Here’s your guide to preserving and crafting with flowers straight from your garden

Here’s your guide to preserving and crafting with flowers straight from your garden

Teresa Mahoney | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Saving flowers as memorial keepsakes is nothing new, but it’s even easier now for gardeners to preserve their beautiful, fresh blooms by incorporating them into simple art projects they can treasure forever.

“For me, the charm of it is looking at preserving nature. Taking time and preserving it forever in time and space,” said jewelry artist Tai Ferreira Eliades. “I’ll go back and look at something I made six months ago and there it is in perfect, pristine condition. It’s a good feeling.”

During quarantine last May, Eliades started her Etsy shop at, where she sells jewelry made with flowers and foliage she’s collected. Working from her home studio in Hillsboro, Eliades said having this business during the pandemic has helped her to push her creative boundaries.

Anyone can craft with plants, however, and florist Jeremi Carroll and farmer John Peterson said a good place to start is just by looking around your garden.

“See what you have. What aesthetic do you want? What are you trying to build?” Peterson said. “See what textures you might want to incorporate into whatever you’re making.”

Owners of Pollinate Flowers in Newberg, Carroll and Peterson started a dry flower program at their shop last year. They create arrangements and wreaths made from flowers they grow and dry on their farm, and even sell wreath kits at their retail shop.

Carroll said that you can dry anything, but some flowers are just naturally easier to work with than others. Roses, yarrow, statice, Gomphrena, amaranth, marigold, hydrangea, grass seed heads, feverfew, celosia and strawflower are all varieties that are considered dry when they’re alive, he said, so they will dry easily and hold their shape well.

“They already have a crispy texture to petals, so when they dry they don’t change structure or color,” he explained.

There are multiple ways to dry flowers, but the three most common methods are hanging upside down, using silica gel and pressing. Carroll said the traditional way is to bunch flowers together and hang them upside down in a dry and dark space. He recommended drying them in the house away from a window, where humidity is low.

That method works for many flowers and grasses, but for daisy-like flowers, such as black-eyed Susans, drying works better with the petals and center of flower drying face-up, Carroll said. When they hang, the gravity will close up the petals around the center, so Carroll recommended drying those flat with either a flower press or silica gel.

“Really, it’s just about experimenting,” Peterson explained. “Everything dries in its own unique way and it’s more about the personal aesthetic of what they’re attracted to.”

Eliades prefers pressing her flowers using parchment paper and a stack of books, which takes about six to seven days for the flower to fully dry. Pressing makes the flower one-dimensional, which works great for jewelry, cards and glass or resin artwork.

Silica gel, on the other hand, absorbs moisture from the flower and allows it to hold its shape. Peterson said that using silica gel is a great method for bigger flowers like dahlias that have structures in their petals that would go away without moisture. The gel granules fill in the cracks when the organic moisture dries out.

Chrissy Henry, a Portland-based artist who owns CC Henry Designs, purposely planted flowers in her garden that she knew she wanted to incorporate into her jewelry. Depending on the flower type, she either uses silica gel, the hanging method, or pressing.

“It depends on the texture,” she said.

Foliage requires a different method. Drying foliage upside down will usually crinkle the leaves, so Carroll suggested using vegetable glycerin. It darkens the leaves, but also makes the leaves more pliable.

Both flower drying silica gel and vegetable glycerin can be found on on or in arts and crafts stores.

Despite the misconception of dried flowers being dead flowers, flowers should actually be harvested in their prime, Peterson said.

“[People] think dried flowers are spent ones, but you really need to harvest them like you would fresh flowers,” Peterson explained. “They are still aging after they’re cut. So if you harvest them at peak bloom, you’ll have the best dried flower versus if you harvest them near the end, maybe the petals start to fall off or the seeds drop.”

Both Henry and Eliades use resin to contain the flowers and make jewelry with it once the liquid has cured, but jewelry is just one of many crafts that can be made with resin. For beginners who want more guidance in using resin, Henry recommended buying a resin jewelry kit because it comes with everything needed for the craft. Resin molds and other kits are also available to purchase, for those interested in learning how to make more than jewelry. Eliades suggested purchasing molds in silicone because it’s reusable and more eco-friendly than using plastic for everything.

Another easier resin method for beginners would be using a UV resin, Eliades said, because it cures within minutes in any UV light — including sunlight. Henry suggested looking for a non-yellowing resin, because some cheaper brands will yellow the tint in the sun. Eliades prefers a two-part artist resin, which is “a little bit harder to work with but it’s definitely worth it if you’re selling products.”

“But there are so many brands that are more affordable,” Eliades explained. “Start out not buying the most expensive, go cheaper because you’ll make mistakes. I purchased cheaper things in the beginning, and it helped me learn without feeling like I was throwing money in the garbage can.”

