The Q&A Archives: Eucalyptus

Question: What is the solution in which you can soak stems of Eucalyptus so that it is preserved and the leaves turn a bronze color and are supple.

Answer: Glycerine, sold in drugstores, is the product of choice. Here's how: Pick your foliage and remove any damaged leaves, as these tend to show up even more when glycerined. Cut the stems at an angle, and split woody stems about an inch up the stem. It is important to condition your plant material before glycerining to be sure they are drinking, as the glycerine solution is thicker than water, and will often clog stems, resulting in wilting. Place the stems in warm water, and let them drink for a couple of hours, or preferably overnight, before placing in the glycerine solution.

To make the glycerine solution, mix two parts very hot water with one part glycerine and stir thoroughly. Hot water must be used as glycerine is heavier than water, and will sink to the bottom if cold water is used. Allow the mixture to cool off until it is just warm before use.

Once conditioned, place the stems in the glycerine solution. The time it takes to preserve the plant material very much depends on what type of plant material is being used. Some things will be ready in about 30 hours, while others may take two or three months. Check the material daily. You will be able to see the brown glycerine solution being taken up the veins of the leaves, and when it reaches the top, it's done. Don't allow material to stand in the solution any longer than necessary, as this will result in the glycerine "bleeding" from the leaves, and this can cause a black sooty mold to form.

The solution can be re-used. Just filter it through a fine sieve or pair of old pantyhose to remove any debris, and re-use it or add it to a fresh batch. Although it turns brown after use, this is perfectly normal, and won't affect the finished results.

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