Pressing Leaves and Flowers - A. Brown
We've all seen flowers and plants that have been pressed between the pages of a book - in fact, many of us might have preserved favorite plants like that ourselves. However, more modern technology has given us an option for pressing plants much more quickly using the microwave.
My experience with pressing plants in the microwave has been with very small specimens: one or two leaves or flowers, about the size of a business card. This method can be scaled up for larger or more plants, but a tougher board will be required. Complete instructions can be found on Joanna Sheen's website (http://www.joannasheen.freeserve.co.uk/howto.htm) or in a book Microwaved Pressed Flowers, also written by Joanna Sheen.
For pressing small specimens, here is the equipment required:
Chipboard - I used the hard backing from a pad of paper (don't use
anything with staples or other metals in it)
Cut the chipboard into four rectangles of the desired size, approximately 4" x 3" each - you'll use a double thickness for each side of the press. Cut or fold the tissue so you have two pieces, each at least 2 tissues in thickness, the same size or slightly larger than your chipboard pieces. Cut two pieces of parchment paper to the same size as the board.
Place two pieces of chipboard on a table and stack tissue paper and one of the parchment pieces on top. Carefully position the plant specimen on the parchment paper, then cover with the second piece of parchment, tissue, and the remaining two pieces of cardboard. Gently press it all together, secure with two or three rubber bands (they sometimes snap in the microwave).
The amount of time to microwave will depend on the type of specimen, and may take a little trial and error. For this reason, start out with a similar but less perfect specimen: don't try this for the first time on your "good" one. Microwave the press with plants on medium heat for approximately 30 seconds. Check the press for any signs of overheating or scorching (if it scorches, you've cooked it too much and may have ruined the specimen). If everything's OK, microwave for another 15 seconds and check again.
For a thick or watery specimen more time might be required, just be careful not to set anything on fire!
Immediately upon removing your press from the microwave, set it on a flat surface and pile a couple of heavy books (like phone books) on top. Leave it to cool, about 20 minutes. Unwrap the press and carefully remove the plant specimens.
I have tried this method on Mexican Petunia, Japanese Kerria, and Turk's Cap flowers, on leaves of Redbird Cactus, and on Inland Sea Oats seeds. All were fairly successful. An attempt to dry a flower head of garlic chives left me with a sticky, onion-smelling mess.
After microwave pressing, the flowers or leaves can be used immediately, either mounted on paper for a botanical illustration or for use in crafts. The book mentioned earlier has lots of craft ideas for pressed plants.
The pressed plants can also be laminated to make a bookmark. Use standard laminating pouches. Only the thinnest specimens are likely to make it through the laminating machine. For thicker specimens, the pouch can be ironed on medium heat, under a dishtowel and parchment paper (to keep from sticking).