Frugal Fenella’s Studio on a Shoestring: A cheaper dahlia spray

Let’s face it: conservation doesn’t come cheap. Whether you’re a student, an independent conservator or one of the ‘99%ers’ amongst institutional studios, you need to watch your pennies. So The Gathering is here to help. In our new regular series, we will show you how to skimp, scrimp and penny-pinch without sacrificing the quality and workmanship that make you a hero conservator!

On any given day, I wonder how many studios and conservation labs are home to languishing broken dahlia sprays? I know, I know, we conservators are very fond of these humidifiers, with their shiny functional design and their pumping action guaranteed to give a fine spray.

Their price, however, might make you draw breath if you are footing the bill and/or starting your own studio. Last time I looked, the small version cost £85/$120.


A £5 pressure sprayer, doing an £85 job

I have a theory that the price is the very reason we hesitate to ever throw away the broken and wilted dahlia sprays. And there they queue on the shelf, awaiting a free moment of the mechanically minded conservator’s life.

One would think such visible functionality must mean easy repairs, right? What could go wrong that isn’t very obvious to repair? Sadly, no dahlia spray has ever been mended in my presence. We all know that sad moment when one day, they just give up and just dribble pitifully, instead of cloudfully spraying their atomised contents.

So let me help and let me present the next best thing; the gardening version of the dahlia spray, the delightfully generic “Pressure Sprayer”. As a competitor, this gardening pump-action spray can give the dahlia spray a run for its money: the same pump action, the delivery of quality atomised liquid and a hold-down button for sustained action. Moreover, it has visible marked measures that the traditional dahlia spray does not, which is great for making mixtures of say, ethanol and water; it also has a transparent container and it’s big. And it cost £5 or less. I got mine from Sainsbury’s two years ago and it is still going strong.

When the time comes, I am not going to mind so much this baby breaking down, because I won’t have to plan and save for a new one. At this price, I can’t argue. Quality-wise, I have no criticism of the quality of homogenous spray, it does not dribble and the stress parts of the pump are metallic – in short, this item is a great substitute. Although by no means as cute as a chrome dahlia spray, it is a hefty saving for the conservator on a shoestring – and good enough for your chrysanths.

Happy shopping!


The spray bottle above was bought from Sainsbury’s PLC Gardening Department and cost ca. £5 in 2014.

4 thoughts on “Frugal Fenella’s Studio on a Shoestring: A cheaper dahlia spray

  1. Hi danafanego. It really depends what you are using the blotter for. Inarguably, there is a place for clean, flat, conservation grade blotter. However, lots of jobs use blotter to draw away, that can be done by washed (ie, any finish has been removed) woven cotton, which can be rewashed and used again. For instance when “landing” from an immersion wash and there’s often big brown spots between washes, the woven cotton is an ideal washable solution. You can also use felt and needled polyester or mixes for an initial reduction of humidity, prior to the final blotter dry. There’s also a couple of non woven materials by PEL that are washable and do a fairly decent job in the same manner as the woven cotton. In all, I would say the post-immersion resting of the object are the most replaceable uses for expensive blotter. Whatever you use that is not museum grade should not be left in contact, just as a help to wick away moisture while the object is still wet. Please don’t press any item onto the woven surface as it may leave indentations in the surface of your object. The cotton is for absorbency only.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.