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The History of Drying Flowers

Image by, courtesy of David Morris

The act of drying flowers for preservation and other uses dates back to ancient times. The Egyptians used dried flowers to make fragrances and placed dried flowers in tombs. Dried flowers were used as medicine in the Middle Ages; and in Japan, they formed the basis of an art form. Victorians dried flowers to enhance appearance.


Drying flowers to preserve them dates back thousands of years. While it’s not certain that ancient humans deliberately attempted to preserve flowers, there is evidence that that the phenomenon existed. Bones of a prehistoric human were found in the Middle East. With those bones was a bunch of flowers, likely the tribute of a loved one.


The Egyptians relied on flowers--including dried ones--to make perfumes and cosmetics. This ancient people used perfumes during religious and royal ceremonies, preserving garlands and making fragrances from herbs, flowers and grains to send along with loved ones to the afterlife. Dried flowers have been found in tombs.

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, herbs and flowers, called tussie-mussies, were used to repel diseases and bad smells. It was believed that the physical appearance of a plant looked like the body or disease it would cure. According to Christie, a dandelion, because of its sap, would cure nursing mothers.


The Japanese created an art form called Oshibana, which is the art and craft of pressing flowers to save the beauty and benefits of the living plant. The art form grew from the centuries of Japanese who honored the flowers and plants that grew near them. This pressed flower art has grown to include more than just pressed flowers; it now incorporates all types of designs, as Oshibana makes use of colored paper. This art turns a leaf into a tree, and petals into mountains. These artworks are meticulous in detail.


Drying flowers became a popular hobby and preservation method in Victorian England. During the 16th century at the close of the Elizabethan Age, low-cut necklines were in fashion. With this new trend, bosom flowers became all the rage thanks to their sensual connotation. Victorian women also made floral garlands and used dried flowers to design pictures. Flowers were also dried to add to jewelry designs, fans and gloves. In fact, flowers were imperative for a fashionable appearance, Christie says.

The popularity the Victorians afforded to dried flowers spread throughout Europe and remains popular today. Flowers are still dried to preserve memories and create art.

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