There are various ways of drying and preserving flowers or extending their life

Flowers can be crushed, flattened, hung upside down, forced to take up glycerine or freeze dried.

The Gentle Art of Preserving Nature?

Glycerine is one of the ‘latest’ methods of preserving roses and foliage and roses using this method last up to a year according to websites. Glycerin is a sugar alcohol derived from animal products, plants or petroleum; is important to note that glycerine can be petrol-derived. It was discovered 200 years ago by heating a mixture of olive oil and lead monoxide.

However, vegetable glycerin, also known as glycerol or glycerine, is a clear liquid typically made from soybean, coconut or palm oils.

Palm oil is in Skittles and Starburst sweets. It’s in Ritz Crackers. It’s in all bakery and desserts and there are many additional names for palm oil, including glycerin, glycerol, propylene glycol, tocopherols, and monodiglycerides; and is widely used in the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Vegetable glycerin is made by heating triglyceride-rich vegetable fats — such as palm, soy and coconut oils — under pressure or together with a strong alkali, such as lye”.

Palm Oil

The palm oil industry has received international negative attention, including consumer boycotts, in recent years for clearing biodiversity-rich tropical rain forests in Southeast Asia in its production process. Deforestation fueled by the demand for palm oil has raised concerns in consumers’ minds.


“Alternatives such as coconut oil have similar concerns -coconut cultivation threatens 18.6 species per million tonnes of oil produced, nearly five times more than its palm cousin. Coconut and palm oil industries at loggerheads over environmental impact”.

Mei Mei Chu, Bernadette Christina, Aug 28th, 2020, Reuters

There are clearly concerns with products derived from vegetable oils and huge production of glycerine based preserved flower products.

Freeze drying flowers uses a process called lyophilization to lower the temperature of the flowers to below freezing, and then a high-pressure vacuum is applied to extract the water in the form of vapour. We prefer a more gentle artistic way.

Ancient Ways

Not all flowers can survive freeze drying, even though the first flower appeared 140 million years ago. But perhaps the Pharaoh gods knew the lotus flower survived the ice age (1.8 million – 10,000 years ago). The white and blue versions bloom during the day and night respectively. It is no wonder that the Ancient Egyptians saw these flowers as important, and present at the very the beginning of time. Thought to be where Ra, the Sun God, went during the night, before re-appearing in the day the Lotus was the most sacred and prized of all flowers.

However when the sun set on 4000 years of Ancient Egypt history, the Pharaoh gods left some of their (still brilliant blue) prized flower ‘jewels’, for us to enjoy.

In the quiet solitude and grace of the pyramids in the valley of the kings many of the flowers and herbs placed inside the tombs 4000 years ago survived with colour and beauty. In fact Narcissus bulbs were considered so valuable there were placed on the eyes of the dead pharaoh Ramses II. Spectacularly still blue delphiniums scattered on and around Tutankhamen proves flowers were considered to be worthy of Pharaoh gods as ‘jewels of the Earth’ and revered as powerful links to nature, past present and future.

Preserved after some 4000 years by the dryness and stillness of the Valley of the Kings, (and the careful supervision of the Sun god Ra); their appreciation of the magic of flowers filtered down the centuries.

Ancient Egyptians loved flowers and they were revered both as powerful objects and objects of beauty.With this in mind we looked to see if the process could be adapted. A way of preserving the full flower without using machines or chemicals, and based around the Ancient Egyptian idea of carefully drying nature in their tombs and extending their lives.

The Sands of Time. . .

Estimates say the volume of the beaches on earth to be 700 trillion cubic meters. Mathematically, the figure amounts to five sextillion grains of sand. However, this is just an estimate and the number could change by a factor of two to a low of 2.5 and a high of 10 sextillions. (Dr. Jason Marshall)

We DO NOT use Self-indicating (blue to pink) silica gel which was reclassified by the European Union and as in 2000 as a toxic material due to the heavy metal cobalt which forms part of the moisture sensitive indicator.

We use a naturally occurring silicon dioxide product which contains silica, it’s an oxide of silicon with the chemical formula SiO2, most commonly found in nature as quartz and in various living organisms. Silica was in existence as early as the 1640s as a scientific curiosity.

OUR MEDIUM IS NON TOXIC, in fact silica occurs in many plants. Silicon dioxide is a compound that’s naturally found in the earth’s crust in a crystalline state. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, diatoms are actually skeletons that are made up of silica, a very common type of matter found in nature that makes up about 26 percent of the earth’s crust. There are various types of natural silica, many of which are familiar including sand and precious elements such as emerald and quartz.

The Real Jewels Of The Earth

And then there are natural jewels – flowers. Our process is done entirely by hand and no chemicals or freeze drying machines are used. The slow natural process preserves form and colour ( although some changes should be expected) and the beauty of the original just how it looked when fresh. In fact the only things in addition to our natural drying medium we need to add to the process is Patience, Care and Silence.

Preserved Fuchsia 2019


It is no accident that biodiversity decided that Angiosperms, also referred to as the flowering plants, are the most diverse plant phylum with at least 260,000 living plant species. The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect for nature. With this in mind we always try to use recycled packaging where possible and where we can, little or no plastic. Sadly, the Earth’s biodiversity is in decline due to activities such as deforestation, land-use change, agricultural intensification, over-consumption of natural resources, pollution etc. In order to protect the survival of our source – flowers; we are mindful like the Ancient Egyptians that nothing lasts forever. (Except maybe the Lotus)

The First flower on Earth 140 million years ago looked like a Magnolia

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We need to take time to enjoy nature and spread the word; talk to our neighbours, friends and community about the biodiversity in the places we live.

Sophie Pierce, Univ. Oxford

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