Things I’ve Learned About Drying Rose Petals
- It takes a lot of standing. I don’t like having to stand that long.
- It’s quick – for small amounts of petals. Each group takes between 2 and 3 minutes to dry.
- It’s not so great for large amounts of petals. Say, over 600, like what I had from the florist’s shop. See #1.
- There’s a point between the first minute of microwaving and the second minute of microwaving, where the petals aren’t quite dry, and they become soft, like rubber. This is the perfect time to stretch them a bit so that they lay flat.
- Microwaving large numbers of petals makes for a very hot plate. Is it possible to stress fracture ceramics by heating and cooling them repeatedly in succession? I don’t know. Also, I have no idea if it’s possible to burn out your microwave by repeatedly using it for hours. Finally – can you irradiate yourself doing this? These are all questions I have.
- They shrink. A LOT. Think “Shrinky-Dink” a lot. They pretty-much halve their original size.
- Drying rose petals this way cooks them – which has two effects. First, it darkens them. Red rose petals become burgundy, coral-colored rose petals turn red. Darker pinks darken, lighter pinks miraculously stay the same, as do yellows. Multicolored “blush” roses (yellow with hints of green and red), become yellow with hints of green and burgundy. It’s odd that dark colors darken, but lighter colors seem to stay the same. Second – when you cook anything, it smells. Cooked rose petals have a cloyingly sweet smell to them. After two days of cooking petals for several hours each day, I was thoroughly sick of the smell.
Accidental Good Fortune
I’ve been using dried rose petals in my jewelry lately. The first few were accidental. I found several that I’d saved from a dried up bouquet hidden in an old medicine bottle for safe-keeping. They were brown, but not brittle. I discovered that when I put them under glass, the glue did wonderful things to them. The browned petals looked like leather.
I accidentally spilled a little alcohol ink on one of the browned petals. The ink was absorbed immediately, but the colors became dark and vibrant. I put those under glass, as well. I learned that colored rose petals, at least the dry ones, look like butterfly wings. It was magical.
I decided to call a neighborhood florist, and see if I could get any discarded plant or floral material. I wanted to experiment. I got very lucky. They do weddings and other events on the weekend, and always have an abundance of rose petals that are thrown away on Monday or Tuesday. By the time I went in, they had a days’ worth of floral material, and a shopping bag FULL of rose petals.
Selecting the Process
Being part of the Resin Art Fun Open Forum on Facebook, I’ve encountered several people who like to put flowers into resin, or fill bulbs with resin and drop flowers and other dried material into them. I’ve heard a number of things about how to go about drying flowers. Some people use the oven, others the microwave. Dehydrators are popular, but in my opinion don’t offer enough control over the process. They’re good for bulk drying, of whole flowers, though. Dump them in the trays, set the thing to dry, and walk away. It’s tempting because you don’t have to babysit it. See #1.
Some people swear by kitty litter, and others use silica. I wanted to stay away from the latter because of its toxicity, and the former due to space considerations. In my tiny studio, there’s not much space for large bins full of kitty litter or silica, with flowers embedded in them.
Because of finances and space, the microwave would’ve been selected at this point, regardless. But essentially, it was time constraints which forced the issue. I expected to procure a few petals. 600 petals took up two plastic bins, and they weren’t going to last much more than a day before becoming unusable! The microwave was what I had on-hand. The microwave was what I used.
The Drying Process
It’s a tedious process, and turns out to be rather time consuming if you’re drying a large quantity of petals, as I was, but it gives you greater control over how the petals come out, and it doesn’t require any funny chemicals.
Originally, I only did 15 at a time (See #3). I soon found that for the first heating, I could fill the dish. Although they would sometimes wrinkle, the shrinkage was so great that they soon ceased to touch. 20 seemed to be the magic number for a standard dinner plate. In my opinion, this is still a small amount. 636 petals divided by 20 became 32 batches of petals. While each batch only takes 2 – 3 minutes to cook, there’s time spent sorting petals, laying them on the plate, letting the utensils cool, checking them for “doneness” and putting them away. (You’re on your feet the whole time.) I found that most batches took me closer to 15 minutes. That’s the equivalent of roughly 477 minutes for drying rose petals – almost 8 hours – which is exactly what I spent – four hours the first day, and four hours the second day.
Numbers aside, the process is simple. Put a paper towel on a dish, lay the petals, cover with another paper towel and microwave for one minute. Turn the petals, smoothing them flat – they’re a bit stretchy at this point – sort of like rubber (See #4). Re-cover. Microwave another minute. When you remove the petals, they should be dry and stiff. Handle them gently. They *will* crumble.
Typically, 2 minutes was all I needed. It was easy to tell when the petals weren’t done – areas would still feel soft or rubbery. When the whole petal doesn’t feel that way, it’s dry. Sometimes another 30 seconds to one minute was needed to get problem areas. After I was done, I put them in one of the plastic bins. They don’t look like much, do they?