amy merrickDIYdiy projectsentertainingflowersFood & Drinkmade with love

made with love: pressed botanical specimens

by amym

Wow, I’m truly overwhelmed at the response to my first stab at my living in: column yesterday. When I hatched the idea to do roundups based on books and movies, I just thought it would be a fun way to find stuff online. I didn’t really comprehend that it would open a whole world of inspiration for all of us! I am SO excited to go through each and every suggestion and start some good old fashioned movie watching. That is, after I run to the corner store to pick up some more popcorn, of course. I digress.

Wednesdays here on D*S I’m going to be cooking up fresh DIY projects (called “Made with Love”) in my Brooklyn apartment to share with you. Yep, every week without fail, almost like the US Postal Service. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this do-it-yourselfer from the swift completion of her handmade projects.

Creating a collection of madcap botanical specimens is about as easy as it gets. You get to heavily rely on mother nature to do the leg work and poof, you get to look like a genius scientist (and decorator) in the process. I’ve used old kraft paper to make a Darwinian display, but a graphic or feminine background using wallpaper or fabric could ratchet up the modern factor and create something really show stopping. –Amy

CLICK HERE for the full post (with instructions and additional images) after the jump!

What you’ll need:

– a large pile of heavy books, including a phonebook or something similar

– frames

– several fronds from ferns or other flat leafed plants

– rubber cement

– decorative paper, I used a pretty old kraft paper

1. Locate and clip a few different varieties of fern fronds or other flat leafed plants. These can be from your garden or something found growing in between the sidewalk cracks, doesn’t matter!


2. When you’ve clipped your ferns, hold them up against the background of your frame and trim the bottoms, stripping some of the leaves to fit if necessary. You can also decide on the basic layout of your specimens. Should they curl to the right or left? Up and down?


3. Each frond will need to be pressed dry for a week inside the pages of a heavy phone book or encyclopedia. Warning- now is not the time get out your lovely Taschen art book collection, this process will leave your pages bumpy so it’s best to use a book you don’t mind getting a little messy! Once your specimens are in between a page of their own, place several heavy books on top of them and leave alone for a week.


4. Just a few small dabs of rubber cement are all it takes to keep them from shifting in their frames.


Nurture your inner botanist by collecting bits of plants here and there and starting a wall
of pressed plant specimens. For extra credit, add latin name, common name, date of
collection and location!

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  • These are beautiful! I had no idea they were so easy to make. **Running out to the garden with clippers in hand**

    Thanks for sharing!

  • This is going on my list of things to do. I have been looking for large botanical prints for awhile now, but I think this DIY is a great idea. Now off to clip some leaves …

  • i did this with my wedding bouquet of mini cala lillies. i dried and flattened them and fanned them out in the frame. My wedding was 8 years ago yesterday, and the bouquet still looks like a lovely botanical specimen and reminds me of our wedding day.

  • This is an awesome project. One question…will they turn old and brown at some point?

  • I LOVE THIS. I’ve been admiring these types of prints for a while now…now to find some ferns might be a little tricky. Maybe the neighbors wont notice if i steal a leaf or two!

  • so glad i saw this! will be clipping ferns from our hanging pots this afternoon…it will be perfect thing to remind us of our life in wilmington, nc after we make the move to providence, ri next week!

  • Nope, ferns will stay green when pressed!

    They may fade a bit overtime. Each plant is different so it’s part of the fun to see how they dry. Notice of the plants on the right went a bit darker in the middle when dried? Neat, huh?

  • I love this project for a few reasons. It has no age limit. I’ve done it with my grandmother when she was in her 70’s and just recently with my five year old grandson. And stopping nature is a very difficult task to do.

  • I LOVE this idea! I live on 12 acres, in a forest, surrounded by a 350 acre nature preserve, in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Suffice to say, there are AMPLE fern specimens around for wrangling up and transforming into wall hangings. This is a great gift-giving idea. Thank you!

  • Neat! I’ve had success with this same kind of botanical in the past but much more limited success with flowers. Any tips for the more 3D patrons of the plant world?

