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How to Use Heirloom Flowers

Author Photo
By Chris McLaughlin | Mar 24, 2020

Learn how to press and frame heirloom flowers, and discover the basics of drying, storing, and using lavender and so much more.

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Getty Images/Robert_Ford

How special is it when the botanical art in your home comes from the flowers in your heirloom garden? Luckily, it can also be a simple process. Start by removing the flower heads from the plants. Pick the flowers in the late morning on a dry day. By 11 a.m., the dew on the plants will have evaporated, yet the afternoon sun won’t have had time to wilt the flowers.

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Pressing Instructions

To press flowers, you’ll need:
• Large, thick books
• Sheets of printer paper
• Heirloom flowers*
*Flowers that press well include calendula (Calendula spp.); California poppies (Eschscholzia californica); chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata); coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.); cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus); dahlias (Dahlia spp.); delphiniums (Delphinium spp.); French marigolds (Tagetes patula); Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis var. japonica); Johnny-jump-ups (Viola tricolor); larkspur (Consolida ajacis); nicotiana (Nicotiana alata); rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus); and zinnias (Zinnia spp.).

1. Open the first third of the book. Lay a sheet of printer paper on one of the pages. With the flowers not touching, arrange them on the paper. Flowers with thick centers, such as marigolds, dahlias, and zinnias, should have their petals pulled free from the heads before placing them in the book. Write the names of the flowers at the bottom of the paper.

2. Place another sheet of printer paper over the flowers you just laid out, so that they’re now sandwiched between the two sheets. Carefully grab the next third of the book pages, and close it so that the flowers are sandwiched between the printer paper and book pages. Repeat the process using the pages of the remaining third of the book.

3. Keep the pressed flowers evenly weighted by placing several large books (or a cinder block is even better, if you have one) on top of the pressed flower book. In two or three weeks, carefully open the book and remove your dried, pressed flowers.

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Framing Instructions

Framing pressed flowers so they become unique art pieces for the home is so simple, you’ll want to make several more for gift-giving. Have a variety of decorative paper on hand for gluing the flowers onto, as well as a larger background sheet that “frames” the art.

To frame pressed flowers, you’ll need:
• Picture frame
• Ruler
• Decorative sheets of paper
• Scissors
• White craft glue
• Pressed flowers
• Tweezers
• Small bowl
• Toothpicks

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1. Remove the glass from the picture frame.

2. With a ruler, measure the back of the picture frame, and make sure the paper you want to use as a background is the same size.

3. If the frame is a different size, use the ruler and scissors to cut the paper so it fits properly. You can glue the flowers onto this paper, or you can use this paper to “frame” a smaller piece of paper that has the glued flowers.

4. If you choose to use a paper that fits the frame, as well as a smaller one that has the flowers, you’ll need to cut the one that’ll have the flowers on it about an inch smaller than the larger paper on all sides.

5. Choose the flowers you’ll use to create your botanical art piece. You might use various flowers that are all the same color tones. You could choose two or three flowers, or just one type of flower. You could arrange the flowers separately, or overlap them to look like a bouquet.

6. Using tweezers, arrange the flowers on the paper until you’re happy with the way it looks.

7. Squeeze a small amount of glue into a small bowl for easy access.

8. Pick up the flowers with the tweezers, and use a toothpick to place a small dot of glue on the back of the flower. Glue the flower onto the paper.

9. After you’ve finished creating the design, let the glue dry overnight. Then, reassemble the frame with the flower art inside.

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How to Dry, Store, and Use Lavender

Lavender is the fragrant flower that keeps on giving! There are countless ways to use dried lavender, both as loose flower heads and as stems. This is how to harvest, dry, and store lavender for future use.

1. Harvest lavender stalks in early morning, once the dew has dried, when the fully formed buds are closed and one or two flowers are just starting to bloom. Harvesting the stalks at this time will give the dried lavender the
longest-lasting scent. Cut the longest stem that you can, while leaving at least two or three sets of leaves on the plant to encourage more flowers stalks.

2. Tie about 12 lavender stalks together with twine or rubber bands. I use rubber bands because they contract as the stalks dry. Hang the bundles up in a dry, protected area that has good air circulation. Good choices are a loft, a barn, an attic, or the shady side of a covered porch. Your lavender will be thoroughly dry in about four weeks.

3. Once they’re dry, you can leave the stalks hanging until you’re ready to use them. You could also remove the flower buds for tea, lavender bags, potpourri, or anything else that requires them to be loose. To remove them, place a bowl under the bunch and simply run your hands gently along the stalks. Store loose lavender buds in a box, paper bag, or jar.

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How to Use Dried Lavender

Baked goods. Add lavender flavoring to cookies, cakes, scones, and bread.

Bathtub soak. Relax, de-stress, and soothe muscles by soaking in a tub of water sprinkled with lavender essential oil and flower buds.

Body products. Nourish your skin and relax your mind by adding lavender to homemade body products.

Candles. Use lavender oil and dried lavender buds to make candles, and add the long stalks to the outside for embellishment.

Décor. Make wreaths, hanging bundles, and potpourri for your home.

Eye pillows. Insomnia, stress, and headaches don’t stand a chance against lavender.

Heating pads. Warmed fabric scraps with dried lavender and rice do wonders for aching muscles and cramps.

Household cleaners. Take advantage of the natural antibacterial and deodorizing properties of lavender essential oil.

Lavender water. Use lavender water on acne, hair, and skin.

Linen water. Freshen up pillows, bedding, or an entire room.

Loose-leaf tea. Tea drinkers swear by lavender’s soothing properties to help ward off headaches, anxiety, stomach upset, and sore joints.

Sachets. Lavender sachets come in handy for drawers, closets, wedding or shower favors, and as dryer bags.

Soap. Lavender magically turns homemade soap into artisanal soap.


Chris McLaughlin is an author and Master Gardener who’s had her hands in the soil for nearly 40 years. She lives on a flower and fiber farm in Northern California. This article is excerpted with permission from her book Growing Heirloom Flowers (Cool Springs Press).

Growing Heirloom Flowers

Growing Heirloom Flowers explains in simple terms how to grow the fullest, richest, and most aromatic blooms possible.

Heirloom flowers have stood the test of time. Prized for their beauty, scent, hardiness, and other star qualities, these vintage varieties continue to capture our imaginations and decorate our gardens long after they first came to be. These flowers have experience, and now you can enjoy the experience of growing them.

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In Growing Heirloom Flowers, author Chris McLaughlin takes you on a tour of these alluring blooms, covering the benefits, challenges, growing requirements, and everything else you need to know about more than 40 heirloom flowers.

Along the way, she offers tips, tricks, and creative projects for making the most of your heirloom garden, from arranging and preserving to dyes, drinks, and more. With a wealth of information and stunning full-color photography, this book is the perfect guide to adding heirloom beauty to your life.

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