Picture-perfect petals

Summer is in full bloom. From fragrant rose bushes to colorful petunias and graceful ferns, nature is putting on a beautiful show for us. Why not preserve a little bit of summer by collecting some flowers or leaves and pressing them to create dried botanicals for use in a craft project?

Pressing flowers is an easy activity in which kids can participate from start to finish. Here is a step-by-step guide to pressing flowers, plus some ideas on how to use them.

Pressing flowers

1 The first step is choosing appropriate flowers to press and dry. Full flowers with lots of dimension like roses or peonies won’t work well. Choose flat, single-layered flowers such as cosmos, pansies, verbena or blue bells. Intricately patterned leaves or delicate ferns also work well. Pick unblemished blooms that aren’t damp from rain, watering or morning dew. Pressed flowers can fade over time, so choose brightly hued blooms. Be mindful of where you pick your flowers. Talk to your child about where it is appropriate to pick flowers, and more importantly, where it is not appropriate to pick flowers (such as the neighbor’s flower beds or on a visit to the conservatory). If you don’t have a good source for picked flowers, use a bouquet purchased from a local florist or farmer’s market instead.

2 You could use a plant press from a craft store to make your pressed flowers if you have one, but a heavy book like a dictionary will do the job. Gather together the flowers to be pressed and two pieces of plain white paper to protect the book because the colors in the flowers may stain slightly. Arrange the flowers on one piece of paper in the middle of the book, cover with another piece of paper and close the book. Leave the book undisturbed for a week to 10 days—no peeking!3

After the appropriate amount of time has passed, slowly open the book to check on the pressed flowers. They should be completely dry. If they aren’t, close the book and give them a few more days. Dried petals and leaves are very delicate so use care in removing them (always dry more than you need because some may get damaged while handling them). Use a tweezers to lay the pressed flowers out on a workspace to begin your project.

Once your dried botanicals are ready to work with, use your imagination to create a project that best fits your child’s age and interests. Here are three kid-friendly project ideas to get you started.

A flower frame

Use your pressed flowers to decorate a picture frame. This project is a unique way to remember a special family outing or vacation. While on a nature hike or trip to the beach, pick a few flowers along the way as mementoes of the experience. Tuck them into a book to keep them intact and start the pressing process. Snap a photograph to mark the occasion. Once you have returned home and allowed your flowers to dry completely, choose a picture frame a size bigger than your photo (for example, use a 5×7-inch frame for a 4×6-inch photograph). Place your photograph in the frame. Gently slide the dried flowers around the picture in whatever pattern you choose.

Note cards

Pressed flowers can be used to decorate note cards to send to family and friends. Arrange the flowers in whatever pattern you like and secure with craft glue. For example, I made a bouquet of blue bells and added a thin ribbon tied in a bow as decoration.

Decorate a candle

No need to buy a fancy, dried botanical candle—make your own with your little ones. Choose a pillar candle in whatever size you want to work with. Cover the candle in a thin layer of craft glue with a paint brush. Apply your dried flowers or leaves to the wet glue and let dry. Ferns worked really well for this project. Homemade botanical candles make wonderful gifts.

For additional project ideas using pressed flowers, visit the Web site Preserved Gardens at http://www.preservedgardens.com/projects/index.htm.

To press flowers

  • Selection of flowers
  • A heavy book, such as a phone book or dictionary
  • Several sheets of plain white paper
  • Tweezers (optional)

    Frame project

  • A double-sided glass or plastic picture frame
  • A photograph

    Note cards

  • Cardstock paper in the size and color of your choice to make note cards
  • Craft glue
  • Thin ribbon (optional)

    Decorate a candle

  • A 3×3-inch candle or larger
  • Craft glue
  • Paint brush

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