Forever is a lot of time? If we are talking about natural plants, then definitely yes. The cut flower is a mirage of life, a fleeting delight, the chronicle of a death foretold. It does not matter the species, the origin, the rusticity or the price that we have paid for them: in just one week, two in the best of cases, a bouquet of flowers through which the days go by will be more and more brown, more fragile, sadder and more decadent, until becoming a mummy than it was. Not a trace of color, flexibility, delicacy or movement will remain.
At the level of the emotions they arouse, the sensations they stimulate and their evocative power, there is nothing even close to comparable to fresh flowers. It is precisely their ephemeral life that makes them exclusive and inimitable. But there may be sentimental or practical reasons that make you want to perpetuate your survival beyond what is vegetatively possible. A bridal bouquet, a bouquet with a special meaning, the corsage that celebrates a birth… There is the option of drying or pressing them, but if what you are looking for is to enjoy the ornamental presence of fresh-looking flowers ―ductile, soft , malleable, with a satin appearance and even with a slight memory of its original aroma― there is a custom solution: the preserve.
The preserving process, increasingly state-of-the-art and perfected by the floral technique, makes it possible for time to stop when natural plants are in their splendor. Unlike drying, which strictly consists of removing the water from the natural plant, the preserved ones are “fresh plants whose sap has been extracted when they were at their optimum moment and has been replaced by a preservative liquid”, as he explains. Samar Cajal, creative designer and co-founder of Sakura Atelier, in Madrid. In order to perpetuate the appearance of a living flower with the maximum realism and spectacularity, the plant begins to be preserved a few days before its moment of fullness, since during the time that the process lasts it will continue to age ―if it is a flower, the cocoon will continue opening up―. Ideally from a sustainability point of view, and this is what they do at Sakura Atelier, the moisturizing fluid that infiltrates the sap site is biodegradable and made from plants, such as vegetable glycerin. The preservation method consists of making the plant absorb through its tissues this viscous organic compound that retains moisture, preserves and extends the life of branches, flowers, buds and leaves.
Due to their duration, preserved plants have become popular on a commercial level accompanied by the surnames of “eternal” or “perpetual”. There are manufacturers that establish that its life can be extended between three and five years in an optimal environment and even that this time can be extended to infinity and beyond if the bouquet is kept in specific conditions. “They need minimal care,” says Cajal. “The basic thing is to protect them from direct sunlight so that the color does not degrade; keep them away from heating, air conditioning and radiators to prevent them from drying out; protect them from contact with water and humidity; and remember to dust them from time to time.” In the Sakura Atelier studio, they do it by blowing cold air at a gentle power with a hairdryer, says the florist and designer. These plants are quite all-rounders. “If maintained correctly, they shouldn’t drop leaves or lose petals,” she adds.
Although they will never reach the degree of subtlety of a natural fresh plant, the preserved ones are successful and perfect for decorating commercial premises, restaurants, professional studios or establishments where the daily rhythm or the budget do not allow renewing fresh flower arrangements. weekly. Of course: you will have to choose from a smaller catalog than that of nature because not all flowers and greens can be preserved. Roses, chrysanthemums, daisies, orchids, hydrangeas, gerberas, paniculata and lavender are the species that are most often preserved. It is purely a matter of physics: “The optimal flowers and greens for this technique are those with a hard, woody stem that can withstand the sap extraction process without breaking,” explains Cajal.
Due to its extreme fragility and the small size of its stem, there are species that it is impossible to preserve, such as the poppy, the ranunculus, the tulip. And, among the greens ―as all the non-flowering foliage elements are known that are used in florists to provide volume, texture and chromatic background to the arrangements―, eucalyptus, asparagus, ferns or ruscus are the ones that provide greater advantages. In fact, the persistence of the aroma after preserving is one of the strong points of certain greens such as eucalyptus. In the case of species that do not retain their fragrance, “one trick is to add a drop of botanical essential oil,” Cajal suggests. The plants themselves will act as a diffuser, exhaling a soft aroma.
If we want to remove our preserved plants from the decoration to take them out again months later, the ideal would be to store them hanging upside down so that they don’t get crushed anywhere, according to the Sakura Atelier team. As it is not always possible, Cajal recommends “remove the dust, wrap them in tissue paper or a soft cotton muslin and place them in a box that can contain them without being cramped or flattened.” When we take them out again, it will be enough to shake them gently to loosen them up and make them recover their airy appearance.
There is a tendency to think that dried or preserved flowers are organic, but this is not always the case. “If we define ecological as having a low carbon footprint, the plants processed in this way are considerably ecological because they are reused for years and do not permanently generate chains of waste,” explains Cajal, “but ecology and sustainability are not defined only by the footprint of carbon”. You have to know where the product you are buying comes from and the processes to which it has been subjected. This, adds the expert, “means that, for them to be truly ecological, the preservatives used must be free of chemicals, plastic-based sealants or artificial colors should not be applied, and the entire process should be ethically sustainable.” Wilting is not in the plans of preserved flowers. Compete with the fresh ones, either.