Many students who come to my flower school want to know how to preserve flowers and foliage so that the color is retained, the texture remains smooth and they last indefinitely. The method of stabilization works well for some leaves, which can be preserved easily at home, although it is extremely difficult for most flowers, so is usually best left in the hands of experts.
Commercial stabilization by absorption is typically used for stems of foliage such as Fagus (beech), Quercus (oak), Eucalyptus and ferns. The ends of freshly cut plant material are placed in a solution made up of plant glycerine, water, nutrients and food coloring, which are all completely organic. Plants stabilized in this way will
retain their natural beauty for several years, and do not need any care. The colors are bright and natural, they are smooth to the touch, easy to care for and do not need
to be watered. No special lighting conditions are required, and the stems can be used in dimly lit rooms without losing their leaves.
Roses and hydrangeas are the most popular flowers to preserve using double immersion stabilization. Fresh flowers are dehumidified by immersing them in pure alcohol for 24 hours and then rehydrated by immersion in a solution of alcohol, vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol and food coloring. This stabilizing liquid replaces the sap, so the flowers keep their natural appearance, shape and elasticity.
However, flower stems cannot take the process so they must be preserved separately then glued to the flower head. Alternatively, they are sold on very short stems.
PRESERVING LEAVES AT HOME
If you wish to stabilize foliage at home you will be able to retain the shape of many different leaves, but the color will change, usually assuming a brown shade or tint. The color can be changed using natural food dyes. Avoid trying to preserve flowers by this method because their structure is too delicate for the absorption of a heavy liquid. Late June or early July is the ideal time for this preservation method when leaves are mature and the weather is warm.
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About the author
Flora Magazine is edited by Judith Blacklock, proprietor of the world-renowned Flower School in Knightsbridge, London.