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Autumn memories will get you to spring

Thu., Nov. 4, 2010, midnight

Driving north of Spokane one day last week was a special treat. Everything was a blaze of fall color. The aspen and cottonwoods along the streams were torches of gold, yellow and orange while the tamaracks were stiff yellow candles scattered amongst the firs. The once green grasses were now a dozen shades of tan and yellow especially the reed canary grass.

Unfortunately I was riding with work colleagues so there wasn’t time for side trips over Flowery Trail Road to the Pend Oreille Valley or down the Springdale Road. There wasn’t any time to stop and savor the beauty and taking pictures out of a rainy car window at 60 mph wouldn’t have done the scenery justice.

Along about January, the memories of that trip will probably be welcome relief from the gray and snow of winter. To enhance the memories, I am going to preserve some colorful leaves I did manage to collect in a parking lot.

Preserving fall leaves is easy and a great activity for the whole family. Start by collecting leaves as they reach their peak color anywhere you find them. Leaves from trees in the sun usually have better color. Plan on processing them quickly, as they will start shriveling up within a day.

Old phone books make great leaf presses. Place several leaves to a page and put several pages between groups of leaves. Place heavy objects like books evenly on top of the phone book and leave it for a few weeks until the leaves have completely dried. Once dried, the leaves will be fragile but colorful.

Leaves can be ironed between layers of wax paper and then cut out to make translucent sun catchers for windows. Place fresh leaves between two layers of wax paper and then cover everything with an old towel. Using a iron turned to low heat, gently press the leaves until the wax paper fuses together enough to encapsulate the leaves. Because wax paper can catch fire easily, be sure to use as low a temperature on the iron as possible and supervise children during the activity.

If you want leaves that are pliable and can be handled for a long time, try soaking them in a mixture of water and glycerin. Glycerin is a nontoxic substance that absorbs moisture and therefore tends to soften things it is used in. Mix two parts water with one part glycerin. Pour over the leaves in a flat pan covering them completely. If the leaves float, place another heavy pan on top of them. Leave them for up to six days. The leaves slowly absorb the solution and become soft and flexible. Glycerin is available at drug stores for a nominal cost.

Fragile dried leaves can be glued onto note cards for one-of-a-kind gifts. Waxed paper leaves can be cut out and used to create sun catchers in windows or incorporated into a mobile or simply scatter them on the Thanksgiving table. Pliable glycerin leaves can be used as sun catchers or anywhere durability is needed.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by e-mail at

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