Thursday, 27 March 2014

Go wild with orchid blooms

Orchids come in such stunning colours, it crossed my mind to take a leaf (if you’ll forgive the expression) from the Victorians and create a pressed flower picture from my own indoor blooms.

The concept of preserving plants by pressing originated with early botanists. But it’s a long-established craft dating back to Greek and Roman times.

In the 1700s and 1800s, flower pressing was a practical way for a botanist to bring specimens back from the wild for later recording and analysing. The botanist’s plant press was simply two large flat boards surrounding alternating stacks of paper. Plants were kept tight with adjustable belt-like straps.

It then evolved into a pastime suitable for genteel ladies and flower pressing was one way to capture and preserve the beauty of the natural world. I certainly recall pressed flower pictures on the walls of my grandmother’s house. I even remember doing my own during the long summer vacations when I was a girl.

It’s regaining popularity in the US. So, time for some therapeutic retro activity ... and jazz things up with some vivid orchid petals. When my flowers are done, I plan to use the pressed flowers in old picture frames to match the décor, or by adding to a scrapbook or greetings card.

1: Lay two sheets of newspaper on a table.

2: Set one orchid on top of the newspaper. Remove the leaves, and cover with two more sheets of newspaper.
3: Open a heavy book and slide the newspaper containing the orchid between the pages. Close the book. Phone books, encyclopedias and complete dictionaries are ideal.
4: Put the book containing the orchid on a desk, and weigh it shut with set several other heavy books on top.
5: Check in a fortnight to see if the orchid has dried out. If any moisture remains, place the orchid in fresh paper and place back in the pages of the book for a further two weeks.
  • If pressing more than one bloom, surround each one in newspaper and place in the heavy book with several pages dividing it from any other orchids.
  •  Pressing orchids at their peak will preserve the vividness of the colour.
To find out more about botanical herbaria, there are some delightful images on Whitby museum's website

The colourful image above is fanciful 'orchid-coloured' version of a contemporary Chinese flower picture.

By Pamela Kelt

If you're an orchid fan, The Lost Orchid is a Gothic-inspired tale of intrigue set in 1880s, when orchidelirium was raging ... Out on 4 April from

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