Build a simple, wooden flower press to preserve the color and integrity of your favorite plants.
By Hannah Kincaid and Jake LaSorsa
A wooden flower press is simple to make and is a helpful tool for preserving botanical samples from the wild or from your own backyard. These presses have historically been used for preserving herbarium specimens, where the dried plants can be studied along with the samples’ species name, field observations, and collection date. You can use your plant specimens in this manner; or you can frame them to hang as wall art; or mix the dried petals into homemade candles or paper; or add them to glass pendants for nature-inspired jewelry or suncatchers. A preserved plant can also help record a memory of a special occasion, such as a pressed flower from a bridal boutonniere or a birthday bouquet.
This plant press is 12-by-12 inches, but you can easily adjust the size if you’d like it to be smaller for taking into the field, or larger for big plant samples — stem and all.
• 2 feet of 1-by-12 inch board (or two pieces of 1-inch-thick scrap wood cut to matching sizes; 3/4-inch-thick plywood will also work)
• Medium-grit sandpaper
• Stain or paint and a brush, optional
• Scrap cardboard
• Blank newsprint paper
• Four 1/4-by-4-inch carriage bolts (with four wing nuts and flat washers to fit)
• Circular saw
• Power drill
• 5/16-inch drill bit
• Palm sander
Step 1. Use a handsaw or circular saw, or ask an employee at your local hardware store to cut the board into two 12-by-12-inch pieces.
Step 2. Mark the drill holes about 1 inch diagonally from each corner of one board.
Step 3. Stack the marked board on top of the other, making sure all edges line up.
Drill through the two boards while they’re stacked on top of each other to ensure that the holes line up.
Step 4. Sand both sides of each board, especially around the newly drilled holes.
If you’d like to stain or paint your plant press, do so now and allow the press to dry until it’s no longer sticky.
While waiting for the coating to dry, cut newsprint and scrap cardboard to fit inside the press. The layers should go cardboard, newsprint, plant material, newsprint, cardboard, and repeat. You can always add more cardboard and newsprint as you build your layers with time.
To use. Layer the cardboard, newsprint, and plant material on top of one board with a carriage bolt sticking up through each of that board’s four corner holes. Align the second board with the carriage bolts, slide it down on top of the cardboard, and then tighten the press by spinning a washer and wing nut on each bolt until it feels secure. Let the press sit undisturbed for at least three weeks.
The best time to harvest plants for pressing is in the morning after dew has evaporated. Add the flowers to your press as soon as possible so that you’re not pressing already wilted flowers. As you experiment with pressed flowers, you’ll learn that some hold their form and color better than others. A few reliable flowers to start with are:
• Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
• Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
• California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
• Common blue violet (Viola sororia)