Waxing Flowers for Preservation

In the 1840’s, paraffin began to be produced in quantity as a by-product of the petroleum industry, and ladies soon discovered that they could preserve fresh flowers and leaves by coating them with this inexpensive substance (hmmm, the beginnings of the petroleum addiction?). Bridal bouquets and funeral wreaths, wax-dipped and glass-covered, were favorite parlor decorations of the “Age of Sentiment,” cherished for the memories they evoked. (Info from Making Gifts from Oddments and Outdoor Materials by Betsey B. Creekmore)

In the tradition of the Victorian waxed flower bouquets the Little Ladies and I had to try this method of preservation out! We picked all different types of flowers and leaves to see which would work best. The feverfew, daisy and echinacea did not work very well at all; you need more thick fleshy type petals that can withstand the hot wax.

*Pick a cool rainy summer day for this activity; it will warm up the kitchen quickly!
What you need: soy wax, beeswax or paraffin, (I used soy) fleshy petal flowers (zinnia, tulips, lily, orchid, rose), clothespins, double boiler to melt wax, wax paper, narrow-necked glass bottles, candy thermometer (optional)
Steps: Melt the wax until it shows a temperature of about 130 degrees on a candy thermometer (or just wait until all of the wax melts). Remove the pan from the heat. Hold the flower by its stem and dip it into the wax, I used clothespins to prevent my fingers from getting burned. Dip the flower into the wax, deep enough to cover its entire head.
 
 
Then lift the flower immediately and shake it over the pan to remove excess droplets. Separate and straighten the petals to your liking before the wax dries.
 

 
Stand the flower upright in a narrow-neck bottle until the wax has hardened. Don’t let the flowers touch each other or they will stick together. Let them dry and re-dip if you wish. You will notice that the wax catches in the nooks and crannies of the petals and will leave a thick waxy area. Blot these places carefully to rid of the excess wax.
 
 
The lily and orchids kept their colors really well after waxing. The wax just seemed to soften them a bit. Here they are before:
 
 

 
 
Zinnias lose their color when waxed but they created a really pretty wood appearance. Here they are before the waxing:

 
 
And after:
 
 
Don’t just try flowers, try deciduous leaves. We also tried acorns, pinecones and grass heads full of seeds. It was really fun. Now to go make a garland of waxed leaves to hang across our bow window. Enjoy! 

 

And after:

 

4 Comments

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  • jen
    February 3, 2010 - 9:13 pm | Permalink

    how long will the wax flowers last?

    • February 4, 2010 - 9:22 am | Permalink

      The more you dip the flowers, the longer the flowers will last. I only dipped once and they lasted only a week. I should have dipped them at least 2 more times.

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