Preserving Special Flowers

From the top of the grandkids’ arrangement.

When my mother was a child, her grandfather gave her a copy of Gone with the Wind. The book. I’m sure it was beautiful when it was new, but I’ve always known it to have a worn, faded green cover and a spine held on with bright red tape. I never considered opening it; I assumed the book wouldn’t sustain another reader.

Hidden inside the pages is a pressed flower. When my great-grandfather died, Mama took a white carnation from a funeral arrangement and pressed it inside the book. The flower looks about the same today as it did when she pressed it 30 years ago.

When my own grandmother died 3 years ago, we grandkids bought the tackiest funeral arrangement you could imagine. Granny would have LOVED it. It was full of birds of paradise and golden curly-cues. It looked like a fireworks display. When the family returned to view her grave after the burial, I got the wild idea that I would preserve some flowers for each family member as my mother had. Somehow taking those flowers with me made leaving the site easier.

This fabric softener left behind a pleasant
lavender scent.

I tend to have a where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way attitude about life, and I am enabled by Google’s search engine. I had never pressed flowers before, so I had to do a lot of research. (Seriously, what did people do before all this information was at their fingertips?)

There are basically 5 steps to drying flowers:

  1. Pick flowers that don’t have thick stems. Birds of Paradise are not good choices for a first-timer. (I learned that the hard way.) Lilies are.
  2. Make a solution of glycerin-based fabric softener and water. Coat the petals of each flower.
  3. Hang in a dark, cool, dry space for a couple of days until the softener has completely dried.
  4. Arrange the flower on a piece of parchment paper, fold the parchment over the top of the flower, and close inside a book.
  5. Add as much weight to the top of the book as possible.
This herb dryer, given to me by my mother, is
full of rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley, and the
occasional hot pepper in the summer.

In a couple of months, you should have flat, papery flowers that have retained most of their color. Any flowers with white petals will yellow–I don’t think there’s a way around that. But colorful flowers, such as pink roses, will remain remarkably true-to-life if you dip them in the glycerin solution.

These Stargazer Lilies demonstrate the importance
of dipping the flowers in glycerin before pressing
them. Without the glycerin, none of the pink color
would have survived..

Since I mastered this craft, I’ve pressed flowers from several functions–not all funerals, I’m happy to report! This spring I have commemorated Anna’s and Jess’s weddings. I bought pictures from the wedding photographers and inexpensive glass-on-glass frames. Jess loved the flowers I stole from her bouquet and pressed. Anna’s wedding flowers are still in the press!

Celebrate with a Wreath

Jess and Thomas aren’t the only couple I know using burlap and a farm theme for their wedding. Two of my three cousins getting married this summer are doing the same thing. My mother hosted separate bridal showers for both ladies, Meagan and Beth, and decided to decorate her home using their colors–burlap and all.

I was aware of the sudden trend in burlap decor, so I told Mama I’d make a wreath for her to use at the showers. I don’t think it had occurred to her to put a wreath on her door for the events, but why not? Wreaths are symbols of celebration. We use them at Christmastime to celebrate Jesus’ birth, the Greeks awarded them to Olympians when they won competitions, and Kirsten taught us to wear them in honor of St. Lucia’s Day. Why not celebrate coming nuptials with a wedding-themed wreath?

My burlap-and-hydrangea wreath

You don’t have to search the internet very long to find instructions on how to make one of these. I ended up following the instructions in this blog. Meagan’s colors are “burlap and coral,” so I thought this was a fitting welcome into Mama’s house. The ladies loved it, and Mama used it as-is for Beth’s shower too. That time she placed it on the inside of the door into her sunroom so we could really enjoy it!

Back at my house, the silk-flower wreath I’d used on the front door for the past 5 years during spring was looking faded and sad, so I knew it was time for a new one. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any money to spend on one. I started searching for inexpensive wreath ideas and found the coffee filter wreath. We had recently changed from our beloved KitchenAid coffee maker to a Keurig machine, so I had tons of white coffee filters in my pantry just getting dusty. Reduce clutter and decorate on the cheap? Yes, please!

No need for coffee filters to go to waste.

The whole project took less than a day and cost me about $3. I started with the instructions at Fox Hollow Cottage, and then I did my own thing. I made one trip to Hobby Lobby where I bought a $2 spool of ribbon (to make the bow and to hang it by) and a $1 embroidery hoop (to glue the filters to). When I got home, I dipped some of my coffee filters in yellow food dye I already had and let them dry. That night while Daddy and David were at a Predators game, I sat in my living room floor, watched a chic flick, and made the wreath. Voila!

This spring creation is just soft enough to work for Emmalee’s baby shower, which I’m hosting here in May. I hope this wreath is as big a hit as the burlap wreath was!

Adventures in Pruning

Stay tuned to see if I can successfully transplant these
around our new deck before Emmalee’s shower!

Last night David caught me in a rather silly situation. He was mowing the lawn–in an impressive diagonal pattern he learned from my father–and I was cutting some lilac blossoms to arrange in our house. He shut down the motor as he walked past to give me a kiss and a grin. He got a laugh instead: I was singing, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” There were no “kids jingle-belling,” and no one was yelling, “Be of good cheer!” But to me, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

This was the first chance I’d had to really enjoy spring, although it wasn’t my first chance to prune blossoms. Two days prior to my brother-in-law’s wedding, I received a frantic call from my mother-in-law requiring my help decorating the ceremony site of his wedding. Something had happened regarding the florist; just what that was remains unclear today. I committed to bringing potted hydrangeas and cuttings of blooming Red Bud and Hawthorn trees. There our adventure began.

The day of the rehearsal dinner, David and I got up early. The night before we’d had a significant storm, and hail had not been kind to my young Red Bud and Hawthorn trees. My plans of decorating Thomas and Jess’s wedding site with our own cuttings was history. But blessed with a Master Gardener named Kristin in our church family, I had an idea of how to solve the flower crisis. Kristin is one of the kindest people I know. The success she has cultivating her beautiful gardens (and even more beautiful family) must be due to her own sweet spirit and to her beloved Holy Spirit. She offered us her blossoms. She trusted us to prune from her trees while she was at work. I am eternally grateful.

Hawthorn and Tulip Magnolia cuttings now resting–and wilting–in the trunk of our Civic, David and I set out to find blooming hydrangeas. Silly me thought this would be easy. WRONG.  We went to every home improvement store in Murfreesboro and 2 nurseries. No hydrangeas. Apparently we were 2 days too early. Plan B? Grocery stores. Publix had them, so we hit 3 different Publix stores and bought all they had.

Hawthorn cuttings? check.

Potted hydrangeas? check.

The bucketful of cuttings took my usual place in the
passenger’s seat.

Red Bud cuttings? David had an idea with which I wasn’t 100 percent comfortable. He dropped me and the accumulated flowers at home, and he set off for the country. I’m not exactly sure where he went, but 30 minutes later my hero returned with more Red Bud blossoms than our entire tree had held the night before the hail storm.

Three hours early, David and I went to the rehearsal dinner. He drove 30 minutes with branches poking him, and I sneezed my way there surrounded by hydrangeas and fighting car sickness.

My centerpiece for the Rehearsal Dinner, styled by Rebekah.

Our work was worth it. Even Thomas said that the prettiest part of the Rehearsal Dinner was the centerpiece that didn’t cost him any money–unlike those pesky $400 chair rentals! David and I stayed mum about our adventure. 🙂

Congratulations and Best Wishes to Thomas and Jessica! I am oh-so happy to welcome Jess to our family.