For centuries, botanists, artists and hobbyists have enjoyed the art of pressing and drying plants. At Longwood Gardens we maintain a herbarium, an organized collection of preserved plant specimens. Our herbarium is comprised of almost 12, 000 pressed and dried plant specimens. These specimens have mostly been collected in the gardens, greenhouses and natural lands of Longwood, as well as on plant exploration expeditions around the world. Some of the oldest specimens in our herbarium date back to the late 1940s and we are adding to the collection each day, in order to document the evolving history of living plants at Longwood Gardens. In addition to the scientific importance of pressing and drying plants, pressed plant material can also be beautiful and is easy to create at home with a few simple supplies!
DIY Greeting Cards
Here, we will focus will be on pressing and drying plant material to make your own set of greeting cards. However, dried plant material can be used in a variety ways: bookmarks, framed wall art, jewelry, gift tags and candles. If you need some inspiration, simply search “pressed flower art” on the web and prepare to be amazed!
Supplies you will need for collecting and pressing plants:
- A few large, heavy books (think encyclopedias, dictionaries, text books)
- Newspaper, tissue paper or unprinted newsprint
- Plant material
- Pruners or scissors for collecting plant material
- Box fan (optional)
Selecting the Right Plants:
This is will be the most important step in determining the outcome of your finished product. In general, color preservation is a factor of how quickly the plant dries once it has been pressed. Plants that dry quickly tend to hold their color through the drying process, while plants that have thick or succulent parts will dry more slowly and become brown or even moldy during the drying process.
Good plant material: perennial plants (as long as the leaves and flowers are not too thick), herbs, ferns and deciduous tree leaves
Plant material to avoid: plants with thick and succulent stems, bulbs, leaves or flowers
Examples of plants that do press well and will turn brown when dry due to their high water content.
Pressing your Plants:
All you need here are a few large books and newsprint or tissue paper to protect the book and to wick moisture from the plants. When you arrange your plants, minimize overlapping of plant parts in in order to avoid creasing or folding in your finished product. Remember, how you arrange the plants here is the way they will stay when they are completely dried.
Press the plants in the books, between layers of newsprint, leaving about a quarter to a half inch of pages between each layer. Once all of your material has been pressed, stack some additional books on top and make sure you leave your press in a well-ventilated area to promote faster drying. If you like, you may even point a box fan at the stack of books to speed the drying process.