How to keep roses alive forever: preserving flowers
As someone with a love of roses that borders on obsession, I know very well the fleeting joy that fragrant fresh blooms bring. Right now my garden is magnificent with scented roses in all my favourite shades of pink, apricot, blush and creamy white as well as one or two dark red beauties. Those hours spent in early Spring feeding and pruning now more than worth while. But… There’s always a slight sense of sadness as I watch the most exquisite, perfectly formed fresh flowers reach perfection and then so quickly fade and die. I dead head diligently because I know you have to for the sake of the plant, but I feel a little sad to witness the end of every single bloom.
That’s why I decided to find the best ways to dry roses as well as other flower preservation process options. So I’ve done some research and I would love to share my findings with you. If, like me, finding a great way to transform fresh roses into forever roses would bring simple joy, I have found just the ideas to help. Here’s my guide: how to keep roses alive forever. And by alive I mean keeping something of their natural beauty, colour and form and avoiding the compost heap. Real roses that fade into a naturally different, more ethereal kind of beauty – possibly my favourite preserved flowers of all.
I’ll be looking at the different ways and preservation techniques used to capture the rose’s natural beauty.
how to keep roses alive forever – best ways to preserve flowers
Air drying roses
There’s a range of different methods for preserving your beautiful roses, so first off, lets’s look at air drying.
The drying process can be the best way to preserve roses and possibly a wedding bouquet or special occasion flowers.
The basic steps are to strip excess foliage, cut the stems to the length you require (leaving at least six inches). Then use a rubber band or string to tie the stems together and hang upside down in a dark place that is also dry and well-ventilated for about 2-3 weeks.
If you’re wanting to preserve an existing bouquet or spray of flowers, you will just need to hang it upside down as it is.
For a deep dive into all things dried flowers, you can’t go far wrong with Bex Partridge of Botanical Tales. I’ve collaborated with Bex a few times, so you might like to discover more here: How to make a dried flower wall hanging – wildly beautiful by Bex Partridge and How to make a dried flower wreath
A free and easy approach
As far as air drying flowers is concerned, I love Bex’s slightly free and easy, more creative approach: ‘Bending the rules doesn’t result in disaster. Most books you will read will tell you that flowers must be dried in a cool, dark place for best results. So what do you do if like me you live in a small house with little storage or drying space? Improvise and hope for the best is what I suggest! I had so many blooms to dry from the garden and the allotment that I decided to create my how drying space in my studio. The problem is that there is a lot of light in my studio and I was worried the flowers would bleach. So far so good, it helps that I didn’t build it till end of August as the sun begins to dip in the sky and the intense heat of summer days are a distant memory. I now have a wide selection of blooms drying as I work. I can literally hear the flowers crinkle as they dry, its really quite magical.’
Read the full post here: https://www.botanicaltales.com/journal/2019/11/2/the-art-of-drying-flowers-this-years-learnings
You can buy copies of Bex’s books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bex-Partridge/e/B084Q9VGKF%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
Expert tips from Rosebie of The Real Flower Compay
Another favourite resource of mine for all things flower-related is The Real Flower Company. And they grow THE most beautiful scented English roses on their Hampshire farm. Founder, Rosebie Morton, is the queen of all things rose-related and her thoughts on drying them. I have been lucky enough to meet Rosebie a few times and to walk the flower farm with her. See more on this here: Rosebie Morton, founder of The Real Flower Company and The Real Flower Company flower farm, Hampshire)
Rosebie’s passion for roses is infectious an inspired me to create a rose garden in my own flower patch.
‘I love the way roses can dry to a more intense and rich colour than when they were first picked, with a lovely sweet scent that is a welcome bonus. The trick is to make sure you dry them completely because if they have even a tiny bit of moisture left they will go mouldy,’ she advises. There’s more helpful information from Rosebie here: https://www.realflowers.co.uk/blog/dried-flowers-what-to-pick-for-drying-now/
Caring for your dried roses and dry flowers
Once your flowers are dried, it’s vital to care for them so they last. Bex Partridge has lots of great advice on how to do this (you can read her full blog post here https://www.botanicaltales.com/journal/2019/11/4/careofdriedflowers. But the three key things to avoid are: exposure to moisture, intense direct sunlight or prolonged high temperature.
