Preserving Fresh Flowers

Fresh flowers make short-lived but heartfelt gifts. However, fresh flowers can be preserved so people can enjoy them for a much longer stretch of time, even for years. Dried flowers can be used to enhance vases, baskets, display shelves and shadow boxes. They can even be added to fresh flower arrangements. Dried flowers are excellent in wreaths, or affixed to gift boxes. Dried flower petals can become lovely potpourri as well. You can try several methods of drying and preserving flowers. Here are some of the most popular:

Hanging. The simplest way to dry flowers is simply to remove the leaves, tie the stems together and hang them upside-down in a warm, dry, dark place. Letting them dry slowly in this way will allow the moisture content to drop without losing the color of the petals. This method takes one to two weeks and is ideally done in an attic or closet. Some flowers should be hung before they are fully opened, as they will continue to open during the drying process.

Glycerine. When flowers are healthy and fresh, mix lukewarm water with glycerine (two parts water, one part glycerine), and put the flowers in a vase in this solution instead of water. The glycerine will travel through the stems to the petals and leaves and preserve them in a supple state. Ordinary car antifreeze will also act as a preservative in this way.

Pressing. Many varieties of flowers are easily preserved by pressing. Although this makes the flowers flat, the coloring is preserved, and they may be used for decorative purposes or potpourri arrangements. Spread the flowers so that they are not overlapping each other, between layers of newsprint or an old telephone book. Then apply a board or piece of cardboard over the top, and weigh them down with a heavy object. This will take two to three weeks. Store them there until needed, or place them into an airtight container when dry.

Microwave Drying. Drying flowers in a microwave takes only a few minutes and keeps the flowers looking fresher and more colorful than some of the other methods. To keep their shape, place flowers in a liquid mixture before placing them in the microwave oven. Silica gel is an ideal choice, but borax mixtures and moistened clay cat litter are also effective. Place the flowers and material into microwave-safe containers, uncovered. Set a small cup of water in the microwave before cooking to prevent excessive drying. Cooking time varies according to the size and moisture content of the flower, but in general it should be between 90 seconds and 3 minutes.

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