Glycerinate Fall Leaves

Here’s a cheapskate suggestion for decorating the table at Thanksgiving or giving at Christmas to people who have everything. Fall leaves!

While other families in the neighborhood are filling bags with leaves from their yard for collectors to cart away to the dump, I am spreading them evenly into the flower beds to save the cost of mulch, but I bring the most colorful and perfect specimens indoors.  Southern red oak, tulip poplar, dogwood, beech, and sweet gum—all changing through a spectrum of bright colors, and each keeping to its peculiar schedule.

Wouldn’t they look great in a bowl on the festive table if it was possible to stop them curling, cracking, and crumbling? It is, in the twinkling of an eye.

  • Dilute a bottle of glycerin (glycerol) from the pharmacy with tap water in the ratio 1:2
  • Pour the fluid into a tray for soaking the leaves
  • Flatten the leaves with a weight (like a matching tray)
  • Allow them to soak for a week or so
  • Pour off the fluid and dry the leaves on paper towels
  • Voila!Glycerinated fall leaves-small

The glycerin helps to preserve the leaves, and makes them supple. They should last until springtime when delicate, lime-green beech leaves attached to their branches can be gathered for glycerin treatment. That makes a cheerful decoration for the fireplace when it becomes vacant after the winter, and is a recipe I learned from a country gardener. Mum’s the word.

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About Roger Gosden

British-born scientist specializing in human and animal reproduction & embryology. Academic career spanned from Cambridge and Edinburgh to McGill and Cornell's Weill Medical College in Manhattan where he was Professor & Research Director. Married to Lucinda Veeck Gosden, embryologist for the first successful IVF team in America, he retired early to Williamsburg, Virginia, to write and to recover from 'nature deficit disorder'
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