I don't like buying flowers because they die so quickly." We've heard people say this many times, and they are right. Fresh flowers have a short life span. However, what if you could buy cut flowers that last for years and continue to look as fresh and beautiful?
The art of preserving fresh flowers has been around for centuries. Egyptian tombs have been uncovered with perfectly maintained dried blooms. In England, the popularity of flowers to express oneself was becoming prominent, starting from the late 1500s.
Air drying is one of the earliest methods of flower preservation. This method is still commonly used today and is a great way to maintain the natural shape and colour of the blooms. The method is simple and can be done quickly by anyone. Baby's breath, roses, lavender, hydrangeas and gomphrena air dry exceptionally well. For the best outcome, start with flowers that are just beginning to bloom, and choose only the best flowers as wilting and damaged petals will only be more evident once the flowers are dry.
Strip each flower of all leaves, and tie them together in small bunches. Hang the bunches upside in a dark and dry location, with good air circulation. When the petals are crisp, your flowers are ready. This process can take anywhere from one to six weeks, depending on the environment.
Pressed flowers is a process of drying flowers in a flower press to flatten and exclude light and moisture. If you want to try your hand at pressing flowers, opt for smaller, flat flowers such as chrysanthemums, lilies and daisies. Arrange your flowers in a single layer on absorbent tissue paper, and place under a large and heavy item, such as a big textbook or dictionary. It will take around 1-3 weeks for the flowers to be ready. Remember to change the tissue paper sheets every week.
Drying with silica gel is one of the fastest and most convenient options. Silica gel crystals can be found easily online or at most nurseries, and are an economical option as they can be reused many times. Opt for flowers that are large and have not fully bloomed. Find an appropriate airtight container, and bury the flowers with the gel. There should be a layer of silica on all sides of the flower. The box should be kept in a warm, dry location. It should take only about 3-6 days to dry.
Preserving with glycerin or glycol is the method used to create long-lasting roses. Fresh flowers are treated through a dehydration process, a permeation process and a drying process, in this order, to obtain cut flowers that continue to look like natural flowers. This preservation process is patented and would be close to impossible to replicate at home due to the complex chemical solutions and methods involved. The substances used for the preservation process are non-toxic, non-carcinogenic and non-chemical reactive and do not represent any health or environmental risks. This process transforms real flowers into beautiful display pieces with bare minimum maintenance.
Such flowers cost about Rs 1,300 for single rose buds and can even go up to Rs 2-3 lakh for custom arrangements.
Preserved flowers are becoming more popular among florists due to the wide range of colours available, especially in roses - black, blue and rainbow seem to be the most common.
Working with dried or preserved flowers takes specialised expertise, so it's essential to make sure that the florist in charge has such experience. Preserved and dried flowers need special care to ensure their longevity, as well as unique arranging techniques.
The other great advantage that preserved flowers allow florists and admirers is that they defy geographical constraints. The delivery of fresh flowers would be nearly impossible without damaging a few flowers. However, preserved and dried flowers travel relatively well and can be shipped without hassle. Plus, they become available whenever and wherever you want.
If you are environmentally conscious, opting to display preserved flowers in your home and gifting them, stops the need for replacing the flowers every few days. Not only does this prevent the flowers from being dumped, but you also lessen your carbon foot-print as fresh flowers need to be stored in cool rooms and have high transportation costs.
The writer is Founder, Champs Fleur