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Posts Tagged ‘easy pressing flowers’

Dandelion

In Britain, during May, we are surrounded by vibrant carpets of gold, in our fields, along our roads, in parks, on waste ground and in our gardens, they’re Dandelions and they are at their best now. Often classed as ‘weeds’ Dandelions are very interesting plants, their name comes from the French ‘Dent-de-lion’ which means Lion’s tooth and refers to their deeply jagged leaves, their technical name is Taraxacum officinale the word officinale means that it is used in medicine and herbalism, the roots, leaves and flowers are all edible and have been eaten worldwide for thousands of years. Dandelions are full of vitamins, especially A, C and K, and a good source of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese, medicinally they have been used to treat infections and blood, liver and digestive disorders.

Dandelion roots

Dandelions have long taproots which are twisted and brittle making them hard to dig up, if you leave a small piece of root in the ground the plant will regrow, much to the frustration of many gardeners, on the positive side their taproots bring up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants, and add minerals and nitrogen to the soil. Dandelion roots can be roasted and ground to make caffeine-free Dandelion Coffee and are one of the ingredients in Root Beer, Dandelion and Burdock is a well-known drink which contains the fermented root extracts of Dandelions and Burdock plants, although many of the drinks that are available contain just flavourings, Fentimans sell a faithful recreation of the original naturally brewed Dandelion and Burdock drink, containing true plant extracts.

Fentimans

Dandelion Leaves

Dandelion leaves form a rosette and can grow between 5-25cm long, when picked the leaves and stems emit a milky, white liquid (latex) which can be hard to wash off. The leaves are a good food plant of the larvae of many species of Butterflies and Moths including Riband Wave, The Flame, The Gothic, Large Yellow Underwing. Dandelion leaves can be eaten raw in salads, boiled or sautéed.

Dandelion flowers

Dandelion flowers provide nectar and pollen early in the season for Bees and insects and are an important source of nectar for the pearl-bordered fritillary which is one of the earliest Spring emerging butterflies.

Once pollinated, the flower head dries out for a day or two, the dried petals and stamens drop off, the bracts (leaves below the flower) curl backwards and the seed head opens into a white ‘starry’ ball often called a ‘clock’, each seed has its own tiny parachute which enables it to be blown great distances in the wind. Children love picking the clocks to ‘tell the time’, you keep blowing them until there aren’t any seeds left, each blow represents an hour!

Dandelion flowers can be used in sweet and savoury dishes including Dandelion; Muffins, Syrup, Cookies, Fritters and Risotto.

Dandelion Clock

There is a lot more to the Dandelion than you might think, if you are tempted to have a go at cooking with them make sure that you identify the plant correctly and follow the recipe, be cautious if it is the first time that you have eaten them.

I have plenty of Dandelions on my allotment that have been blown in from the surrounding fields, I also have three big plants in my garden which I have previously attempted to dig up and have now won their place in the border, they are stunning flowers and really don’t deserve to be called weeds, my only condition in allowing them to stay is that I remove their seed heads before they open into clocks.

Take a closer look at Dandelions this week, why not photograph, draw, paint or press their flowers and leaves (click here for a guide to pressing flowers).

Have fun

Gill

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Pressing flowers, leaves and grasses is easy and fun, follow some simple steps to get the best results, and then enjoy making pictures, cards and bookmarks. Pressing flowers is a great way to preserve flowers and can be done throughout the year to record the Seasons, why not stick them in your Wildlife and Nature Diary or a Scrapbook.

Flower Press

A Flower Press

Firstly, you will of course need a Flower Press!

Before beginning we advise that only flowers from the garden should be picked and pressed. It is against the Countryside Code to remove plants from the countryside and wild flowers should always be left for the enjoyment of everyone.

Garden flowers ready for pressing

  1. When selecting flowers to press always choose those that are looking their best, and are clean.
  2. Removing moisture is the key, so begin by collecting the flowers when they are dry. Wet flowers can go mouldy.
  3. Press your flowers as soon as possible to avoid them drooping or wilting.
  4. Lay the flowers flat face down on the blotting paper. Take care to arrange leaves and petals as you want them to appear when the flower is pressed, try pressing flowers on their side to get a different effect. 
  5. Place another piece of blotting paper or flower preserving paper on the top.
  6. Place the two pieces of paper between two pieces of cardboard.
  7. Place the layers into a flower press as follows, cardboard, paper, flowers, paper and cardboard.
  8. Depending on the press you may be able to fit in several layers like this.
  9. Tighten the wing nuts and leave to dry for a few days, longer if you use large, thick flowers.
  10. Alternatively place the flowers between sheets of blotting or flower preserving paper and place inside a large book such as the phone book and leave for a few days.  Be careful to use enough plain paper sheets to protect the books from staining.
  11. Experiment with different types of flowers. Pansies and violas are particularly easy and tend to keep their colour well. 
  12. Note if the flowers turn brown during pressing it may be because they are taking too long to dry out  

Stunning yellow pansies

Pressing flowers the traditional way can take time and lots of patience but if you want faster results flowers can be pressed and dried in the microwave. Repeat the process in the same way as above but if you use your flower press you will need to remove the wing nuts/bolts and secure the wooden boards with wide elastic bands 2 or 3 along each side, if you use a book check that it has no gold embossing and remove any staples. Place in the microwave for two minutes on medium heat, allow to cool then have a look at the flowers to see if they are dry if not return to the microwave for another minute and check again, keep repeating until the flowers are completely dry. This method may need a little experimentation.

Pressed flowers loose their colour if exposed to light so avoid direct sunlight or humid rooms when displaying them.

Love your environment

Gill

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