Preserving Botanicals

I really love to sun print, but I don’t like waiting for the ferns to be ready for my projects. I’ll be prepared next Spring and even now when I want to print and don’t want to take the time to forage through the garden. They are all waiting for me because I’ve preserved them!

Several years ago I tried preserving botanicals, but didn’t have much luck. I can’t even remember what I was doing, but it didn’t work. Enter Sun Andrus, who was a guest blogger for me during our sun printing month on the Fire blog in June. She blogged all about how she preserves her plants for sun printing.

So let’s get started. After selecting the plants you’d like to preserve, make of the solution. You will need hot water and glycerin. I ended up ordering glycerin online since the local pharmacies didn’t carry it anymore. However, I found later that I could have purchased it at our local health food store.

Grab a container that will hold your botanicals. I chose a large one because I needed a lot of room for the ferns.

The formula is one part glycerin to two parts hot water. Pour hot water into your container. Then add the glycerin and mix.

Add your botanicals, one by one, making sure they are covered on both sides by the solution.

Place botancial in solution

When you have finished adding your plants, you need to put something on top of them to hold them down in the solution. I used a smaller container.


Since this container will just float on top, I weighed it down with a couple of landscape bricks.

Adding bricks to hold down container

Leave this alone for several days, giving the solution time to soak into the botanicals.

Then remove them carefully and place on paper towels to dry.

putting fern on paper towelContinue to stack them and then cover the last one with a paper towel.

adding last paper towelNow at this point, Sue said you can just wipe them off and use them. I didn’t have time to use them, so I just let them sit in my dye studio and dry.

Yesterday I stacked all of the ferns and leaves with their paper towels into a container with a lid. Here is a look at one of the ferns.

preserved fernSo beautiful! The solution can be used over and over again too, so I put a lid on it and will be soaking some more plants soon.

I’m anxious to play with these ferns, which according to Sue,  can be used over and over. Pretty neat! Have you ever tried this?