How lovely are these air dried roses available to buy on Etsy here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1272580726/aaaaa-grade-natural-air-dried-multi
“I’ve come to see dried flowers as the floral equivalent of fermented foods. Flowers are harvested when they are most bountiful and preserved for when they are no longer freely available”
— CLAIRE VICTORIA BOWEN
This is possibly the easiest way to preserve fresh-cut flowers, including fresh cut roses. All you need is a flower press there are plenty of options on Etsy)
I was drawn to this beauty just now, but you can just as easily use a heavy book and tissue paper. For very little effort, this most traditional of preservation methods is a simple, old-fashioned way of creating preserved roses.
So in our quest to learn how to keep roses alive forever, the basic steps of pressing roses and other flowers are:
Trim your stems to size (and that your flower press/book will allow)
Position inside your flower press or between sheets of plain paper inside a heavy hardback book. Leave space between each flower so they don’t touch. Add a pile of heavy books or a heavy object or close up the flower press and screw in place.
Wait a couple of weeks then open up and see how it’s going. Roses can be a little more challenging to press than other less bulky flowers, so you may need to allow a little longer (and/or apply heavier books). 30 days is probably about how long you’ll need to wait.
Using the microwave method to dry flowers
I’m including this because it’s a method a lot of people use, although to be honest, it’s not my favourite. I’d rather let time and nature do their thing, however the old fashioned methods do take a comparatively long time. Using your microwave oven is fast and it will do a good job of preserving the vibrancy of your blooms. If time you’re short on time, and the slower options of air drying or pressing won’t work for you, here goes.
There are two possible ways to go – with our without silica gel (a desiccant that helps to remove moisture).
The process is simple for each. Firstly, if you’re using the gel, take the flowers you wish to dry and lay on top of an inch or two of the gel in a microwave-safe container.
Fully cover with more silica gel (a desiccant that absorbs moisture) and microwave for 30 seconds and check. You’re aiming for the flower(s) to be fully dry and feel papery. Continue this process until you reach that stage. Roses can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 three minutes or more, depending on the size of the blooms and your particular microwave. Avoid over microwaving or your flowers will over dry and turn brown. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the silica gel.
To use the microwave method without silica gel, simply place your flowers between two sheets of kitchen towel, and microwave in the same way. You can place a microwaveable weight on top if you’d also like to press your flowers). You’ll see the moisture from the flowers absorb into the kitchen towel. Again, take care not to over microwave otherwise your flowers will turn scorched and brown. Another useful idea in our quest to find out how to keep roses alive forever.
Using silica gel without the microwave
Silica takes the moisture out of your flowers without losing the shape or vibrancy of your flowers.
Cover the bottom of a large container with a couple of inches of silica gel, then lay the flowers flat facing upwards at regular intervals. Make sure they don’t touch. Sprinkle more gel over the flowers so it gets between all of the petals and totally covers the whole flower.
Leave to dry for several weeks and when your flowers are dried as you like them, gently remove any residual gel with a soft make up brush. You flowers should now be paper dry whilst still retaining their colour and shape.
You can re-use the silica gel (just make sure it dries out between uses).
Although it’s non toxic, experts recommend using a mask and wearing gloves when working with it. This is because it can create a fine dust that you should avoid inhaling and it’s safest to protect your skin too. To be honest the idea of using silica gel doesn’t really appeal to me as it feels too unnatural. If, however, you’re looking to find out how to keep roses alive forever this might give you the results you’re looking for.
When to pick your flowers
Don’t pick the roses you’re going to dry on a rainy day. You want them as dry as possible, so also avoid dewy mornings too – a dry day once the ground has dried out is best.
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