The gentle flow of flower pressing

May 29, 2022

Sometimes, when our heads are full of thoughts and concerns, we need more than a passive activity to distract us. But worries are tiring and can leave us too exhausted to do anything energetic in the garden. The gentle flow of flower pressing has all the qualities needed to grab your attention, take you away and let your eyes settle on the easy tones of nature whilst providing a creative outlet too.

A range of flowers laid out on a bench ready for pressing

Pressing flowers and leaves isn’t difficult, it doesn’t require specialist equipment or knowledge and you don’t even need a garden to do it. If you have a window box or pots you can grow plants and there you have your material. If you don’t have any of those things you can forage, making sure you don’t pick anything that is endangered or rare and only taking a few flowers and leaves from large populations,leaving plenty behind (The Woodland Trust has great guidance on this). I actually do this when picking from my own garden too. For pressing you can buy an actual flower press or you can use books or anything flat and fairly heavy.

Close up of blue flag irises with other flowers in the background

The best time to pick flowers for pressing is in the morning after the sun has coaxed the petals open but before it takes the vibrancy from the plants with its midday heat. How opportune, as this is a really nice way to start the day and doesn’t demand that we have to be up and out too early.

Flowers on white paper in a flower press

Choosing flowers to press is the first part that gets us into the practice of noticing. Notice which flowers are bright and fresh. Are they damaged? What colours are they? What markings do they have? What form might they take once pressed flat? How might their richness or brightness change? How to they differ from each other? Considering these things move around the plant or plants and pick the flowers and leaves you want to use. You may well find that after a short time your head is no longer buzzing, your breathing is easier and your heart rate slower. Looking at the details of nature whilst hearing the birds sing or breeze blowing through the trees and smelling the sweet blossom all have a calming effect on our bodies and minds. Remember to take care and any precautions if you have pollen allergies.

Petals on white paper waiting to be pressed

Once you’ve gathered your flowers and leaves, it’s time to press them. Better to do it now so that they don’t wilt. You’ll need a layer of cardboard, a few layers of plain white paper, the flowers, more paper and another later of card, effectively making a kind of sandwich. Work through the steps of checking each flower again before placing on the paper. As you lay them down make a pattern or little view that’s pleasing to your eye. Do you want to preserve the flower as a whole or individual petals? Stalks on or off? Take your time, allow yourself to be aborbed by the activity and the repetetive rhythm. Add another layer and so on.

Flower press from above and from the sides to see the layers of paper and card

Unless you have lots of experience and know which flowers press well, some of your choices may not work out. That’s OK, the process is what counts here. The flowers that press beautifully you can keep and use in other projects, such as saving in a journal or making a framed picture – a snapshot of that moment in time. What was going on for you then? How have things changed? Understanding the certainty that time always passes as the flowers told us so.

Some tips for flower pressing:

  • Make sure flowers are dry when you press them to avoid mould setting in.
  • Avoid damaged or decaying plant material as it won’t keep well.
  • Relocate any insects so there are no flower pressing casualties.
  • Use cardboard that allows air flow (see the picture above) and paper that soaks up moisture from the flowers.
  • Press similar thickness of flowers together to ensure pressing happens evenly
  • Make sure flowers aren’t touching each other when laid on the paper. It will be difficult to separate them later without damaging them.
  • Leave them for at least seven days in the press before you peek.
  • Here are great guides on how to use a flower press and how to press using books