If you were to walk into a Victorian-era home, one of the dominant decorating themes you would see is flowers. They were everywhere—woven into the rugs, stitched into the upholstery, painted on the wallpaper, even carved into the furniture. Given this trend, it’s no wonder that in the 1800s one of the most popular hobbies among women was flower pressing.
In my latest release, To Win Her Heart, I have a heroine who is passionate about this pastime. Eden adores flowers and loves to preserve them by pressing them and then turning them into framed works of art. However, she is cursed with a black thumb—she kills every domesticated plant she tries to grow. Therefore, her only recourse is to collect clippings from the wildflowers that bloom naturally throughout the spring and summer near her home in Spencer, Texas.
Some women pressed flowers for sentimental reasons. If a beau gave them a blossom, they might press it between the pages of a favorite novel or volume of poetry. If a young boy gave his mother a daisy, she might slip it between the pages of the family Bible. The color from the petals would often bleed onto the book’s pages leaving an imprint even if the flower was removed. Today, if you shop for antique books, you might come across a volume with these markings or even the flower itself still pressed between the pages.
The serious Victorian hobbyist, however, would harvest her flowers with a field press in hand, so she could press them immediately. This helped preserve the vibrancy of the colors. She would go out late enough in the day to ensure the dew had dried, since moisture in the petals could create unattractive dark spots or worse, mold in the press. Flat, simple flowers work best. If the flower was too thick, it wouldn’t press properly. Pansies, daisies, bluebells, and violets worked exceptionally well with their single-layer petals. Ferns, leaves, and interesting grasses were often pressed as well and used as texturing in the artwork.
The flower press was usually made of wood, and the young lady would layer blotting paper beneath and above her flowers to absorb all the moisture. Some presses would have an iron top that could be tightened with a crank-like handle. Others, though, would be held together with leather straps. Eden used the strap variety.
After the flowers had been pressed, they could be stored in paper packets for later use. Once enough had been collected and dried, the flowers could be arranged on silk, lace, velvet, or other background fabric and then framed under glass for a keepsake that could be proudly displayed on a parlor or bedroom wall.
You can find some incredible modern examples here: http://www.pressed-flowers.info/English/Gallery/Gallery.html
So have any of you preserved flowers in a book or a press? Have you ever found a pressed flower in an old book and wondered about the story behind it?
~Karen Witemeyer, who recently took her daughter on a wildflower hunt for a science project and pressed some purple verbena and tiny Blackfoot daisies in a dictionary. This wildflower excursion happened to take place on the same day she found out that her debut novel, A Tailor-Made Bride, was named a RITA finalist in the Best First Book category. A great day all around!
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To Win Her Heart!
A blacksmith with a criminal past. A librarian with pacifist ideals. Do they have a fighting chance at finding love?
Having completed his sentence for the unintentional crime that derailed his youthful plans for fame and fortune, Levi Grant looks to start over in the town of Spencer, Texas. Spencer needs a blacksmith, a trade he learned at his father’s knee, and he needs a place where no one knows his past. But small towns leave little room for secrets. . . .
Eden Spencer has sworn off men, choosing instead to devote her time to the lending library she runs. When a mountain-sized stranger walks through her door and asks to borrow a book, she steels herself against the attraction he provokes. His halting speech and hesitant manner leave her doubting his intelligence. Yet as the mysteries of the town’s new blacksmith unfold, Eden discovers hidden depths in him that tempt her heart.
Levi’s renewed commitment to his faith leads Eden to believe she’s finally found a man of honor and integrity, a man worthy of her love. But when the truth about his prodigal past comes to light, can this tarnished hero find a way to win back the librarian’s affections?