made with love: pressed botanical specimens


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!

  1. Murd says:

    @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!

  2. Leila says:

    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.

  3. Sierra says:

    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!

  4. KarenDawn says:

    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!

  5. Diana says:

    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.

  6. This is going on my to-do list today. Absolutley love the curve of the leaves and the simplicity. Thanks for sharing!

  7. mary says:

    your botanicals are beautifully classic! thanks for sharing this with everyone:)


  8. Zoe says:

    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?

  9. Ashley says:

    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.

  10. ligaya says:

    beautiful. can these be encased in a glass frame?

  11. desi says:

    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!

  12. Susan says:

    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.

  13. Vasu says:

    How does one get it to stay green? Did you first dip in in glycerin?

  14. judith rael says:

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

  15. Barbara says:

    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?

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      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 :(


  16. Sophie says:

    Hi Grace,

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

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      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.


  17. Leila says:

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

  18. Loise says:

    How do you get them to stay green??

  19. Anna Butera says:

    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?

  20. Christy says:

    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.

  21. Tom Kemph says:

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


  22. Sara says:

    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!

  23. Neal says:

    How do you prevent insect infestations over time, especially from beetles and booklice?

  24. nancy says:

    Could the ink from the newspaper cause the plants to turn brown – sooner?

  25. Robbie says:

    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?

    1. A. says:

      Where are the frames from? Thank you!


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