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Thriving on Pressure

Princess Grace of Monaco Did It and Now You Can Too: Squeeze the Moisture From Flowers and Create Works of Art, Including Pictures, Bookmarks, Lampshades, Candles, Bookcases, Shelves . . . a Garden of Creativity

March 31, 2001|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Watching the garden fill with flowers is great fun, but how disappointing when the blooms fade.

Some crafty gardeners know how to extend the season indefinitely, though, by pressing flowers.

The art of extracting moisture from flowers and using the dried blooms for decorative purposes has been practiced through the ages, said Lynn Pitts, a Bakersfield botanical artist and garden columnist known as Mrs. P, who gives flower-pressing workshops throughout the state.

"People have been pressing flowers since the ancient Greeks, but it actually became an art form during the Renaissance," said Pitts. "Princess Grace of Monaco was a pressed-flower artist and she really inspired me. They still use her pressed-flower art on the country's stamps."

Irvine gardener Edith Malek started pressing flowers to preserve her favorite flower, clematis. The president of the American Clematis Society has since branched out to pressing other blooms. She will be giving a flower-pressing workshop April 7 at M&M Nursery in Orange.

"Pressed flowers give you a dimension to work with that is natural," said Malek, "and they can last for years."

Pitts knows of no better way to preserve the garden. "Pressed flowers allow you to create a visual history of your favorite plants," she said.

Pressed flowers can be used to decorate just about any item. Some popular objects to adorn include stationery, gardening journals, bookmarks, tissue boxes, TV trays, lampshades, lamps, candles and furniture, such as shelving, bookcases and tables.

How you press flowers depends on the tools you use. There are flower presses or you can use phone books stacked with heavy objects such as bricks. Whatever your method, your goal is to extract all of the moisture from the flower.

Pitts prefers to use a flower press and a field press to preserve her flowers.

A field press is a temporary storage gadget that begins the flattening and wicking (moisture absorption) process. You can store your flowers for up to 12 hours in a field press before transferring them to a flower press, which is long-term, stronger press. Pitts' flower press, which she sells, is large and doesn't require constant screw-tightening as do most models on the market.

Successful pressing also requires placing flowers between absorbent materials. Pitts suggests using blotter paper, although Malek finds that coffee filters also work well. Paper towels don't absorb enough moisture.

Flowers should be dry on the surface when you place them in a press or between phone books.

Pick the flowers in the middle of the day when they're dry, or start the drying process in a flower press. Arrange flowers so that none touch or they will stick together. How long it takes the flowers to dry depends on the type of flower, the method of drying and the time of year. It generally takes a week for most flowers to dry.

*

Edith Malek will teach "Tomorrow's Heirlooms: Create Everlasting Keepsakes with Clematis & Floral Friends" at 10 a.m. April 7 at M&M Nursery, 380 N. Tustin Ave., Orange. The class is free, but reservations are required. Call (714) 538-8042.

Lynn Pitts will hold a pressed-flower workshop at the Fullerton Arboretum from 10 a.m. to noon May 5. The class is $30 and includes materials. For registration, call (714) 278-3579.

Pitts will also be at the Los Angeles Arboretum from 10 a.m. to noon June 30. Call (626) 821-4624.

To order any of Mrs. P's products, including flower presses, call (661) 832-2510.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Creating a Pressed Flower Shelf

Ordinary objects can be transformed into something extraordinary with the application of pressed flowers.

To create a pressed flower shelf, you will need an unfinished wood shelf, acrylic paint, antiquing wash, paint brushes, pressed flowers, tweezers, toothpicks, decoupage medium, sponge brush and acrylic sealant.

Follow these easy steps to make a shelf:

* Apply several coats of paint to the surface of the shelf. Let dry. Dab on antiquing wash with a sponge brush. Let dry.

* Arrange the flowers on the shelf until you have a desired pattern.

* With a small brush, apply the decoupage medium to the back of each flower. (Photo No. 1)

Use tweezers to place the flower on the shelf surface and position with a toothpick. (Photo No. 2)

With a small paint brush, from the center outward, smooth out the flowers, making sure to remove any air bubbles underneath. Continue with the rest of the flowers. (Photo No. 3)

* Coat the entire surface with several layers of decoupage medium. Allow to dry between coats. Apply an acrylic sealant. Dry completely before use.

Good Plants for Pressing

Many flowers can be pressed, but some fare better than others. Botanical artist Lynn Pitts recommends the following flowers for pressing. Not all of them can be pressed whole. Some may require disassembling or slicing or may need initial wicking in a field press. --JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS

Abutilon

Acacia

Ageratum

Alyssum

Anemone

Aster

Bachelor's button

Bougain- villea

Bleeding heart

Buddleia

Campanula

Candytuft

Celosia

Clematis

Cosmos

Daffodil

Daisy

Delphin- ium

Four o'clock

Freesia

Fuchsia

Geranium

Hydrangea

Jasmine

Larkspur

Lily

Marigold

Mint

Morning glory

Nastur- tium

Pansy

Poppy

Primrose

Queen Anne's lace

Rose

Salvia

Snap- dragon

Statice

Tulip

Verbena

Viola

Violet

Wild- flowers

Wisteria

Zinnia

*

A variety of foliage and vegetables also press well. Try these:

Artemesia

Beans

Bee balm

Carrot

Dusty miller

Eucalyptus

Ferns

Grasses

Magnolia

Japanese maple

Lamb's ear

Moss

Mushroom

Parsley

Pea pods

Pepper

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