As you walk through your garden or pass by lovely flowers along the streets, in the canyons, or on the desert, don’t you often wish that these could be preserved for enjoyment all year round? Many of them can be. If you pick the blossoms and arrange them on place mats while they are fresh, they can be made to last indefinitely.
Materials needed: Fabric, self-adhesive plastic, fresh-cut flowers.
For each place mat you will need a 14″ x 20″ piece of fabric, cut carefully on a thread to insure evenness. Select linen-like fabrics whose edges can be fringed (homespun, hopsacking, Serrano, Windjammer, or any similarly woven). Use off-white, pastel, medium, or bright colors (not dark ones). Washability is not necessary; the plastic surface of the mats will need only to be wiped with a damp cloth.
The self-adhesive plastic can be purchased by the yard at variety stores. It is 18″ wide, and each mat requires a 12″ length of plastic.
1. Lay a 14″ x 20″ carefully pressed piece of fabric on a smooth, hard surface. Peel the backing from a 12″ x 18″ piece of self-adhesive plastic, and lay the plastic sticky side up on the fabric.
2. Arrange the flowers face down on the plastic, pressing them down gently with your fingertips, being careful not to bruise the petals or leaves with your fingernails. A round toothpick is useful for lifting a curling or bent petal or leaf so that it can be pressed down.
3. Pick up the plastic with its completed arrangement, turn it over, and place it, carefully centered, on the fabric, smoothing it down until it is attached to the fabric. Lay a book on the part of the plastic with flowers under it, and press it down firmly. If you have used flowers that are not very thin and flat, flatten the arrangement by piling on more books and leaving them for an hour or two.
4. Fringe the edges of the fabric that are not covered by the plastic, thus making an inch-wide fringe all around the mat. Do not be concerned if you haven’t managed to place the plastic on the fabric so that its edges lie exactly along a thread on each of the four sides. This rarely happens, since fabrics are simply not woven that accurately. Just pull off all the exposed threads that run parallel to the edges of the plastic. If you have placed the plastic very inaccurately, peel it off and position it again.
5. Place the finished place mat fabric side up on a flat surface for a day to a week, depending upon the thickness and moisture content of the flowers and leaves used.
6. These place mats must always be stored flat, without folding or rolling.
Small flowers such as violets, cinquefoil, or the individual florets of snowballs or basket-of-gold or bridal wreath can be handled according to the above basic instructions. Others may require special techniques because of excessive thickness or hard or bumpy parts.
The pistil of such flowers as the sego lily (not legally picked in Utah) should be cut off at the base before the flower is placed on the plastic.
Many flowers have thick, hard, or protruding parts on their backs. These must be cut off, usually after the flowers are already stuck to the plastic, so the flowers will not fall apart. Pansies and violas must be handled in this way.
Roses, daisies, gaillardia, dahlias, zinnias, sunflowers, and chrysanthemums can be used effectively, but only if you pull off the petals and arrange them around some small, flat flower that has first been placed on the plastic for a center. Leaves used in place mats should be very young and tender, or they will crack when they are dry.
Stems should be slender and not fibrous. Except in the case of violets, it is usually best to cut off the stem before placing the flower on the plastic. Then place the stems attractively and arrange leaves where needed. The leaves, stems, and flowers need not be from the same kind of plant.
Grasses often add beauty and a delicate lacelike look to the flower arrangements on place mats. Arrangements in any size, mounted by the same procedure as for place mats, can also be framed as pictures after the flowers have dried.