Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

Flower Press

by cathym on July 29, 2019

by Cathy Monrad

Edibles are not the only “fruits of our labor” we can preserve. Four thousand years ago, dried flowers, each chosen for a specific symbolic meaning, were presented in Egyptian funeral ceremonies. Oshibana, the art of using pressed flowers to create a picture, dates back to 16th century Japan. Modern preservation techniques include the use of silica gel, freeze drying, and molecular sieve, a material that absorbs water to dehydrate the plant.

According to floranext.com, displaying dried flowers is popular again. Arrangements and wreaths, as well as framed or shadow-box art created with dried and pressed flora are hot décor items. As a fresh spin on this trend, clear cell phone cases that can display pressed flowers are popular among Millennials.

MATERIALS
2 equal size pieces of wood
4 each: 1/4 inch carriage bolts at least 2 inches long, washers, wing nuts Cardboard
Watercolor paper (or white paper)
Paint or stain (optional)
Flowers and leaves

TOOLS
Saw (optional)
Pencil
Ruler or t-square
Clamps or painter’s tape
Drill with 1/4 and 5/16 inch bits
Sandpaper
X-acto knife
Screwdriver

Step 2
Step 3
Step 9
Step 10 – First paper layer with plant material
Step 10 – Second paper layer
Step 10 – Cardboard layer
Step 11

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cut wood to desired size (your local hardware store may offer this service) or use pre-cut pieces—I found pre-sanded 8×10 inch plywood boards in a local craft store.
  2. Stack both pieces of wood, then clamp or tape together. With pencil, make a mark on top board in each corner, 1 inch from each edge.
  3. With 1/4 inch bit, drill a hole through both boards in each corner where marked.
  4. Remove clamps or tape, then set bottom board aside. On top board only, use drill with 5/16 inch bit to enlarge the 1/4 inch holes.
  5. Use sandpaper to smooth off any rough edges on top and bottom boards.
  6. If you wish to paint or stain your project, do so at this time. Let dry according to material instruction.
  7. Use an X-acto knife to cut multiple cardboard pieces about ¼ inch shorter in length and width than your boards. Repeat with watercolor paper. Each layer consists of two pieces of paper, then a piece of cardboard is placed between the layers. For example, six layers requires 12 pieces of paper and five pieces of cardboard.
  8. Use x-acto knife to notch all corners of each piece of paper and cardboard to fit inside bolts.
  9. Use screwdriver to afix bolts to bottom board until heads are snug. 
  10. Lay a piece of paper on bottom board, then add plant material. Lay a second piece of paper on top of plant material followed by a piece of cardboard. Repeat the paper, plants, paper, cardboard pattern. The final paper layer will not need a piece of cardboard on top. 
  11. Slide the top board onto the bolts, then add a washer to each bolt. Thread a wing nut onto each bolt and tighten evenly to create uniform pressure. 
  12. Leave press undisturbed for at least 30 days before removing and using pressed material.

PRESSING TIPS
– Collect plant material on dry days after mid-morning when dew has evaporated, and place in press before they begin to wilt. 
– When placing plant material, keep items from overlapping, otherwise when they dry they will be stuck together permanently.

DESIGNER IDEA
I decided to spruce up my press and display it when not serving its true purpose. Some stain and a piece of botanical scrapbook paper transformed this tool into a pretty addition to my living room décor.

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and garden crafter for the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.

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