Botanical Beauty – Pressing Leaves and Flowers

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The classic art of flower pressing has been resurrected in a thoroughly modern manner to include sculptural leaves and floral forms. The result is beguiling botanical beauty at its best.

SHAPE OF THINGS 

Modern pressed plants and leaf forms are as much about preserving their beauty as contributing to the interior mix. Look for graphic shapes to play with and group them in a random or orderly fashion – the effects of either is quite striking. Here, a collection of pressed leaves, including nasturtium and ferns, marries beautifully with a lush gathering of fresh leaves and potted plants, including Monstera deliciosa.

SEE THROUGH

A distinctive element of the beauty of these particular pressed leaves and plants is the way in which they have been carefully sandwiched between sheets of glass – allowing light and glimpses of the interior to filter through.  It’s a contemporary approach to the classic art of plant pressing for posterity. To enhance the ethereal nature of plants pressed between glass, choose leaves that have a transluscent element or which can be arranged to allow the viewer to ‘see through’ them.

PLANT ART

There are no hard and fast rules to decorating with pressed plants and flowers and the beauty is that they can be used to create ‘living’ artworks. Here, a mismatched collection is teamed with a sculptural hanging plant and is an attractive foil for the garden outside. Taller, sculptural plants and flowers can be used to great effect in interior settings – think fiddle-leaf fig tree (Ficus lyrata), bird of paradise (Strelitzia) and mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata). In this bedroom a pair of majestic strelitzias have been carefully dissected, then pressed to preserve their shape. Used as a headboard, the effect is one of modern-day Ikebana performing a pretty but practical function.

NATURE’S BOUNTY 

Any space is transformed into something special with the addition of fresh plants and flowers – pressed botanicals help you preserve that sense of  everyday luxury. Whether you gather leaves, sprigs or blooms from your garden or on a country or neighbourhood walk, all you need is an appreciation of colour and form and you’ll be good to go. Marrying your pressed plant displays with bulbs and succulents helps to extend the decorating-with-plants notion into a three-dimensional one.

HOW TO PRESS PLANTS

You’ll need:

  • Secateurs or scissors 
  • Vessels for sorting and storing stems in water 
  • A small roller for flattening leaves and flowers
  • A craft knife for dissecting bigger flowers like hibiscus 
  • Flower press
  • Cotton sheets/muslin/blotting paper for placing between flowers and leaves
  • Thick card as stabilisers in your press
  • Glass and/or frames

How to:

Pick flowers first thing in the morning once the dew has evaporated and when they are just opened – not at midday when they are likely to be a little past their prime.

Immediately after cutting, plunge the stems into cold water and recut the stems under water and at an angle – allow them to stand in water to absorb as much water as possible. 

Remove any stamens and wipe leaves clean

Carefully roll flowers and leaves flat with roller 

If you don’t have a press, heavy books weighted down with a brick or two will work. You’ll need absorbent/blotting paper or muslin placed between flowers – leave ½ cm between each item being pressed

Leave the press in a cool, dry place and wait a week, replacing the paper if necessary. Leave for a further 2-3 weeks.

Your flowers and/or leaves should now be ready for placement and framing.

Notes:

• Bigger leaves, flowers and plants can take 2-3 weeks to dry properly.

• Nowadays it’s possible to use a microwave to dry small blooms for pressing in just a few minutes. Visit www.microfleur.com to find out about ordering microwave friendly presses. 

• Roses are notoriously difficult to press. Look for flowers with flat petals like poppies – these are likely to give good results. Some examples of flowers that press well are tulips, cosmos, calla lilies, alstromeria, narcissus (daffodils), freesias and lisianthus. 

• Leaves that press well include those from ferns, dusty miller, Pepper Tree leaves, Monstera deliciosa and certain philodendrons. 

• Herbs and young vegetable leaves press well and look great as part of kitchen décor. 

• Pressed flowers and leaves fade with time – displaying them out of direct sunlight will prolong their life. 

• Glass is the most obvious choice for frames, but perspex is equally effective. 

Text: Vicki Sleet/Photographs: Warren Heath/ bureaux.co.za

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