Words by Ambar Ramirez
Flowers have a wide range of meanings, physically and symbolically. But for Lily Silsby, a local flower-pressing artist, flowers hold a different meaning altogether. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Silsby recalls identifying and foraging plants as a child.
“I have always been interested in botany and growing plants,” Silsby shared. “My dream is to have a food forest outside the city and live a self-sufficient lifestyle.”
Even though foraging plants and flowers has been a part of Silsby’s life ever since she was a child, it wasn’t until two years ago that the woman with a degree in biochemistry began to flower-press.
“I wanted to bring a bit of nature into people’s homes, especially for those who do not have a yard for gardening,” Silsby said.
We’ve all probably gone out into the forest on hikes or on walks through the many nature trails our city has and seen beautiful wildflowers. We admire them, maybe even pick them off the stem to put in our hair or to hold on to. But by the time we get home, the petals have wilted and the beauty the flower once had is lost.
“I want to give the flowers a second chance to be enjoyed and admired,” Silsby explained. “It is also a way for me to document my fond memories of going out in nature with my best friend on our excursions. and I also get to learn a lot about the flowers that I am pressing. I research their medicinal and culinary uses to expand my knowledge as a survivalist.”
Silsby said the first step in flower-pressing is to identify a wildflower that is good for pressing. Her personal favorite is the phlox that tends to change colors, going from a bright magenta to lavender, when pressed.
“Not all wildflowers will press well. Flowers with high moisture content will usually rot in the flower press,” Silsby explained. “I put my old biochemistry textbooks to good use by placing flowers between the pages for pressing. The thicker the book, the better the result. Sometimes I cut the flowers separately from the stems and leaves so that I can get them as flat as possible.”
Aside from flower-pressing, Silsby does watercolor painting and sells propagated plants on her Etsy shop LilysSunGarden. Even in her free time, Silsby can be found in her yard, gardening and growing her plant collection.