Written Especially Fob This Work By The First Premium Preserver Of Flowers
It was a lovely thought to mark the hours, As they floated in light away, By the opening and the folding flowers, That laugh in the summer's day." - Hemans.
There are five distinct methods for preserving natural flowers, and no one method can be given proper for all varieties, and all families of the floral kingdom. Annuals, flowers of quick growth, of a succulent nature, cannot be preserved in their natural state. Balsams require the elaborate chemical method, and all flowers resembling the balsam require the same specific treatment To preserve flowers as they should be preserved, a thorough acquaintance with all five methods is desired. These, in combination, form one perfect system, which requires lessons and experimental practice.
There was a process patented, and practiced for some years, which was found, after a year's time, that the flowers grew dark, spotted, and were a distressing souvenir. This was the Hot Water System. All flowers of a fibrous, woody nature, are susceptible of preservation. The fibrous nature of the wood enters into the composition of the flower.
Roses, camelias, japonicas, tube roses, and azalias, also carnation pinks, (white), were preserved in boiling water, as below:
Take a few crystals of oxalic acid, pour on them boiling water, perhaps a pint to a half dozen crystals, thoroughly dissolving the crystals; after separating carefully with the sharp point of a fine moulding pin the flower petals, drop them into the boiling water, each flower separately - replace it over the fire and let it boil a few seconds, watching and removing each petal as soon as the waxy substance of the flower is gone, and the transparent fibre of the petals remain. Coat the back of the petal with sheet wax, pressing it down until incorporated with the fibre, and put back the flower precisely as it was taken apart, using a wax bud for the foundation of the flower, and using cotton covered wire for the stems.
At the Centennial Exposition held at Philadelphia in 1876, a white transparent camelia attracted my attention. Being possessed of every receipt in the known world, and some of my formulas being combinations resulting from experiments under the instructions of the celebrated chemical professors at Leipzig, I requested permission to examine this flower closely, and to do so, was obliged to get special permission. This camelia was transparent, clear, pure, without flaw, and close examination showed it to be a composite of several different flowers, all of the same variety, done by the hot water system, and instead of wax on the back, varnished with a fine transparent white spirit varnish. These flowers look well for a while, but I do not commend its general use. It will do where the flowers are to be worn in the hair, or on the breast, for a few times only, but after a year they grow discolored, spotted, and are unpleasant souvenirs.
The Sandwich Island Process. In the Sandwich Islands the ferns are preserved green and fresh for months by those who sell collections to visitors of the Islands. These are prepared carefully, and picked in a dry atmosphere, (remember, that is indispensable to good preservation), the fronds selected perfect in shape, brilliant in tint, and fully seeded. The fern fully spored is in its prime. The paper used for pressing should be an absorbent, not letter paper, or any satin surfaced or calendered papers. The collector should carry the book to the ground, and not depend on bringing them home in a botanist's case, or heated by hand bringing. You must pick them dry, and place them directly in the book, bringing them home only in that manner. Arrived home, roll a small bit of cotton batting around the cut end of the stem, and seal the end over with red sealing wax, leaving as small a wad of cotton and wax as possible. Then transfer the ferns into another fresh book of papers, changing them every morning and evening until dry. The warmer the books are kept the greener and fresher the ferns after drying. Then ferns can be used ten years after pressing, cutting off the waxed end and setting the ferns into water, they will ill twenty-four hours, fill out again and look like freshly picked ferns.
A preserver of flowers said once to me that ferns could not be kept green by any known process. This Sandwich Island process is splendid, and a complete success.
By dissolving benzoic acid in alcohol one oz. to a pint, coloring with aniline green, shaded up by mixing brown or black and yellow, all anilines, and dipping old ferns, browned by time, the ferns can be used for decoration, in hanging baskets, or on the window curtains, but they do not bear close examination. The coloring matter is perfectly perceptible on close inspection.
The Sand Drying Method in preserving small flowers is good, and no process is complete without the addition of this important part of the instruction. It is within reach of every lady, and the flowers so dried will retain their colors a long time. To every 25 lbs. of fine glass blower's sand add 1 oz. of spermaceti and 1 oz. of calcined borax, thoroughly mixed and incorporated with the sand. The sand must be kept perfectly dry, the flowers must be dry, and from all flowers where the honey gathers at the bottom of the cup, it must be removed before the sand bath is attempted. This is a delicate operation, and effected by the use of a crotchet hook, with a little cotton batting twisted around the point. Introduce it delicately in the flower, remove the honey, dew-drop or water drop, and your flower will preserve dry, in shape.
Sweet alyssum, daisies, candytuft, can be beautifully preserved and keep their freshness for a long time, under the sand drying process. Some flowers need a varnish before the sand bath, some need to be varnished after removal from the bath. All labiate corollas, all flowers cup shaped, should be first stuffed delicately and carefully with cotton batting before putting them into the sand. This knowledge is obtained only by a regular course of instruction, as the family of flowers, or the floral kingdom is so extended. After preparing the flowers, (all flowers should stand after being plucked a short time, their stems immersed in cold water, so as to give full life and strength to the flower, and if it is to be varnished it should be done while standing in the water), have ready your sand in a box with a draw bottom. This bottom is drawn out after the process is completed, leaving the dried flowers intact in the box.
Fill your box partly, with sand perfectly dry, without mixture, clip off the stems to within an inch of the flower cluster, and dip it into hot sealing wax, sealing up the end of the stem carefully and thoroughly, then immerse the stem in the sand up to the flower cluster, taking care to space between the flowers - no two touching. After filling your flowers in the box, commence by pouring in softly and gradually the sand prepared for them. Cover them perfectly, and set the box in a dry place, where no dampness can get into the sand. A single drop of water, or a particle of sap, will ruin the whole of the box of flowers.
In some white flowers a little chloride of lime mixed with the sand can be used once, but as soon as the lime slacks it must be removed. Flowers require from two weeks to thirty days in an even heat of 80 degrees, not more. As soon as the process is complete, pour off carefully the sand from the flowers, and if found to be brittle, expose them a few hours to a dry atmosphere. The ordinary atmosphere of the room will be all that is required.
For the five methods combined, regular lessons are required, but it is not necessary for any excepting those who desire to make floral preservation a business. The sand drying can be followed by any lady for winter bouquets, and the usual flowers of the garden, beautifully preserved in this method, for winter decorations, hanging baskets, etc. Jardiniers are a lovely winter ornament, with green ferns floating, one could not tell but what these flowers had just been plucked from the garden.
The Last Process is: Clip from the bush, without injuring the stem, the buds just as they are opening, allowing two or three inches of stem with each bud, and immediately cover the ends with hot sealing wax. When cold, wrap them up in cotton batting, separately, and lay them away in a cool place in a box, where nothing can rest upon or injure them.
At any time you wish to make use of them, bring them forth from the place of concealment, cut off the end containing the wax, and place the stems in a vase of cool water, containing a little salt. Allow them to remain in a moderately warm room for a few hours, and you will perceive the buds commencing to expand and open, and soon after you can have the opportunity of beholding a full-blown rose, representing all those beautiful colors with which nature has so wisely endowed it, and sending forth, in all the sweetness and purity of its nature, the most loving and fascinating odors, which is so much desired and sought after by lovers of flowers.
These flowers in winter command exceedingly high prices, so much so that some are making it a business of preparing them, and are making money by the operation.