Flower Preservation

February 11, 2009 at 8:38 PM (Floral Design)

Drying flowers and foliage preserves the color and form. When selecting flowers, it is important to select them at the right time. Flowers that are over mature will deteriorate and lose color.
The following are guidelines when selecting material to be preserved:
○ Flowers should be gathered before they shed pollen
○ Seed pods, grasses, and cattails should only be dried after they release their seeds
○ Cereal grains must be preserved before they lose their grains
○ Red, gold, or yellow leaves should be removed from the tree at the peak of their color
○ All material to be dried should be gathered when the material is free of dew
Once the material has been selected, the stems must be submerged in water around 110 degrees Fahrenheit, then placed in the floral cooler over night. Then proceed to preserve the flowers by hanging, pressing, burial, or glycerin infusion.

Drying by Hanging
Dry by hanging typically takes two weeks and some petal color will be lost and foliage may curl. The individual stems are then hung upside down in a cool, dry, and dark area. Sun or fluorescent light will fade color. Cool temperatures are best to hold color; a hot environment such as an attic can give the flowers an unnatural appearance. Ornamental grasses can be dried by placing them up right in a coffee container and spraying them with a light coating of plastic or shellac sealer. Ornamental grasses with cottony tops can be dipped in Tempra paint and then sprayed with hair spray to give them color. Seed pods and Cones should be dipped in polyurethane to prevent them from shedding seeds

Drying by Pressing
Deciduous foliage is typically preserved by pressing. When pressing material, alternating layers of paper and leaves are stacked together and weighted with boards of books to flatten leaves. This process typically takes three weeks, but the process can be sped up by changing the paper occasionally

Drying by Burial
Drying by burial is also called desiccant drying, which is the process of burying flowers in material to absorb moisture. This process protects flower color and shape

Preparing flowers
Remove the stem 1/4 inch below the calyx
– Insert a 16 gauge florist wire through the stem stub into the calyx, the calyx will shrink and secure the wire
– In a strong cardboard box, cover the bottom with a cornmeal-borax mix or silica gel
– If the flowers are single petaled or have stiff petals, place them face down in the medium
– If the flowers are more delicate, place them face up and sprinkle the material between the petals
– When using cornmeal and borax, 4 inches of material should cover the flowers
– 2 inches of silica gel should be used to cover the flowers
– Allow 10 days to 2 weeks to dry completely at room temperature
-If you use silica gel and microwave the material before sealing the containers drying time can be reduced to 2 to 3 days
– To remove the flowers once they are dry, punch holes in the bottom of the container to drain the material, then blow off excess dust on the dried material
– To be used with flowers that have closely spaced petals
– Mix one part borax with six parts cornmeal
– Do not microwave this mix
Silica Gel
– Can be reused indefinitely
– Dries quickly and retains petal color
– Mix 5 pounds fine silica gel with 1/4 pound of indicator crystals
– The crystals will change color once the material has absorbed the maximum amount of water
– The indicator can be reused if you heat it in the oven at 250 for 30 minutes
– Silica gel typically takes 6-12 days
– Time may be reduced by heating the gel at the lowest temperature for 2 hours or in a microwave for less than 2 minutes
– Rapid drying maintains colors
– Use a fine sand and dry it in the oven at 250 degrees, then mix two parts sand and one part Borax. A sand-borax mix will typically take two weeks to dry the flowers.
Cat litter can also be used as a drying material

Glycerin Infusion
Glycerin prevents foliage from becoming brittle. Woody stems are crushed with a hammer to allow better uptake of glycerin and softer material is cut at a diagonal. This process uses one part glycerin and two parts water and place the stems in 4 inches of the mix. Foliage will darken from the glycerin, but dyes can be used to change or preserve color. With glycerin infusion, preservation takes two weeks, then foliage is hung upside down to dry

Microwave drying

Microwave drying is quick, retains petal color, and results in durable dried material. To dry flowers in the microwave:
– Trim their stems to 1/2 inch long, them place the flowers on top of 1-2 inches of silica gel in a microwave safe container.
– Cover the flowers with silica gel then place the bowl in the microwave, along with a small bowl of water. The small bowl of water will prevent the flower from becoming too dry and brittle.
– Then microwave the flower from 1 to 4 minutes until the material is dry.
– Let the flowers remain in the gel for another 24 hours.
– After cleaning off the flowers, spray them with preservative and attach them to floral wire with floral tape.

Works Cited
Griner, C. (2002). Floriculture: Designing & Merchandising. Albany: Delmar Thomson Learning.
McDaniel, G. L. (1998). Floral Design & Arrangement 3rd Edition. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall.


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