After months of planning, so many summer weddings and events are finally underway. But what to do with that expensive bouquet or those beautiful decorations after the event? This summer, we met someone who answers that question with beautiful keepsakes and mementos made out of floral arrangements. We asked fellow Austinite and local artisan Annie Fentz Smith for some inspiration and insight into the process.
“Don’t Toss that Bouquet!” By ANNIE FENTZ SMITH
Nothing says, “I love you!, I miss you!, I appreciate you!, I will never forget you!, I celebrate you! or Congratulations!” like a bouquet of beautiful fragrant flowers! While the sentiment lives on, floral expressions are fleeting. Perhaps that is why they are so special because they are fragile and precious. If only they lasted as long as the sentiments they convey! In times past, these floral memories were tucked between the pages of an old family Bible or cherished book, only to fall apart as the years pass. Today, we have other options. Those blossoms can now be preserved into art or an array of keepsakes! There are two forms of Professional Floral Preservation available today: Freeze Dried and Pressed Flower Art.
Freeze Dried Floral Preservation is the process of taking the bouquet apart and placing the flowers in freeze-dry equipment to slowly dehydrate the blooms. The flowers are often air-brush painted to their natural color. When the flowers are dry, they are reassembled into a 3-dimentional bouquet and presented in a glass box, or a bubble frame that hangs on the wall. When looking for a freeze dry company, look closely at their art. Look for flowers that look alive and vibrant, rather than shriveled or dead. This is the most expensive option, as the overhead for freeze dried is more costly.
Pressed Flower Floral Preservation is a process where the flowers are preserved by pressing the flowers, then framing them in a flat frame on the wall. This is the process I am most familiar with, so I will be speaking about the process I use for Pressed Flower Preservation at Pressed Garden.
The best art comes from the freshest flowers. Flowers are delivered to me within 5 days, either by dropping them by my studio in Austin, TX or shipping them to me Overnight-Express. I limit the number of bouquets I take in each week so that I can deliver the best service, therefore, it is always a good idea to call ahead to reserve space on the schedule. As soon as I receive your flowers, I go to work, taking the bouquet apart. Then, I choose the best flower press for the type of flower, using one of 7 different types of presses. Some flowers, like Orchids, do better in a Microwave Press, while others, like Sunflowers or Gerbera Daisies do best in a press under concrete blocks! Roses, Ranunculus, Peonies, Succulents and other flowers respond better when taken completely apart and pressed between desiccant sheets. (cardboard with silica pressed into it) All the extra petals and flower pieces are tossed into a basket to make potpourri, which I do at no charge to the customer. (and because I cannot bear to throw away any of their very important flowers!) All the other parts of the bouquet (ribbon, pins, etc) are set aside and saved.
In a week or two, after the flowers are dry, I consult with the customer to choose background color, frame, and style of art. Often they want to include items like photographs, wedding vows, invitation, ribbon or other flat mementos. Each piece I create takes an average of 30-40 hours and is a unique artistic expression of the individual customer.
Color enhancement is sometimes needed for flowers or leaves that don’t hold their color well. I choose between 3 types of paint for this, again, depending on the type of flower. After the flowers are reassembled and arranged with all acid-free supplies, the art is vacuum sealed and then professionally framed, using museum quality glass with 97% UV protection. Now those flowers, so full of memories have been transformed into a heirloom!
Other Keepsakes are made from left over petals, such as Pendants, Earrings, Beveled Glass Ornaments and Scrapbook Squares (2″ squares of Pressed Flower Art for Scrapbooking). Only the flattest of flowers will work for these.
Flowers that I recommend for pressing include: Alstroemeria, Anemone, Babies Breath, Daisy, Delphinium, Calla Lilly, Carnation, Chrysanthemum (not all), Dusty Miller, Fern, Freesia, Gerbera Daisy, Heather, Hydrangea, Ivy, Larkspur, Lavender, Lilly, Lisianthus, Orchid, Peony, Queen Ann’s Lace, Rose, Ranunculus, Statice, Stock, Sunflower, Tulips. (not an exhaustive list)
Flowers that can be pressed, but not with consistent results: Artichoke, Asparagus Fern, Billy Balls, Chrysanthemums (not all), Gardenias, Scabiosa Pods, Stephanotis, Succulents.
When looking for a Pressed Flower Artist, look closely at their art. Does the art look like the original bouquet or do they use only a few petals? How much time will they be investing in your bouquet? Do they know how to press all the types of flowers you have? Will they be pressing all of your flowers, or just a few? Do they use all acid-free supplies? Do they vacuum seal or laminate their art? (Having experience with both, I found vacuum sealed art held it’s color much longer than laminated art.) Do the flowers look dull and dead or vibrant and alive? As with anything, you will get what you pay for. Some artists have reasonable prices until they add fees that should be included.
Everyday, through my business, Pressed Garden, I bring together my love of all things artistic, my passion for flowers and my desire for preserving life’s beautiful moments. This means even more to me after my own wedding a few weeks ago. I smile when I picture a child in a future generation, pointing to my Bridal Bouquet Art hanging on the wall and saying, “That is my great-great grandma’s wedding bouquet!”
Annie Fentz-Smith is the owner of Pressed Garden, Austin, TX. She has been a Pressed Flower Artist, specializing in preserving Wedding, Funeral, and Special Occasion Flowers since 2005. As a member of the World Wide Pressed Flower Guild, Annie is known worldwide for her floral pressing and preservation techniques. She is also a member of the Texas State Florist’s Association and a writer on the staff of The Bloomin’ Texan Magazine. Website: www.pressedgarden.com Blog: www.pressedgarden.blogspot.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/pressedgarden