Decaying bones of a pre-historic man were unearthed in the Middle East along with delicate flowers preserved miraculously as a tribute to the dead. Evidence of this “specific flowers” is identified by the presence of pollen grains. Another example is of brightly coloured flowers discovered in the Egyptian tombs that are supposed to be more than 4,000 years old.
Besides the preservation, the concept of flower as a communication means begin to emerge with time such as receiving a bouquet carrying a special message. Let’s dig in to the technology to keep flowers preserved and these methods have already been practiced upon!
1.Hang flowers in a ventilated area – The traditional means!
Different air-drying methods are there for various flower genres. The most effective and easiest is tying them in small bundles with ribbons, twine or raffia and hang them upside down away from sunlight in an open/airy space. Make sure that each bunch carries similar type of flowers while large ones can be dried individually to keep them from tangling. Pluck the leaves immediately after picking as the moisture inside slows the drying procedure. Place wall hooks, wires or poles at-least six inches from the ceiling. Stagger the heads to allow air circulation that prevents mildew and rot.
The dry period ranges from one week to several depending on material, place and time of harvest and climate. Stems of the hanged flowers would dry straight and become brittle. Strawflowers, hydrangeas, globe amaranth, salvia, goldenrod, celosia are a few types that you can preserve with air-dry method.
2.Drying chamber treatment – The professional approach
In a fan-assisted room or convention chamber, compact flowers such as chrysanthemums, zinnias, marigolds and cornflowers dry well. Non-ventilated or closed space isn’t preferred as it can generate excess moisture. To dry, retain the temperature between 30 and 35 degree for many hours. The flowers are then slotted through holes in a wire mesh rack with enough room for the stems to suspend below. Total time for the process to complete depends upon the flower density.
Silica gel is another trend and its primary cost is far greater than borax-cornmeal or borax-sand combinations but silica gel can be applied by and over for many years. Silica gel accelerate the dehydration process that can do the work in a single season as compared to the similar quantity of borax mixture. Silica gel is easily available under various trade names which is white in colour however particular types contain blue crystals that indicate the amount of moisture being absorbed.
Once the crystals represent clear blue, it’s a sign that the material is completely dried. The crystals gradually turn pink as humidity is extracted from the flowers and this is the time when you need to re-dry the crystals. Roses, tulips, zinnia, cornflower and allium anemone are some flowers that dry best with silica gel treatment.
Molecular sieving or filtration is a material with tiny pores each of exact size to absorb gases and liquids. They’re metal alumino silicates with crystalline structure. To ensure the dehydration of fresh natural flowers, mixture of organic solvents is poured through the hole till the level exceeds that of flower by two centimeters. Water particles are absorbed into small cells or pores of the filter/sieve after which the vessel is hermetically sealed for few days. When dried, the flower reabsorbs small quantity of moisture, increasing the suppleness and plasticity.
Freeze drying, Vermont process and pressing are a few other modern flower preservation methods besides those explained above. The practice is excellent to keep the freshness, fragrance and colour of the flowers intact!
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