Hands-On Summer History is in full swing here at the Park and we’ve been having a lot of fun exploring different topics every week! Last month, one of our favorite activities was flower-pressing at the 1890s Davis Victorian Mansion. Flower pressing was a common hobby for Victorian ladies of any social class, as it didn’t require any special equipment and the beautiful wildflowers of Texas were especially suitable for preserving! Flowers also played an important part in Victorian home decor, and were featured on everything from carpet to upholstery to wallpaper.
Couldn’t make it out for the hands-on demonstration? Follow these instructions to press your own flowers at home!
How to Press Flowers, Victorian-Style
Victorian Methods of Pressing:
- Use two large books to flatten the flowers and let them dry
- Press a flower in between the pages of a large book
- Use a field press, which could be as simple as two large flat boards with paper to absorb the water from the plants and adjustable straps to keep the press together tightly (a more complicated press could use an iron top that was tightened with a crank handle, or screw-together bolts at each corner)
How to Press Your Flowers:
- For a book press, you will need wax paper or tissues and at least two large books of roughly the same size
- For a field press, you will need two pieces of wood, cardboard, paper, tissues and leather ties (or rubber bands)
- Select a number of flat, simple flowers to press. Pansies, daisies, bluebells, and violets work very well! You can also press ferns, leaves and interesting grasses.
- Pick your flowers after the morning dew has dried. Make sure that you use fresh, undamaged plant materials so that the final result will be pretty.
- Arrange the flowers so that they lie as flat as possible. (This may require some trimming or even disassembly of flowers – do your best!)
For the book press:
- Lay flowers in between two sheets of wax paper (or four sheets of tissues).
- Place the wax paper or tissues (and flowers) in between two books. The “layers” of your press should be: book, wax paper or tissues, flowers, wax paper or tissues, book.
For the simple field press:
- To begin assembling the press, lay down one piece of wood and place a piece of cardboard on top of it.
- Fold a piece of paper in half, unfold it, and lay it on top of the cardboard.
- Fold a tissue in half and lay it on top of the paper.
- Lay flowers on top of the tissue, and fold the tissue and paper over the flowers.
- Place a piece of cardboard on top of the folded paper and place the second piece of wood on top of the cardboard.
- Tie your press together with the leather ties or rubber bands. Make sure that the press is kept together tightly! The “layers” of your press should be: wood, cardboard, paper, tissue, flowers, tissue, paper, cardboard, wood; all surrounded by ties.
4. Leave the flowers in the homemade press for about two weeks. The more complicated the flowers, the longer it will take to press!
5. Remove your pressed flowers after a few weeks and choose how you want to display your piece of preserved nature!