hunt for things to keep our hands occupied, so as to avoid frantically scrolling through Twitter. In order to provide suitably engaging suggestions (that’ll yield genuinely successful results), we at the Strategist have consulted a slew of experts on everything from how to bead a bracelet (according to designer Susan Alexandra), to advice for the novice needlepointer (by way of Parker Posey, noted needlepoint obsessive). After spotting London-based artist Kate Cadbury’s beautiful pressed violets and daisies on Instagram, we decided to ask her how to properly press a flower. Cadbury, it turns out, has been pressing flowers for most of her life — she walked us through which flowers to use, and exactly what you’ll need (a lot of the supplies, as it turns out, are things you might already have at home).

The best flowers to press are ones that have only a single layer of petals. For example, pansies and violas have just the two or three petals to form the flower head — those will take the shortest amount of time to press, as little as two weeks. Daisies work well, too. These are also all plants you could grow in a window box, if you live somewhere without much outdoor space. If you’re pressing cut flowers, you could try using an anemone, which come in different varieties of colors — you can also try pressing the petals of roses. How much color the flowers will retain after pressing depends on how long they’ve been in bloom. The best flower to press is one that literally just opened up; one that’s been in bloom for a few days will be less vibrant. The fresher the plant, the fresher the color.

To press the flowers, you make a little stack, almost like a sandwich. You put a heavier piece of cardboard on the bottom, and then at least five sheets of newspaper on top of that. Then put down a layer of blotting paper to absorb any extra moisture from the plant. I personally like to put a piece of parchment paper on top of that, because the petals become so delicate and fine when they’re pressed that when you open the press and take them out sometimes they’ll tear — parchment paper is oil resistant and waxy, so it helps the petal glide right off. On top of the flower, put more blotting paper, newspaper, and cardboard, and then put the “sandwich” in your press. I tend to leave the plants in the press as long as possible, three weeks to a month. And I try not to peak because that only disturbs the process.

I’ve made my own flower presses that are 20-by-20 inches because I wanted to press bigger species of plants. However, smaller flower presses are more than fine for most small blooms, and are readily available online. If you don’t want to buy a flower press, you really can just your “sandwich” in the middle of a heavy book on top of the stack you’ve made. I like to then put the book back in my bookshelf and forget about it — that way, one day I know I’ll take the book out, and lo and behold, the pressed petals will fall out. I quite like the magic in a moment like that.

One of Cadbury’s pressed poppies. Photo: Kate Cadbury

I think receiving something in the post is a lovely thing, especially now during this time when we’re at home and isolated, and you wanted to be connected to those you aren’t seeing. Once the pressed flowers are done, you can take your flower and glue it to a bit of card stock — most clear, waterproof glues will work. Just be careful to add the glue sparingly and carefully, as the tackiness can pull the petals (remember, once the plant is pressed it’s very delicate). What’s really special about flower pressing is that lots of people buy and give bouquets of flowers for holidays and birthdays, but preserved flowers last forever — they can be framed and treasured.

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How to Press Flowers, According to a Flower Artist