Preserved Gardens

Preserving, Drying and Pressing Plant Materials With Glycerin or Anti-freeze

Some experiences of methods and experiments using Glycerin while preserving and pressing foliage and other plant materials. 

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Preserving and Pressing With Glycerin

Absorption Method

Glycerin or antifreeze can work well for preserving foliage and some flowers. The main ingredient in most is glycerol, (glycerin and methyl alcohol) but methyl alcohol is toxic.

Prestone makes an antifreeze called "LowTox" that's a mixture of glycerin and isopropyl alcohol (propylene glycol) and works well on plant material. Use a mix of two parts water to one part glycerin, making sure the water is warm for better mixing and faster absorption. I've read all over the Internet why this is a bad idea. However, this is a brief summary of what I learned from a professional manual used by commercial producers of glycerin preserved materials, tested both in laboratory and in practice.

Where leaves only are used, they should be submerged completely in the glycerin-water solution. Where leaves attached to stems are used, then only the stems are immersed into the solution.

The time required for completing the preservation process varies, but expect two to perhaps three weeks before the glycerin solution reaches the leaf tips. In most cases, you'll want to remove your plant material just before the solution reaches the tips because the glycerin in the stems continue being taken up.

If the samples appear to wilt after removal from the

solution, then hang them upside down so the glycerin
will migrate to leaf and branch tips.

To keep greenery from turning brown, you must add a floral absorption dye. Certain flowers such as Solidago (goldenrod) do well with green, red or other colors of dye.

Spray Method

I've played around with different concentrations of glycerin to alcohol, trying to determine the least amount of glycerin needed to preserve the plant material as the alcohol evaporates off. We know that a very small amount of glycerin is good for some pressed flowers. Since glycerin is in fabric softener this is workable too.

To treat certain materials before pressing, to put the watered down glycerin solution in a spray bottle.

To lessen the ratio of glycerin to alcohol, simply add more alcohol or water. I recommend no more than a teaspoon of glycerin to a pint of water/alcohol.

Remember, if using anti-freeze it can be toxic so always use care and make sure your spray bottles are clearly and permanantly marked.

Much more information can be found by visiting the Taxidermy Net Forums. Search the archives. Taxidermists use preserved plant materials in some of their mountings, and they are experts on preservation.

Hint: Use a bit of eucalyptus essential oil in your mix to discourage insect type critters from invading the dried flowers and foliages. Do not use fragrance oil, only real essential oil will work.

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