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Summer is upon us, in all its glory and lushness. Along with tomatoes and cukes that are beginning to set fruit are a prolific amount of weeds. I’m setting up a new craft studio with walls begging for decoration, so I decided to dig up some of those weeds to press and frame as homemade wall décor.
While it’s somewhat trendy to press and hang plants and flowers as decorations, this concept comes from an ages-old practice of cataloging botanicals. The Egyptians started documenting plants centuries ago, and in the 16th century, the University of Bologna in Italy took a systemic approach, pressing plants and mounting them on sheets of paper or preserving them in alcohol. Later, Carl Linnaeus in Sweden, who became known as the father of taxonomy, created an herbarium and named the species and genus of plants from around the world.
Hanging on the wall, the colors of pressed plants will fade over time, but the structure and design will remain. If you want to preserve the color, you can photograph or scan and print your work. I’m more of an artist and less of a scientist, so I love the design and texture the real thing provides.
Here’s what you need to do to make your own pressed-plant wall art.
Choose a time when your plant of choice has buds and flowers. Collect the plants with a garden fork to preserve the roots.
Carefully remove the soil from the plants, and gently rinse them. Lay them on towels to dry and wilt.
Press the dried plants in a plant press or between newspapers weighted with heavy books for one to two weeks, depending on the thickness of the plant.
Attach the pressed plant to heavy, acid-free paper (I used mat board) with tiny drops of white glue. I squeeze out a small amount of glue into a dish and used a toothpick to strategically apply it to each stem and flower. Test the adhesiveness by gently blowing on the plant—you will see places you missed.
Make an identification label with the name of the plant, both common and scientific nomenclature, date of collection, place of collection, and name of the collector. You can add any other notes, such as how the plant is used, abundance of growth, growing habit and distinctive fragrance. Traditionally the label is attached to the lower right hand corner, but as this is an art project, you can get more creative.
If you want to frame your pressed plant, use UV-protected glass and a glass spacer so the glass doesn’t touch it. I forewent framing and simply punched holes in the top of the mat board and strung it with hemp twine as a hanger—rustic and appropriate for my space.
If you’re pressing plants for reference purposes, file in your herbariam (this can be a three-ring-binder or file folder) and store in a cool, dry, dark area to preserve the plant as long as possible.
This is a fun project to do alone or with children. You can send the kids on a scavenger hunt for fun and interesting plants on your property that catch their eyes, whether it be weeds, native flowers or herbs. Use this as an opportunity to talk about leaf shapes, roots, stem structure and flowers.
About Patricia Lehnhardt
Patricia Lehnhardt is a shop owner, freelance writer, photographer, gardener and long-time crafter of all things natural from the Midwest.
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