Human Flower Project
Flowers Pressed and Ready to Glow
Light up with flowers and beeswax, and hunker down for winter.
Photo: Julie Ardery
With fire and flowers….
At the risk of sounding universalist, we can’t help but notice these are the two ways people demonstrate whatever calls for demonstration across the globe. Some traditions, like the Persian New Year (spring equinox) and Loy Krathong, coming soon in Thailand, even combine the two.
So does our friend Kim Lehman. Herbalist, storyteller, gardener, bee-expert, Kim presses leaves and blooms from her yard into beeswax bowls. These candles, “vases” of blooms all through the winter months, put off a light as warm as the Harvest Moon.
Beeswax candle (detail)
“I’ve been pressing flowers since I was a child,” Kim said “and wanted to make something other than cards and bookmarks. A beekeeping friend taught me to make the wax bowls which I cover with the pressed flowers. The bowl part is 100% beeswax. The only place they will melt is the bottom so I put a little sand in the bowl to absorb the heat.”
Having kept hives about 10 years, Kim now teaches children about bees, writes a column for kids in Bee Culture Magazine and has even begun an online Bee Buddies Club. With the wild bee population down to only 5%, now’s the time to pass on the science and understanding of bees to a new generation.
“Beeswax is an amazing material that is impossible for us to make,” Kim explains. “When a worker bee is around 12-18 days old, their job is to make the wax.” Eating loads of honey, the young bees secrete wax particles called scales. “The white wax comes out of their body between the segments on their abdomen…About 800,000 wax scales are needed to make 1 pound of beeswax.”
Kim also shares her love of flower gardening and herbs with young people (and less young ones, too). “Pansies are my favorite pressed flower. They are easy to grow, hold their color and remind me of my grandmother who used to plant them every year.”
She tells children about walking in Grandma Lehman’s yard, “past the blue morning glories on the back porch. We walked past the wagon wheel covered in roses. We walked down the sidewalk lined with pansies. When I looked down all I could see was tiny pansy people. I lay down on my tummy to look them eye to eye. Then as my grandmother continued to the garden I told those pansy people things I told no one. It was our secret.”
A party at Kim’s house always includes a spot where people of all ages can sit down and make things. Typically, there are no “directions,” just tantalizing materials and tools. With our young friend and neighbor Margaret Todd, we sat down at one such event and made a pin from a sprig of dill and one of Kim’s pressed pansies.
Pressed flowers, herbs, beeswax—just add fire
“I also love to plant and press verbena, salvias, and larkspur,” Kim says. “I’ve even torn apart camellia blossoms to press. For leaves I like the ferny look so I press fennel, yarrow and dill. I also use the leaves of verbena and salad burnet. I’ll press anything just to try it out. I have a plant press but prefer the ol’ telephone book under a heavy object.”