leaves preserved with glycerine

While driving to Halifax early last week for work, I noticed a few spots along the highway where there were many tiny oak trees trying valiantly to grow along the edge of the road. Perhaps because they were stressed, they had some seriously lovely red leaves. I crossed my fingers that they would still be there on my way home, made a mental note of where they were and what I would do with them, and pulled over to pick some on Friday.

Years ago, I remember reading about glycerine preserved leaves, but for some reason never tried making them until now. I am thrilled with the results! The colour isn't as intense as it was when the leaves were picked, but I may have crammed too many leaves into the solution. Regardless, they're just lovely, and I just had to share.

The process is easy peasy, and the boys were eager to help. Here's the deal:

Mix two parts water to one part glycerine and warm gently on the stove until you see it homogenize. (You don't need a whole lot; I used a 250mL bottle of glycerine and two cups of water. I have about 2 cups of solution left after preserving about 25 leaves.) Let it cool (if it's too warm it cooks the leaves and drains the colour), and pour the solution into a glass baking dish. Layer in the leaves (you can also try flowers, twigs, etc.) and cover somehow so the leaves stay submerged. A sheet of wax paper did the trick nicely for me; I just laid it down so there was no air between the paper and the solution. Let it sit for 3-5 days, then carefully remove the leaves, rinse, and dry. Awesome bonus - the extra solution can be saved and reused. The leaves are pliable and perfectly preserved, and should last for several years! Next year, I'm going to try some maple leaves. And probably anything else I can get my hands on.

Glycerine is available at most pharmacies, so it shouldn't be difficult to find. Incidentally, it's a humectant and is a by-product of large scale soapmaking. When lye and oils combine, soap and glycerine are created. In commercial soapmaking process, the glycerine is separated for use in other cosmetics and sold on its own. In lovely handmade soap, the glycerine is not removed, which is why most people notice a huge difference in how moisturized their skin feels when using handmade soaps vs. box store soaps.

I'll also take this opportunity to show off my new (very old) handmade drop-leaf kitchen table. I swoon every time I walk by.