  • Thanks for the great idea and the way easy-to-follow how to. Now if only I can figure out which books to sacrifice . . .

  • Awesome! Will have to do it! Great housewarming gifts. Hum… will have to wander around the neighborhood with a pair of clippers. Hope no one will call the cops :P

  • To press flower that’s more, um, 3-D than ferns, you should try to get your hands on a flower press that screws down. You need more pressure and time to really flatten them down, but it’s doable! I’ve had great luck with roses in the past.

  • When it comes to prints and botanicals, I’v always thought DIY is the best route to achieve that individual flare

  • I know this is not a spelling or grammar blog, but the poor spelling and grammar usage in this post diminishes the quality of the blog overall. Please check your spelling of Wednesday among other offenses.

    • lola

      i made the change with the wednesday misspelling- can you tell me what else is misspelled? i couldn’t find any other errors.



  • So crafty! My mum used to make these with us when we were kids in the early 70’s!

  • I did this years ago for a school project. I put plants in folded newspapers first, and than the heavy books on top. This way you don’t have to worry about damaging pages of your books.
    Never thought of putting it in the frame as an artwork. Great idea!

  • Grace – it says “fine stuff online” instead of find.. and also “nor heat nor gloom of night stays this do-it-yourselfer from the swift completion of her handmade projects. ” is stays meant to be stops from? Other than that, brilliant idea! x

  • You can make a flower press with two sheets of ply wood and big nuts and bolts in the corners if you don’t want to ruin books. layer wax paper, foliage, wax paper between the two sheets of plywood then tighten the bolts to press, wait to dry. I LOVE THIS PROJECT gorgeous!! TFS

  • I too love this idea, but I ALSO love this furniture piece you have them displayed on – what would be an accurate name for this. It’s certainly not just a desk! It’s beautiful.

  • Leaf & flower pressing…just doesn’t go out of favor, evokes such feelings of warmth and recollections of where they were picked.
    Nice to keep a book in your car, have one with you on a walk. I am smitten with the ginkgo when the leaves turn banana yellow and collect them by the sackful. They turn the loveliest shade of ochre when dried.
    …this is a peaceful pasttime !

  • oh and in addition to what I’ve made, I have purchased a few botanical notebooks done as school projects long ago…brittle, a bit faded…but if cared for…just live on!
    (I have a box of pressed flowers done years ago, some quite tiny, delicate leaves that have retained color nicely:)

  • Amy, I love this idea. I was also a big fan of the Terrarium instructions you had on the Domino website. Unfortunately I didn’t print those instructions before the website went away. Any chance we’ll see DIY terrariums on D*S?

  • If anyone is interested in mounting botanical specimens in the same way they do for a herbarium collection, here are some tips I learned in a Plant Taxonomy class.
    1. Instead of rubber cement, pick up some gummed linen tape, archival quality. Cut short segments of it, dip it in water to activate the glue, and apply it to the specimen at intervals to hold it onto the backing.
    2. Only mount whole plants – include the roots and flowers or spores.
    3. If the plant is too long for the backing, bend the stem gently in a zigzag shape before drying.
    4. Mount the plant so that there are some leaves face up, and some that are face down. This is for identification purposes – ferns in particular are identified by the pattern of sporangia (spore-bearing structures) on their undersides.
    5. Label the specimen completely, using archival pen. Include, from top to bottom, the family ( for ferns), scientific name, the county where you collected it, GPS location or physical description of the location, description of the habitat and surrounding flora (such as moist depressions in abandoned pasture, or roadside, or old growth white pine forest), Your name, and the date you collected it.
    6. Remember not to collect plants on protected land, like state or national parks, and not to collect rare plants, like orchids.

  • Brilliant. I attempted to photograph my ferns but this project will have a better effect.

  • Old phone books are great for pressing plants. Add weight on top of the books & the plant/leaves dry in no time.