The art resin Eliades now uses comes with the resin and a hardener, of which she uses equal parts for three minutes until the mixture is completely clear and the glaze is gone. She then uses backless frames and tapes up one side and puts the flower on the other, pouring the resin in layers over the flower so it won’t float.

“A common mistake is filling up the frame with the flower and walking away, and the flower has risen to the top,” she said. “Just know it’s a process, and it takes more than one step.”

Another common mistake is setting a plant in resin that either hasn’t dried all the way or is a waxy plant. Henry said that if you work with an oily leaf, it will have an air pocket that mold can get into, turning your beautiful plant keepsake into a mold showcase.

Prioritizing safety is also important. Eliades said crafters should wear latex gloves when directly handling the resin and work in a well ventilated area. In some cases, it may be necessary to wear a respirator that is approved for filtering fumes and dust, particularly on larger projects or in areas with poor ventilation. (Check manufacturers’ instructions.) Eliades also suggested working in an area that isn’t cold, because resin won’t cure properly in cooler temperatures. Henry added that humidity affects resin and to not work with it when it’s raining or there’s a lot of moisture in the air.

The No. 1 thing to remember, Eliades said, is to allow yourself to make mistakes because, “Everyone messes up the first time.” She suggested checking back in on the work every 15 minutes to minimize potential mistakes.

“I didn’t do it in the beginning and would walk away and come back four hours later to a mistake I couldn’t fix,” she said. “Some bubbles might rise or if the flower shifts you can poke it into place. It’s like a Tamagotchi,” she added, referencing a ’90s virtual pet toy that required daily surveillance and care.

Although it takes some experimenting, Eliades encourages everyone to give the craft a shot: “It might not be your thing, but even if you have just a couple pieces at the end, you still have something at the end of it,” she said.

Easy crafts to make with dried flowers

Chrissy Henry of CC Henry Designs said that whenever she tries out a new plant or flower for a piece of jewelry, she will “just throw it on a magnet” to get an idea of how it looks.

To make your own dried flower magnet, you’ll need a sheet of magnets with sticker adhesive, dried flowers, resin (either UV Resin or art resin will work), tweezers, latex gloves, and either a paint brush or a mold.

First, make sure the flowers you’re working with have been fully dried. Henry is a big fan of using forget-me-nots, which she dries and presses in her jewelry. Depending on the flower and aesthetic you wish to achieve, flowers can be hung to dry for two weeks, pressed for a week, or preserved in silica gel to make them easier to work with.

Henry said the mold can be any shape you desire. If you prefer to work without a mold, resin can be applied directly to the flower itself. If working with a mold, put the dried flowers in the cast template using either tweezers or your hand. Next, pour the resin on top of the flower in layers, ensuring that the flower won’t rise during the process. After waiting the manufacturer’s recommended time (it will vary depending on the type of resin you use, UV takes minutes and two-part resins take around four hours), the product can pop out of the mold and a magnet sticker can be applied to the back of the piece.

A mold isn’t necessary, however, if you want a different look for your magnet. Henry said that you could instead hand-paint resin on the front and back of a flower and once it cures, attach the magnet backing to it. Newberg florists Jeremi Carroll and John Peterson of Pollinate Flowers said it would give the flower a “glassy” look.

Henry warns that the crafting process takes time, especially as you’re drying flowers, and to not expect a quick 15-minute craft — unless you’re using a UV resin. This is the kind of craft that makes a perfect weekend afternoon activity.

Beyond magnets, it’s relatively easy to make other simple crafts with resin and dried flowers by purchasing molds of different shapes. For beginners who want to get a taste of resin crafts without spending a lot of money on supplies they aren’t sure they’ll use again, Amazon sells resin kits with options for jewelry making or starter kits with colors to play with. For kits, prices range from $13 to $42.

Locally, art stores like, I’ve Been Framed and Blick also sell resin kits from $9 up to $46. For molds, Etsy has affordable options if you’re looking for something particular like dicecoastergoddess figurine or bookmark molds. Prices range from $2 to $15 depending on the mold style.

For those who want to experiment with dried flowers without resin, arrangements or wreaths made of dried flowers are also a fun and beautiful way to preserve flora. Carroll and Peterson recommend combining blooms with different grasses or ferns to make one-of-a-kind collections. Foliage can also be picked year-round to play with splashes of color. For example, this past year Carroll and Peterson experimented with strawberry leaves when fall hit and green leaves turned red.

If the idea of crafting with dry flowers sounds appealing but you don’t necessarily want to do the drying yourself, Pollinate Flowers also sells wreath kits with flowers included to make crafting even more accessible.