Herbs, blooms and leaves from the garden or farmer's market are not only attractive and fragrant when fresh, but also when preserved. One of the simplest ways to save them is pressing. Finding, picking, squishing and drying flowers and leaves are fun family activities. Then, arrange the prepared greenery on a piece of glass, cover it with another, and wrap the edge with ribbon or metal tape, and you've an herbal ornament to adorn a window or a holiday tree.
Requiring more patience than skill, pressing flowers takes time. "Two weeks should be enough time," says Kristen Hedberg, floral manager at Medford's Craft Warehouse. You can use purchased or handmade flower presses, blotting papers and cardboard, or arrange the greenery on tissue or newspaper between pages of a large book. Add some weight by placing the book under the leg of a piece of furniture or under a pile of heavy books. Stems, leaves and blooms are ready when they're dry, flat and brittle.
"Make sure the moisture is out of them. If not, they'll proceed to biodegrade, or rot," she says. She suggests setting your flora with a sealer. The spray-on product will make your flowers last longer and keep the colors brighter. Good choices for pressing include herbs like rue, lavender, thyme, sage and marjoram and grasses, ferns, pansies and violets. But garden favorites like hydrangea, gardenia, clematis and bright-hued coleus don't press well. For this project, we want plants without any thick or seed-filled portions so the slides are as close as possible.
Although we used microscope slides, you can make larger, more elaborate ornaments by following the same basic steps, but mount the flowers on a piece of cut glass topped with a same-size piece of faceted or beveled glass. Andy Tillinghast, owner of Medford's Neoglassic Studio stocks a wide selection of glass, including "ultra-thin" glass that's thinner than window glass and thicker than a slide, he says. He cuts glass to order (for a nominal fee) and carries stained-glass supplies including numerous widths of sticky copper tape.
This project requires drying time between each step, so plan to do it over several days, perhaps after school or supper.
Once your greenery is dry and flat, it's ready to use. Other items you'll need:
Wooden skewer or toothpick
Two microscope slides for each ornament
For the loop and bow: 7/16-inch wide grosgrain or satin ribbon
For around the edges: 7/16-inch ribbon or stained-glass copper tape
1. Clean and dry microscope slides and place slides on flat, lint-free surface.
2. Choose and arrange dried pressed flowers on slide. Place the flowers with tweezers, repositioning until it's pleasing to your eye. Snip off unsightly stems or ends that protrude from slide area.
3. Attach the greenery to the slide with a tiny amount of glue.
4. When dry, dot glue on the corners and gently place the second slide on top, lining up the edges.
5. Hold slides together until dry by wrapping slides in a dish towel or wax paper. Secure with binder clips or clothes pins or place under a heavy book.
6. Once set, take 3 inches of ribbon, make a loop, glue the ends, and slightly tuck them between the slides or adhere to the top center top of the ornament.
7. If using ribbon for the ornament's edge, apply a thin layer of glue to the ribbon. Lay one side of the slide on the end of the ribbon, rotate on edge until all sides are covered.
8. Copper tape already has adhesive. Unfurl a few inches of copper tape, center the tape over the slide and wrap around. For a professional looking ornament, burnish the edges with the side of the skewer or pencil.
These ornaments are a great way to showcase your herbs... from both sides. Make and give them as holiday gifts, or press flowers seasonally and make ornaments every few months. Hang them near a window or mirror or on the boughs of your holiday tree. They will capture the light illuminating the glass, adding to the seasonal décor.