It kept our great-grandmothers entertained at the turn of the century, enjoyed a hip revival in the 1970s and now the power of flower pressing is back to ease those lockdown blues. The good news is that it’s simple – and affordable – to create your own. ‘Flower pressing is a long-lost craft that produces beautiful results and can be achieved with very little outlay,’ says Yvette Harvey, keeper of the RHS Herbarium and the ultimate flower-pressing pro – she regularly presses flowers to add to the RHS’s 90,000-strong collection of dried specimens.
Screw-down flower presses, which are available to buy everywhere from the RHS website to Urban Outfitters and Etsy, will make your life really easy but it’s also possible to create a DIY press (see our box, below, for instructions). Once you have your press, it’s time to forage for your flowers. If you don’t have a garden you can order them online or find them in the wild but try to make sure you only pick common flowers that are growing in abundance and only take one sample. It’s illegal to pick certain protected species of wild flowers such as orchids, so if you’re in any doubt, don’t pick. ‘In the garden at the moment tulips can make very nice specimens, as can daffodils, peonies, roses and rhododendrons,’ says Yvette. ‘In fact, have a go at everything!’
Some flowers inevitably press more easily than others and retain their colour better. It’s a case of trial and error to find out what works. ‘You might find some plants a bit trickier,’ says Yvette. ‘We’ve found irises and succulents to be quite difficult, for example, due to their high-moisture content. You could try pressing those between baking parchment, which works as a protective non-stick layer.’
It will take anything from two days to two weeks for your flowers to press (you want them to be flat and totally moisture-free). Once you have your delicate new flowers, the possibilities are endless. Pressed flowers look elegant, sweet and retro-cool on letters and cards (just stick them on with PVA glue), or strewn artfully on the table at a wedding (or a lockdown household birthday party). You can even stick them inside a clear case for a cute new phone cover. Just don’t ever use Sellotape or sticky-back plastic, as this leaves a nasty residue and will discolour over time. Check out Instagram pages such as @jamjar_edit and @tessnewallstudio for seriously stylish inspo.
‘My top tip is simply to have a go and enjoy the results,’ says Yvette. ‘I say this in hushed tones but I think some plants look more spectacular in the pressed form than they do in real life.