Making a Herbarium: Gathering the Plants

Fresh from the garden.

This afternoon, home from work, brain fried, I went out into the coolness of the garden and picked some spring flowers for my herbarium. How often our gardens are healing places. I gathered the flowers in a box, so that I didn’t have to handle them unnecessarily and also so they wouldn’t blow away.

Virginia bluebells

Most of these flowers are wispy little things, and it’s possible that the blues and pinks of the pulmonaria will fade away as it dries, but its worth a try. Many spring blues are what are called “fugitive,”–they literally vanish as the plant dries. The Virginia bluebell is another spring perennial with blue flowers that will fade if dried, but the velvety, paddle-shaped leaves are so lovely that I will dry a specimen to preserve them.

As I wandered through the garden, a telephone directory was waiting on the dining room table. A large directory is ideal, as it can dry a lot of plants, and its weight helps in the pressing, but I have a local directory, and it will have to do.

I am also keeping in mind the size of my herbarium covers. I will be using covers from an old book that measure 7 x 9″, so none of my plant specimens can exceed that size. If you have any thick cardboard, or even corrugated box cardboard, you could also use that, cutting to a desired size. In academic herbarium collections, apparently the usual size for pages is 11 x 17″, but that presents storage problems for the home crafter. Don’t forget to date your book–you may want to do another herbarium next year, and the years quickly roll by.

Be ready to put your specimens in the phone book right away, not giving them a chance to wilt. I start towards the back of the directory, writing the name of the plant and the date in the margin.

When all the plants are in the directory, I place a heavy book on top, and set the volumes aside. By the time I go out to pick more flowers, in about a week, the first batch will have flattened and dried considerably.

For another project using dried flowers, please take a look at the May 31, 2011 post called “Spring Mementoes.”

The next post will look at making the covers for herbarium.

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5 thoughts on “Making a Herbarium: Gathering the Plants

  1. Fran, do you think a framed herbarium would look good? I’ve framed pressed flowers and leaves and they look nice. Wonder if the whole plant could be pressed and mounted on nice paper, then the botanical name and date picked would be written next to it. I wish I knew calligraphy! I may try this, perhaps with stamped letters . . .

    What do you think?

    1. Absolutely, it would work. One of my posts, called “Spring Mementoes,” shows framed dried flowers. A group of these would be lovely on a wall. We are thinking alike, Sherri! I’m learning Copperplate handwriting, and it’s so much fun! For a future post.

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