  • I love these! I’ve been pressing flowers/ferns/etc. lately and it’s been so great! It gives you an excuse to take the time to really look around and take a slow walk…I’ve also had lots of luck with picking up frames from Good Will, so it’s also been a very inexpensive hobby. =)

  • Also, when you’re pressing leaves / plants, you can place the plants between pieces of newspaper and lay them on top of a sturdy table before placing heavy books on top of them. This will prevent you from ruining the spines and pages of your books, but still press the plants just fine (I did this for many a biology project). The newspaper also helps to absorb the moisture from the plants better than glossy pages of a book would!

  • Perfect! I’ve been looking to decorate a big empty wall and now I have something fresh!

  • @Sondra’s Ink – I just pressed several stems of Queen Anne’s Lace (my favorite!) and they seem to have turned out well. I’m not sure how well they’ll last but after a week they look great!

  • Beautiful. Just smack on a label with the botanical names and you’ve got a very scientific, yet lovely piece of artwork. I’m thinking of making these for my wedding favors.

  • There is also a DIY post showing how to make a flower press on d*s! It’s listed under “made with love” too! Such a great idea!

  • Queen Anne’s Lace presses beautifully and lasts/holds up indefinitely. I have been collecting it for over 20 years. I press it (and everything else I find that I want to press) and store it in outdated phone books. It has stayed intact and it has not discolored. It’s wonderful!

  • This is such a great idea. I look forward to trying it out this weekend. Will get back to you with feedback on how it went :).
    Thanks a lot.

  • I was thrilled to try this with ferns on our land but was disappointed to see that large sections of all of them turned yellowish brown. I love how yours have some natural mottling but are green overall. What was your trick?

  • This is a neat idea. I have a huge binder of pressed plants I collected during a flora class, but I’ve never thought of them as art.

  • love it! i did something similar last year but with small wild flowers :)i posted the pictures today so you can see

    have a nice day!

  • I’ve been pondering doing this all summer with the enormous, beautiful leaves from my elephant ears plant. I’ve finally pressed two of the leaves between sheets of paper. They’re on the floor in a spare room with piles of heavy books on top. The kraft paper idea is excellent! I want mine to be inspired by the old specimens and kraft paper will help create a vintage look. Thanks for this great post. Good timing.

  • this is a wonderful site. i would also like to know where to find skinny frames like you used. possible? thanks!

  • I framed dried fern fronds last year but now a number of them are loosing their color &/or turning brown. What can be done to prevent this?

    • barbara

      the browning sometimes means they didn’t dry quickly enough. when you pressed them did you include some loose paper to soak up the moisture?

      if so, it may just be the natural drying process. being exposed to sunlight and air will eventually turn plants brown over time :(


  • Hi Grace,

    When I dried fern fronds it gets discolored easily in just a week. Pls do help.

    • hi sophie

      i’ve had mine last at least 6-8 months before without treating them, but i’m putting them behind UV glass. definitely start with that step. also, make sure when you press them that they’re between two pieces of newsprint so all the moisture is wicked away- the moisture leads to browning.


  • I’m wondering if you could modpodge the kraft paper with plant onto a canvas. Going to try this.

  • I framed two different type of ferns and also bleeding hearts. The overturned a pale brown and the bleeding hearts retained their color, but those leaves also faded like the ferns. Any suggestions?

  • You can purchase a product that you dry flowers in that keeps colors. I also read put leaves in plastic under bed container and cover with borax or really clean dry sand and leave several days and it soaks up the moisture leaving plant with color.

  • Any idea where I can get these pre-made? Need either ferns or leaves in 3 matching small frames +/- 8″.


  • I use wax paper when pressing flowers or plants inside a book. The leaves won’t stick to the paper and the book stays clean!

  • I have been told that over time leaves, flowers, etc. tend to turn brown and that glycerin of some kind (powdered maybe?)needs to be used in the process. Do you know anything about this?

  • Does this help the plants from molding or going dead inside the frames? I have some framed that have down both (brown and moldy).

    • Laura

      Yes, but the key to avoiding mold (since the plants are in fact already dead) is to make sure they are dried fully. Any remaining moisture is what causes mold and smell. So leave them to press and fully dry for at least a few days. When Amy worked with us I believe she pressed hers for a full week to be sure they’re fully dry. Using newspaper in between the plant and press paper helps, too.