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Preserving Fall Leaves In The Sierra Foothill Garden

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a

– Albert Camus

Ever find a beautiful Autumn leaf and think, “’This one I want to keep’? Here’s how you can…

Save a leaf!

Save a leaf!

Choosing the right leaves

Pick fresh leaves with the brightest colors. Most leaves, when they fall, lose their water supplies within a day or two, making them brittle and hard to save, so if you take one off the ground, make sure it’s still pliable. You don’t want fallen leaves that have already started to dry.

Press in a heavy book, but between paper towels,...don't forget them!

Press in a heavy book, but between paper towels,…don’t forget them!

Pressing Leaves with Weight

Pressing leaves with weight is the simplest method of saving fall leaves. The trick to keeping the colors sharp is to remove the moisture as quickly as possible. Sandwich leaves between two paper towels.

Then select some of your heaviest books (or the stacks of garden magazines I know you have), at least five pounds of pressure, and layer the leaves between the pages. Ideally, you should use a large book and keep them about fifty or so pages apart. Putting them closer together won’t flatten them as desired. It should take five or six days.

You may have enough maagzines...

You may have enough magazines…

Dry leaves in the Microwave

This is a faster way to preserve fresh leaves off the tree. Don’t use dry curled leaves, use leaves off the tree if possible.

Sandwich the leaves or small sprays of leaves between two paper towels. Place the sandwich on a microwavable dish and place in the oven. Microwave for 30 seconds and check the leaves. Keep running the microwave at 30 second intervals and checking, until the leaf feels completely dry.

These leaves are from a Black oak, perfect for preserving

These leaves are from a Black oak, perfect for preserving

Glycerin and water

The next way to preserve the leaves is to soak them in a solution of glycerin and water. Use a mixture of one part glycerin to two parts water. Place the mixture in a flat pan, and totally submerge the leaves (in a single layer) in the liquid. You’ll have to weight them down to keep them submerged.

In about two to six days they should have absorbed the liquid and be soft and pliable. Remove them from the pan and wipe off all the liquid with a soft cloth. The leaves will remain soft and pliable indefinitely.

Pressing between wax paper

Can you remember pressing brightly colored leaves between sheets of waxed paper to preserve their colors? I do. Here’s how you do it. Place your colorful leaves between two layers of wax paper. Cover with an old towel or cloth rag, something that a bit of wax won’t hurt. Press the fabric with a warm iron, sealing the wax paper together with the leaf in between. Cut your leaves out, if you like, leaving a narrow margin of wax paper around the leaf edge.

Easy to make!

Easy to make!

Silica gel

You can also preserve leaves in florist silica gel found at craft stores,…just follow the directions on the bag.

Display your leaves with other natural objects

Display your leaves with other natural objects

How to Preserve the Colors of Fall Foliage in a vase

All you need is a little bit of vegetable glycerin, water, and newly cut branches with colorful leaves. Just put about 1/2 a teaspoon into a vase full of water, stir, and then add the branches. With this, the leaves stay on the branches and keep their color for weeks. Refresh the water and glycerin every week. Pure vegetable glycerin is available in health food stores.

These wind up, loosely, and store in flat ziplocs for the next year.

These wind up, loosely, and store in flat Zip-locs for the next year.

I saw this idea in a magazine long ago and have saved these for 4-5 years in a large Zip-loc. They’re made of Fall colored leather thongs, beads, both found at craft stores, and a plastic covered paper clip simply tied on each end. String the beads on before you tie on the bottom clip and clip on the leaves.

I normally hang these in front of sheer curtains and they’re fabulously pretty when the breeze blows.

Whichever way you choose to preserve those beautiful Autumn leaves is fine, just make sure to get outside and collect them before they’re gone!

Nov 8 Update: I just found this link posted on Flea Market gardening Facebook page It shows another way to preserve leaves in a more flexible way.

More timely and localized gardening ideas can be found at

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Sierra News Online

Sierra News Online