Many flowers and foliages are preserved and some of the most popular stems are Eucalyptus. Naturally dried Eucalyptus is beautiful and takes on a soft fade grey colour. But once you try to move it the leaves shatter and the look is just not possible to supply commercially – not yet anyway! So the next best option is to preserve the stems, allowing them to remain supple but the process can also include colouring so many colourful options can be created.
Almost half of a plants weight is water, so once stems dry out and the water content changes, stems can become brittle and dry. If the water is replaced by the uptake of a chemical humectant such as glycerine or glycerol, bingo the stems remain supple. Sometimes this process can brown the leaves and so quite often further colouring takes place to either replicate the stems original colouring or enhance it. Bluey-green stems work well as do browns, reds and oranges. If the stems are bleached first giving a white base colour then really bright colours can be achieved
So that is how the stems are preserved, but what about the pros and cons?
Firstly they can only be used inside. The main reason is that the stems are almost like sponges. They have been dried and the stem cells replaced with glycerine and colouring so they still react as a living stem would to humidity and temperature changes. The stems can sweat and as the water cannot evaporate quickly enough beads of liquid (or colour if the stems are coloured) collect on the leaves. I was determined to use some of our red Eucalyptus in my wreath last year and exactly this happened – however, my husband called me and was concerned something dreadful had happened as there were drops of blood on the doorstep!
So keep away from sudden temperature changes and heat and humidity
Also, the stems are best kept away from surfaces where they could cause staining as they are not colourfast.
Do not clean stems with water, just lightly dust.
Now that we’ve done with all the health and safety side of things, we can concentrate on their beauty, the different types of preserved stems available and how to use them. Pictured below are some of our preserved ferns used as little posies or buttonholes. There are also from pictures taken in the amazingly beautiful shop https://fromvictoria.co.uk/ where Victoria has framed some of the ferns for an enchanting botanical display.