The Ghost of a Peony

A month ago, in March, the tree peonies were in glorious bloom. I was picking flowers to dry for herbarium pages (March 30, 2012 post), but I hesitated before the tree peonies, which were sweeping the ground with petals as delicate as the chiffon skirts of a ballerina. If I were to dry one of these flowers, simply picking a bloom and placing it between the pages of a phone book was not going to work. It has many petals, and the center of the flower, with its many pollen-laden stamens, was bulky.

So I chose a different route. With a telephone book at hand, I took a tree peony flower and systematically dismantled it, petal by petal. I placed three or four petals on each page of the telephone book, turned some pages, and placed more petals on subsequent pages. I plucked off the green sepals, and placed them on one page. I was left with the stem and the heart of the flower. I put this at the back of the telephone book, closed the book, and placed heavy books on top and let a month go by.

At this point, I was ready to re-assemble the flower. I found an old frame with a piece of glass, and used a piece of drawing paper as a backing for the flower. I studied  the paper and decided where to center the flower. I had a bowl of water and a paper towel at hand, to wash glue off my fingers during the pasting process. Then I started affixing the petals, one by one to the page, just using a dab of Yes! paste at the base of each petal. There is no way you could apply glue to the entire petal–it would get torn apart. After applying a fan of petals, I pasted down the stem and the heart of the flower. Then I began applying more petals, also in fans, but in such a way as to show the golden stamens. Lastly, I glued on the green sepals.

When I started this project, to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it would work, wondering if the stamens would flatten. But the result was a lovely, framed tree peony, a memento of Spring. Other flowers that would work would probably be irises and many-petaled roses. A many-petaled rose would be a labor of love! At any rate, I am sitting here eyeing an iris outside my window.  Mmm. After drying a tree peony flower, an iris should be a bit simpler, and I will dry it with a  plume of a fleece flower that is coming into bloom nearby. Especially if you pick up frames at garage sales, this could be an inexpensive way to have a wall full of gorgeous botanical specimens.

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