Whether you want to immortalize a bouquet from a meaningful occasion, or just pay homage to Dead or Alive’s Nude album cover (let’s be honest, for me it’s a little bit of both..) creating a dried flower shadow box display is a brilliant way to turn something tragically temporary (i.e. flowers) into permanent decor.
There are lots of ways to preserve flowers: hanging them, drying them, pressing them, forgetting about them and leaving them in the vase until they shrivel up and start to smell like that jar of peanut satay sauce in the back of the pantry that you completely forgot about until it grew a thick carpet of grey mold…
While I’ve (shamefully) dabbled in all aforementioned methods, my favorite way to preserve flowers is drying the buds, then arranging them in a shadow box display.
I created this one a couple of years ago using the roses R gifted me for our first Valentine’s day together (and I amazingly had the presence of mind at the time to snap pictures of the entire process!) Here’s how I did it.
- A bouquet of roses from my favorite man on this earth
- A front-hinged shadow box (I got mine from Hobby Lobby)
- Dressmaker pins (like these)
Step One: Dry the Flowers
There are a lot of methods for drying flowers, and the best approach will vary depending on the type of flowers you’re working with. In my personal experience, I’ve found that roses are almost impossible to screw up… it’s like they want to be beautiful forever, and are going to self-preserve regardless of whatever you do to thwart them.
Perhaps the most common method for drying roses is to hang them upside down in a dark space. The downside (at least in my experience) is that this method seems to shrink / close up the heads. Since I wanted to retain the open and full shape of the rose heads, I decided to dry them upright instead. I just clipped the buds a few inches down the stem and arranged them in a box (which I then stored in a dark closet).
If color preservation is important to you, try drying your flowers with silica gel. Though I didn’t use it for this project (I personally like the yellowed look of dried roses), this is a “must” for flowers that brown more dramatically when they dry.
Once my rose heads were dry, I clipped the remaining bit of stem and removed any green bits around the head.
Step Two: Plan the Arrangement Pattern
Very carefully (to avoid petal carnage), I tentatively arranged my roses in the shadow box, moving them around until I was happy with the pattern / distribution of colors.
This is an important step if there’s a lot of color / size variety in your flowers, and it’s also a good way to make sure you’ll have enough to fill your box.
Step Three: Pin
Once I was happy with my arrangement, I began to anchor the rose heads in place using the smallest dressmaker pins I could find (the smaller the pinhead, the easier it is to hide!)
By sneaking the pins very carefully through the layers of petals, I was able to secure the roses to the back of the shadow box, while at the same time gently spreading the rose open just a tiny bit more.
Remember, the key words here are “very carefully.”
Step Four: Final Touches
Once everything was securely pinned in place, I used some baby’s-breath as an accent (and to fill in any visible gaps between roses!)
I also tucked a few silica gel packets (just the kind that you find in a shoe box) along the edges of the shadow box to combat any moisture or humidity that might creep in over time.
The roses continued to yellow slightly for the first few months, before settling on their current shade.
This lad has moved around quite a bit, and I’ve always made an effort to display this him away from direct sunlight or overly-moist locales. He’s currently hanging out in our powder room, but eventually I’d like to build him into a gallery wall in our downstairs office (where he’ll have the place of prominence he deserves!)
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Hey, cool post! Exactly the tutorial I need! I don’t see what size frame you used. I would love to know as it would help me get a sense of what size I need to get. I’m doing the bouquet from the last Valentine’s my Mom had with my late step dad. I’m hoping to tuck the card in there too. I’ve only got one dozen roses, so I think the size that you used may work for me.
Hey Shannon, thanks for reading (and I’m glad I could help!) That’s such a sweet and meaningful way to preserve the bouquet, and I’d love to see how your project turns out if you’re willing to share! I used an 8×10″ frame with an inside depth of 1-3/4″ and the dimensions were nearly spot-on for 24 roses (I did need to fill in a few bare spots with petals / baby’s-breath). I’m thinking the 8×10″ should give you enough room to incorporate the card with your flower arrangement, but it might be helpful to measure out the dimensions on a piece of cardboard and experiment with arranging the card and flowers to see how the size works for your layout!
I have a vase of mixed flowers. Does this work with other types, besides roses?
Hey Megan, thanks for reading! Some flowers dry better than others… it might be helpful to do a quick google search and see what methods work best for the specific types of flower that you have in your bouquet. When in doubt, silica gel is usually a great option as well!
That is a very lovely flower box! Can you use glue (gun) to put the flowers in place instead of pins? My hands are not steady so might ruin the flowers. Also, can you re-use the silica gel in preserving flowers?
Thanks so much for the kind words!❤️
You can absolutely re-use silica gel! Depending on how much moisture is absorbed, you may need to dry out / reactive the silica between uses (should be instructions for this in your kit!)
I can’t speak from experience, but I would personally be a bit hesitant to use a glue gun (I’d imagine that it would be tricky to apply the adhesive and secure the flower to the back of your frame without damaging or weakening the petals). I’m definitely not an expert, so that’s just my opinion — if you try it out, please do let me know how it goes!! 🙂
How much time is enough for roses to be dried completely. I have tried to make shadow box in past but it end up with fungus due to moisture i guess.
Oh no, I’m sorry that happened! Depending on your drying method, I’d say give ‘em a couple of weeks (until they feel nice and dry / crisp). I also highly recommend tucking a silica gel packet into the shadow box!
Hi – great tips! 🙂
I am going to be trying to make several keepsake boxes for my family after loosing my grandfather. He’s roses are blue – currently storing them in the fridge to keep them fresh. I am about to dry them out – how many weeks would you suggest? And would it be best to use the silica gel / flower to dry them out more after they have been dried in the box / dark space?
do you have to dry the roses?
Great tutorial!! I’m anxious to find a preservation method for my wedding bouquet and am worried that I’m running out of time 😩
Do you know how long the flowers will last using this technique? I researched a preservation company and their testimony says the flowers should last till our 50tj wedding anniversary, however, it is very expensive!!