Autumn leaves usually lose their flashy colors by the end of October. One way to preserve leaves is to press them flat between two heavy books. But if you use this method, you’ll find that the dry leaves often crumble when you handle them, and their colors quickly fade away. Here’s an easy, better way to keep leaves brilliant, beautiful, and flexible all winter long.
Here’s What You Need
- An assortment of colorful leaves (It’s OK to pick some green ones, too.)
- Glycerin (Look for it in the soap-making section of craft stores.)
- Measuring cup
- Two cake pans
- Paper towels
In the fall, poison ivy leaves turn brilliantly red. They would make beautiful leaves to preserve, except for one important drawback: Oils in the plant’s leaves and stems cause a red, itchy rash to form on your skin. Before collecting autumn leaves, review Into the Wild: Fall Canopy to learn what poison ivy looks like!
Here’s What You do
- In a cake pan, stir one part glycerin into two parts water. You’ll need enough of this mixture to cover all of the leaves you want to preserve. If you have lots of leaves, you can preserve them in batches.
- Place the leaves in the glycerin mixture. You can add several layers of leaves, but make sure each leaf is completely covered with the mixture.
- Place a weighted cake pan on top of the leaves to hold them down in the mixture. Let the leaves soak like this for three to five days. The longer they soak, the more flexible and better preserved they will be.
- Take out the leaves and blot off the glycerin with paper towels. (If the leaves aren’t shiny and flexible, let them soak for a few more days.) The leaves may curl up a little bit. If you prefer flatter leaves, place them between paper towels and stack heavy books on top of them for several days.
You can use your leaves as table decorations for a Thanksgiving feast, tie them in bunches to use as Christmas tree ornaments, or weave them into a wreath to hang on your front door (most craft stores sell wreath frames).
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Angie Daly Morfeld